It all started with a photo.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s recent spat with the Maldives apparently began when he posed for photos with protesters while on a recent visit to New York.
Baird, an outspoken critic long concerned with democracy in the Maldives, was on his way into the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting on Sept. 27.
It was the day before the Maldives’ run-off election, and as Baird’s office has already noted, he was concerned by delays and reports of violence and intimidation.
Baird stopped for photos with Maldivians holding signs bemoaning their country’s history, demanding an election and declaring love for ousted president Mohamed Nasheed.
Once in the meeting, sources familiar with the incident say the Maldives’ acting foreign minister held up her iPad showing Baird in the photos, many of which were posted to social media.
“You’re biased against the Maldives,” she allegedly told Baird.
To which Baird reportedly replied: “I am biased.”
“Biased in favour in of democracy and a free and fair second round of elections. Biased against the delay and anti-democratic actions of President Waheed who only garnered five per cent in the first round of elections.”
Acting foreign minister Mariyam Shakeela wasn’t impressed.
She complained to president Mohamed Waheed who in turn wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Waheed accused Baird of “inappropriate and derogatory remarks” and said he “posed several harshly-worded questions” to his acting foreign minister.
As for Canada’s response, Baird’s spokesman added on Tuesday: “The comments by the President of the Maldives are frankly ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, BBC reported the Maldives Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of voting in the presidential elections and scheduled new elections for Oct. 20.
On Tuesday, Nasheed released a statement expressing “regret” of Waheed’s comments that cause “unnecessary pressure” on the Maldives’ bilateral relationship with Canada.
And the photo lives on.