`US should push for early elections in Maldives`

Senator Robert Casey termed Maldives an "important" ally of the US with whom it shared a productive relationship.

Washington: The United States should push for a fresh election in Maldives as soon as possible in order ensure that the rule of democracy prevails in the island nation, a top American Senator has said.

"The US should continue to press for elections as soon as possible to ensure that the seeds of the democratic process planted in 2008 are able to flourish," Senator Robert Casey said during the confirmation hearing of Michele Sison, who has been nominated as the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Terming Maldives an "important" ally of the US with whom it shared a productive relationship, Casey said yesterday the new democratic beginning heralded by the historic 2008 elections can get "derailed" due to this year`s political unrest.

Meanwhile Sison, the newly appointed US ambassador in Colombo who is also accredited to Maldives, said the US continues to "encourage" Maldives to "work within existing democratic institutions" for resolving political challenges "peacefully and transparently".

"The US government now has a window of opportunity to step up its engagement in Maldives, and USAID recently committed funding to assist Maldives in ensuring that the next round of presidential elections is free and fair," she said, adding that Washington also recognises the importance of promoting security in the Indian Ocean.

"To that end, the US Coast Guard has provided training to the Maldivian coast guard to improve its ability to respond to threats of piracy as well as to combat trans-shipment of illicit commodities. US assistance to the Maldives also promotes the development of a robust, climate-resilient island model," Sison told lawmakers.

Former vice president of Maldives had taken office after the resignation of president in February this year following a series of "controversial events and protests".