Embattled Maldives government has hired Ballard Partners for a one-year USD600,000 program to build support from US policymakers.
According to PR news website 'O'Dwyers' the government owned Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) is looking for Ballard Partners to provide strategic consulting and advocacy services with the US government.
Brian Ballard, a Republican fundraiser, chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.
As the state of emergency expired on Tuesday, president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.
President Yameen is facing mounting international pressure after exploiting the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.
United States (US) on Tuesday expressed disappointment by president Yameen's decision to extend the state of emergency by another 30 days.
Hours after the government controlled parliament contentiously voted to stretch the emergency to 45 days, US state department in a statement urged president Yameen to end the state of emergency and allow the proper functioning of the parliament and judiciary.
"The United States continues to call on President Yameen to end the state of emergency, uphold the rule of law, permit the full and proper functioning of the Parliament and the judiciary, restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people of Maldives, and respect Maldives’ international human rights obligations and commitments," Heather Nauert, the Department Spokesperson said in the statement.
Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.
The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother's government.
The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.
In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.
Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.