NEW YORK--Ruder Finn will resign its lucrative new Maldives' tourism brief if a national enquiry finds that the country's new government took power illegally.
The firm is currently in discussions with the Maldives' government regarding a three-month project to help the country counter negative publicity and boost confidence in its critical tourism sector.
However, the assignment has attracted criticism from NGOs, who claim that the new Maldivian government took power in a coup.
Ruder Finn SVP and ethics officer Emmanuel Tchividjian told the Holmes Report that the firm would immediately resign the business if the Maldives' Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) "finds that the current government took power illegally,"
The CNI was set up in response to international calls for an independent assessment of the legimitacy of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s new administration.
The CNI has, however, attracted criticism from pressure groups, notably the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which is comprised of foreign ministers from a number of Commonwealth member states, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada and Jamaica.
Last week, CMAG said that the CNI "is not independent or impartial, and has failed to gain sufficient support in the Maldives."
Tchividjian noted that the new government had received recognition from many other countries, including the US.
"Accusations of a coup have been dismissed from many international organizations and governments, including the United Kingdom government who has said that they do not recognize the transfer of power in the Maldives to be a coup," said Tchividjian.
He added that the firm had "closely examined the complexity of the current political situation in the country", before deciding to pursue the tender.
"We were encouraged by the desire of the current government, in place according to the country’s constitution, to focus on ensuring stability, democracy and transparency in the Maldives, including a free press," said Tchividjian.
"We believe Ruder Finn could contribute positively to the people of the Maldives, a country that depends on tourism for the bulk of its economy."
The three-month project is being led by Ruder Finn's New York office, which is understood to have considered the potential for a backlash before taking on the business.
The agency is not the first to find itself embroiled in a controversial nation branding assignment. Last year PR firms Edelman and Bell Pottinger were forced to suspend their representation of Bahrain amid protests in that country.