The ‘December 23 coalition’ of NGOs and opposition parties has condemned the government for “making a mockery of the demands” and equated its decision to shut down resort spas and massage parlors with “committing atrocities to defame Maldivians in front of the world.”
In a press statement today, the coalition noted “with surprise and regret” that the government has “not shown any indication either through words or deeds of complying with the demands and respecting Islamic principles.”
On December 23, the coalition rallied thousands of protestors across the island nation in a call to ‘Defend Islam’ in the Maldives.
Five demands were addressed to the government: prohibit Israeli flights from operating in the Maldives, close all massage parlors “and such places where prostitution is practiced”, reverse the decision allowing the sale of alcohol in areas of inhabited islands declared ‘uninhabited’ – such as in Addu City and Fuvahmulah where the government plans to build city hotels – condemn UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay and apologise for her comments against flogging, and remove allegedly “idolatrous” SAARC monuments in Addu City.
The coalition previously set January 5 as the final day for the government to address the demands.
Observing that deadline, the coalition today made notice that participants of the December 23 mass protest “are not enemies of the Maldivian economy and made no calls for any measures that would limit or undermine opportunities provided within the law for tourism or any other economic activity.”
The coalition argued that the government “gave a deaf ear to the demands, insulted principles of religion and mocked the Maldivian people.”
Religious party Adhaalath’s spokesperson Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed was unable to comment on the discussions. Referring to the coalition’s next step, he said the party “will always prefer to solve problems peacefully.”
Speaking in his own capacity, ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy predicted that “it looks like another protest.”
Fahmy disagreed with the coalition’s allegations against the government. “The government has been really responsible in this matter, it has made progressive moves to respond to the demands from the coalition and those who supported it,” he said.
Fahmy said MDP leadership had not yet convened to discuss the matter, and he could not comment on behalf of the party.
Following the December 23 demonstration, in the interest of “respecting Islamic principles”, the government adopted an all-or-nothing approach. The Tourism Ministry ordered that spa operations be shut down while the government announced it was considering a nationwide ban on pork and alcohol, two commodities prohibited in Islam.
Parliament’s National Security Committee also passed a resolution advising against licensing of Israeli national airline El Al to operate direct flights to the Maldives.
The government noted that the monuments in Addu fell under the remit of Addu City Council, and added that only Parliament could issue or request a statement against Pillay as it was to that independent body that she made her claim, noting that her visit was organised by the UN office in Male’.
President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday lifted the week-long ban
“because the government does not want the economy to suffer any damage during the time Supreme Court takes to come to a decision.”
The government has lately sought a consultative opinion
from the Supreme Court over whether operation of spas and the sale of alcohol and pork for tourism purposes within the Muslim nation of Maldives is constitutional.
Tourism is the nation’s leading economic contributor, generating 70 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) indirectly. Attorney General Abdullah Muiz yesterday pointed out that a substantial amount of the 2012 state budget of Rf14.8 billion (US$959.8 million) relies on expected revenue from the tourism industry.
Although no statistics are currently available, tourism officials have noted that the industry has suffered booking cancellations and “irrevocable damage” since mid-December, when news of Islamic extremism and political unrest began reaching international media.
Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) filed a case
against the government at the Civil Court over the spa ban earlier this week.