A mechanism to conduct autopsies or postmortem examinations should be established in the Maldives to avoid unexplained deaths of tourists becoming “issues of national importance”, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed advocated at parliament today.
Speaking during debate on a motion without notice prompted by the disappearance of two Japanese tourists last week, Nasheed argued that “the problem among us is not just the incidents [of tourist deaths] themselves” but the absence of a mechanism to investigate “sudden, unexpected, unexplained or suspicious deaths.”
“Incidents will occur and people will die but what we should know for certain is how it happened,” he said. “If that mechanism is established among us, every time a person disappears or is found dead, we would not have to debate it in parliament as a worrying matter of national importance.”
A coroner’s or medical examiners office could be set up to assist police, Prosecutor General’s Office and the courts, he added.
Presenting the motion, MP Ali Arif of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s breakaway Z-faction said that two incidents in the space of 30 days was “proportionately high for the Maldives,” as the tourism industry was “the goose that lays golden eggs.”
Earlier this month, two British tourists died in a quad-bike accident on Kuredhu Island Resort.
Arif said that Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa had recently expressed concern in the media over security measures, noting that resorts had not complied with notices to establish safety mechanisms to monitor tourists out at sea.
“We’ve notified the resorts three times to build watchtowers, but they keep insisting on how they can build such a huge structure. Even though it’s called a tower it does not necessarily have to be a huge structure. All we’re saying is that a system or mechanism should be established to monitor tourists out in the sea to ensure their safety. But that’s not being done either,” Haveeru reported Dr Zulfa as saying.
If the resorts were refusing to comply with notices from the Tourism Ministry, said Arif, “they should be closed immediately and put back on the market only after they are reformed.”
Arif added that a solution was urgently needed “even if it is brought through such harsh measures.”
The DRP MP for Vaikaradhoo speculated that “maybe the letters [from the Tourism Ministry] are lost at middle management.”
MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) however urged MPs to be “a bit more mature” as debating every incident in parliament “leads to unwanted negative coverage in the foreign media”.
Several other MPs concurred that motions without notice – which opens the floor for a one-hour impromptu debate but does not lead to any concrete action – should not be proposed in response to every single incident involving an explained death or disappearance of tourists.
Unwarranted speculation by MPs would harm the tourism industry more than the incidents of tourist deaths, Colonel insisted, “because tomorrow the newspapers of their countries will cover it as major news since they believe the issue could only reach parliament if it was very serious,” he said.
Independent MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, owner of Sun Hotels, meanwhile called on MPs to stop “pointing accusatory fingers” at the tourism industry.