MATI sues as government seeks Supreme Court legal counsel on spas, pork and alcohol

The government has asked the Supreme Court for a “consultative opinion” on the legality of spa operations and sale of pork and alcohol in resorts, claiming that legal clarity is needed to properly address the current controversy involving Islam and the tourism industry.

The government last week ordered resorts to shut down their spa operations, and announced it was considering a ban on pork and alcohol. The announcements were made in response to five demands made during a demonstration organised by a coalition of NGOs and opposition parties on December 23 to ‘Defend Islam.’

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) meanwhile filed a case at the Civil Court yesterday challenging the Tourism Ministry’s order to shut down massage parlors and health spas in resorts.

Speaking to local media, Attorney General Abdulla Muiz said, “We believe that the people have expressed genuine concerns over the circular issued by the Tourism Ministry ordering resorts to close down their spas.

“Investors will have confidence when they are clear of the judiciary’s position on these issues.”

The Attorney General was unavailable for comment at time of press.

Although the import of alcohol and pork to the Maldives is allowed under a regulation, there is no regulation or set of guidelines specific to spa operations in resorts.

The State, however, claims that Article 15(a2) of the Goods and Services Tax Act clearly stipulates that spas are legally accepted in the Maldives as tourism goods.

Under the article, “goods and services supplied by diving schools, shops, spas, water sports facilities and any other such facilities being operated….at tourist resorts, tourist hotels, tourist guest houses, picnic islands, tourist vessels and yacht marinas authorised by the Tourism Ministry” are tourism goods.

Officials at the Supreme Court and President’s Office were unavailable for comment today.

MATI Secretary General Sim Ibrahim Mohamed was unable to comment on the case in the Civil Court, but said that the government’s decision had incurred “irrevocable damage” to the tourism industry and had become a “legal issue to which we are trying to find legal clarity.”

“We are trying in the lower courts while the government has filed at the Supreme Court to see what this is about. We need to know whether the Maldives can legally provide tourism services within the confines of the constitution,” he explained. “A lot is riding on the court verdicts.”

Sim conceded that the verdicts would not close the discussion. “As to whether the public or the opposition parties will accept the verdict is not for us to say. They will have to weigh their own agendas against what is good for the economy at the moment,” he said.

Former Attorney General and lawyer representing MATI, Aishath Azima Shukoor, said the case addressed two key points: that the government’s decision to close the spas violates the contracts it holds with resort operators, and that the timing is unconstitutional.

Shukoor pointed out that the contracts between the government and resort operators include a clause entitling the operators to the peaceful operation of land leased. She maintained that the government had violated the agreement by closing operations without presenting any substantial reports, investigation or evidence justifying the action.

MATI has also applied for an injunction. If granted, resort spas would be allowed to operate until the court case is concluded.

Shukoor said MATI was hoping for a hearing on Wednesday, January 4, but that nothing has been confirmed.

Complaints that the tourism industry compromises the Maldives’ status as a 100 percent Muslim nation have brewed for some time, but the protests in “defense of Islam” in December 2011 threw officials into the crucible of religion, politics and tourism currently before higher and lower courts.

Article 10 of the Maldivian constitution states that “Islam shall be one of the basis of all the laws of the Maldives” and prohibits the enactment of any laws “contrary to any tenet of Islam”.

Although members of the coalition defending Islam originally called for the closure of “the spas and massage parlors and such places where prostitution is conducted”, as well as a reversal of a policy which permits the sale of alcohol on areas declared “uninhabited islands” – such as in Addu City and Fuvahmulah were the government plans to build city hotels – the government’s all-or-nothing response has driven those members to alter their position.

After telling a gathering of thousands that “The only road we must follow is based on Allah’s callings,” Jumhoree Party Leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim sued the government when it closed spa operations in five of his Villa Hotels resorts over allegations of prostitution.

Upon realising that the protests had prompted the UK to issue a travel advisory, and after refusing to answer an inquiry about rumors that Taliban members had entered the country to participate in the protest, religious Adhaalath Party said it “calls on the international community to visit Maldives without any fear, assures that there is no terrorism in the Maldives, and that it will never give space to terrorism in this country.”

The statement further assures the international community that Maldivians are capable of protecting tourists.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed did not wish to comment on an ongoing court case but called on the government to take national decisions slowly.

“Maldivian people have no problem with the tourism industry. The Maldives is the best country in the Islamic world with dealing with non-Muslims. Doctors, teachers, all are living here in Maldives and we have nothing against them. The thing is social problems are increasing daily, and people are concerned,” he said.

Minivan News asked whether it was worth risking the tourism industry in the name of Islam.

“Everyone knows the tourism industry is the backbone of our national economy. That’s why no one wants to damage any side of the tourism industry in the Maldives. I am 100 percent sure there is no prostitution in the tourism industry here. It is very professional, it is the most famous tourism industry in the world and is accepted by the international community. Why would we want to attack ourselves?”

Shaheem recommended that the industry foster alcohol-free resorts to develop the nation’s economy and add variety to the tourism sector. “In 2011 there was a project with a company from Dubai trying to do an alcohol-free resort. And I know there are resorts not selling pork,” he observed.

Minivan News asked whether it was acceptable for the government to support resorts which do sell alcohol and pork.

“This is a religious issue, and it is in the Supreme Court, so I can’t talk about this issue,” Shaheem said, adding that he could not say whether the court verdicts would settle the matter.

The Tourism Ministry announced earlier this week that it was considering revising the ban on spa operations in resorts.


29 thoughts on “MATI sues as government seeks Supreme Court legal counsel on spas, pork and alcohol”

  1. @Elanor - Please do not try to spin for the government. Being a journalist you should know that just because the government says that the ban on spas is in response to five demands by demonstrators it does not necessarily mean that it is the case. The demonstrators did not demand spas to be banned. They demanded brothels to be banned. The ban on spas was initially a revenge attack President Nasheed to intimidate businessman Gasim Ibrahim who participated in the demonstration. The ban on spas in other resorts was ordered much later when everyone began pointing the finger at President Nasheed for the reckless revenge attack on an opposition leader and undermining our tourism industry in the process. Elanor please ask President Nasheed and not Shameem about alcohol and spas in resorts, as it is Nasheed who turned fanatic and banned spas.

  2. Gasim & co: Allahu Akubaru! Allahu Akubaru! Protect our religion. Allahu Akubaru! We want full and complete Sharia! Not half measures! There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Allahu Akubaru!

    Anni: OK, you shall have it!

    Gasim & co: No! No! We want to be able to sell alcohol, pork and massages although it is strictly forbidden in Sharia! Allahu Akubaru!

    Adhaalath: Although we called to implement full Sharia we want our financiers like Gasim to be exempted from it! Allahu Akubaru! Allahu Akubaru!

  3. We must choose in which year we like live:
    2012 or 1433.
    In modern era or in middle age.

  4. Idiocy of idiotic people is surfacing now that these morons are free to act as they wish. The whole of banana republic went on calling to shut down all un-Islamic activities in the Maldives. The Government lead by Mr Anni was clueless when the whole people calling Allah Akbar and asking to stop Un- Islamic activities in the country. He is now in a quagmire and has no option left other than test the people and sees what real intention of these Mafioso gang is. In the banana republic nothing much has changed since the previous Maumoon era, other than these morons can open their unruly mouth. The economy is as same with same number of visitors are coming, the only crunch in economy is inflated Rufiya chasing the limited foreign currency that the economy can generate, in such a situation it is natural that the rufiyaa will depreciate. The value of good has risen in the last three to four years globally due to higher energy cost and this has affected the banana republic where everything is imported. The Islamic issues are as same as when the dictator Qayoom was in the power, the only difference is Mullahs can rattle their tongue freely with Stone Age ideas and some net surfers are grabbing global events leading to some people to question about their 1400 years old belief system. Anni Government has tried to generalize the concept of economy with already existing themes, Tourism of foreign visitors which he is trying to decentralize. Already the very good amount people have access to Alcohol, pork and spa services. Any Maldivian who wants to entertain with these Un-Islamic things is freely available, So what is the intention of good amount of people involving all segments of society, businessman, law makers, politician, and of course, the zombie Mullahs, calling to stop so called un-Islamic behaviors. It seems, for Anni, there is no way out, your policy is may be good or may be bad but, we need you out. The motive is unknown, Do Mullahs want create a caliphate, or others are just enjoying to bully Anni, thinking he is too week. One thing is clear, The Whole Banana Republic schizophrenic. The mass is so closed and illiterate to judge what is right and what wrong for them, the pressure group wants to pressure Anni to leave the office; they are not interested to correct things that may go wrong to hurt the general public. One thing is sure, what they are asking is not something helpful for the wellbeing of general population.

  5. MATI has been infiltrated by Jews! There is no other reason for Jewish invented drinks, Jewish reared animals and Jewish services to somehow have become the only things our economy relies on. That is madness. We can always adapt Islamic tourism, as mentioned by Dr.Zakir Naik (May Allah grant him Jannat, with numerous Houris), during his visit to the Maldives which gathered more than 50,000 people as per our records.

  6. A sad sad day for our country when a simple political matter turned into a p*ssing contest.

    Any sane person would blame the government. It went a bit too far in what it thought was a simple display of bravado.

    The opposition gathering mainly used religious legitimation to highlight what they felt would be politically advantageous stands on illicit activities conducted in local communities NOT on privately owned islands where resorts are operated.

    The government thought their game was clever however the effects to the economy will catch up in due time and make its effects felt.

  7. MATI should sue Gasim, the Adhaalath party, PPM, and the other idiots who started this whole mess.

    Threatening the economy for political purposes should be as illegal when they do it.

  8. dear kaafirs.
    Please write negative comments about islam to your heart's content. your ranting against islam or ridiculing of the ulema will be only to your loss. we muslims will not abandon our religion for your fury.rage and rant on minivan. the religion of Allah will prevail weather you like it or not.

  9. I Think the supreme court must tell the people what is allowed and not allowed in the country.

  10. @Z @Yaamyn:

    I fear you may have misunderstood.

    The opposition never demanded that the government attack the tourism industry or destroy the country's economy.

    I am afraid that only the government holds such a dangerous objective so dear to their heart.

  11. If the Supreme Court is wise they would throw this out and say that this has nothing to do with them and The Majlis should make a law about this.

    Would they be stupid enough to destroy the country by banning alcohol and pork in the resorts?

    With Maldivians these days you never know what they would do.

  12. Oh got the lunacy of this government!!!! This idiot willl destroy us

  13. @tsk tsk on Tue, 3rd Jan 2012 11:17 PM

    "The opposition gathering mainly used religious legitimation to highlight what they felt would be politically advantageous stands on illicit activities conducted in local communities NOT on privately owned islands where resorts are operated."

    Not at all! You have seriously underestimated the whole agenda of the Defenders of the Faith. They opened up Pandoras Box. How did they do that, you ask?

    Well, they asked for a ban on alcohol and pork on "inhabited" islands. This is a non starter. By definition there are no living creatures on uninhabited islands; so there's no sale of anything, period. The sale of alcohol and pork occurs on islands that are habited by Maldivians, i.e. tourist resorts. Therefore, there is no distinction between, say, Feydhoo and Shangrila Maldives at Villigili. Both are habited by Maldivians who are naturally 100% Muslim.

    Islam doesn't distinguish between Shangrila Maldives and Feydhoo Island as far as Sharia laws are concerned. It's one nation, and there shall be one law to rule it all. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    I hope the government persists to expose this illogical idiocy by the Defenders of the Faith. I hope everyone noticed the silence of the Mullahs on these matters at their 2 day symposium. They considered the issue of "Qunooth/No Qunooth" to be more important than the matter of selling alcohol and pork.

    At the end of the day, the people of Maldives have a choice and it's a stark choice. Do they want to impose Sharia and ban alcohol and pork from the land? They cannot impose half measures in the name of Islam! Someone ought to shout Munafiq! The government missed an opportunity during the 23rd demonstrations. Instead of calling themselves "moderate" Muslims, they should have called themselves Exposers of Munafig. Surely, that's what those Defenders of the Faith are: Munafiq in full colour.

  14. An important point regarding all these fanaticsim we see today is a lack of education and knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A little knowledge of religion is a very very dangerous thing indeed.

    Most of the people shouting to defend Islam hardly understand even the basics of the religion. They do not understand what they read in the Quran. Moreover, they know hardly anything about the life and teachings of Prophet Mohammed, PBUH!

    They should be exposed for what they really are.

  15. @ tsk tsk
    Who started this mess by going on that rediculous sponsored protest in the first place??? The idiots have scored a massive own goal but this time it was in front of the whole world.

    In the tug of war between extremism and moderate We know who the real majourity and the world will support.
    How stupid are they to play with fire! The President will win this one.

  16. The opposition is doing everything they can to make Anni & Co, pay for what they had to deal with, leading to 2008 elections and the loss of what they were 'looting' in Qayoom era.

    The religion is a perfect tool. Not wrong yet not right for us now, fit for purpose for everyone yet not fit for our purpose at the moment, and a mentally deficient people to comprehend the big (or bigger) picture.

    The country is in a very difficult position. We do not require a Portuguese pirate ship to intimidate us; we have got a perfect breeding ground for hatred, hypocrisy, slander, jealousy etc, all boldly stamped Made in the Republic of Maldives.

  17. I urge government not to accept verdicts from the court.. Gasim and Adalath party must responsible for this.. We will make you responsible for your 23 December extremism and terrorism demonstration.. Gasim ibrahm should pay the price.. He is the man who use state assets from last government and became richest man in the country. I urge government to investigate gasim assets and how he own assets. Gasim was involved 30 years dictatorship.. there is no way he can escape, he should pay the price

  18. The ministry of tourism is sued by Maldives Tourism Industries (MATI) for the ministry's direction on the closure of spas in resorts and Male’ saying it is considering a ban in the Maldives on liquor and pork on grounds that both these are prohibited in Islam.

    The minister of tourism is the wife of MATI's Secretary General - the husband is suing the wife. Doesn't this look like rather playful though it is a coincidence that both head the parties affected in the legal row over what is good policy on practices and business not legal in Islam.

    The government was forced to take action against the spas in resorts and Male' by the 23 December protesters led by Adalath demanding closure of spas for alleged practice of prostitution as part of their business and stop importing liquor and pork to the Maldives.

  19. Threatening though this maybe for the Maldivian economy, I am very pleased that Nasheed is brave enough (yet again) to take the bull by the horn. We should be mature enough as a nation to accept the fact that we are ALL reaping the benefits of the tourism industry, that the bars and the spas are fundamental to our very survival as a nation. We should understand that it is dangerous to demonstrate on things that will cut off the very hand that feeds us, that it is dangerous to woe people to demonstrate on these emotion by inciting fear in god fearing good muslims. What Nasheed has done is excellent, it means we have to answer the question as a nation, and individuals cannot chose to be on a moral high ground and point fingers at others while reaping the benefits.

  20. tsk tsk,

    I understand you'll want to defend your political allies, but this is simply indefensible.

    Tourism isn't harmed only when the government closes down spas. The image of the country and stability is pretty much crucial.

    The UK, for instance, didn't issue travel warnings after the spas were closed. They issued them when your friends and the religious nuts threatened to disrupt the peace, and the threats to slaughter people on their official website. ["technical error", I believe they called it]

    The xenophobia and anti-Jew/anti-Israel sentiment spread by these people, and the violent reaction to the SAARC monuments, and the rhetoric against the El Al airlines, and the generated furore over GMR investment, and the attempt by Mahlouf and his boyfriends to hijack a ferry to the airport to remove a banner.. these are ALL severely damaging to the economy - and none of this was the government's doing.

    It was the opportunistic politicians in the opposition - but you will not admit this.

    The reaction of the government over the massage parlour issue - while childish - was provoked by an equally immature opposition.

    The opposition of this country is not challenging the government on policy or common mans' issues (and there's plenty of genuine issues to pick from). Instead it seems to want to stop at nothing -NOTHING, not even burning society if it has to - just to make sure the elected executive cannot function.

    The 'people did not demand this' argument is stupid. You cannot claim to fight for '100% Islam' and then step back when your bluff is called out.

  21. The strength of any religion is how adherants follow. You can call yourselves 100% if and only if 100% follow the tenants of the religion. The strength of the following is only ever realised in an environment of testing. So if we dont eat pork and dont drink alcohol, this will only be shown to be true if an individual is first tested to eat pork or drink alcohol. The banning of inanimate things actually takes the test away and hence there is no ability to know if there are true followers or not.

    The real question that you need to ask is what will Allah do if you can not in your own strength comply with his tenants?

  22. Where was MATI when all this "irrevocable damage" was going to be done and being done?

    If not fueling this happening, they should have been all out doing everything to stop this happening!

    Now that they know Gasim and his clowns could not bring the government down, they option to sue the government that was trying in every way to avoid this.

    This is ridiculous and very unprofessional!

    Do it the Islamic way - dip the fly into the soup it fell into so that the anti-dote it carries in its wings can balance the contamination or WHAT?

    The government to my belief, were trying NOT to let this happen by requesting organizers to come together to discuss to which they opposed saying they do not want any negotiations and there can be no half measures!

    This is what happens when political games are played in disguise!

  23. Yaamyn:

    Agreed. Like I keep saying those are not my friends or allies in the opposition.

    However much the government feels its position righteous and however sincere your belief in the MDP government as the better alternative, I was merely pointing out that the majority support seems to be for the opposition at the moment.

    If they succeed in garnering that support for the elections as well, my concern is that Nasheed might act like he has now.

  24. From a strictly legal point of view, allowing the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages and pork in the Maldives seems difficult to justify. Section 10 (b) of the Constitution is quite clear “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives”. There are of course some people who interpret the Islamic regulation of alcohol and pork in a very liberal fashion, but the vast majority of Islamic legal scholars will agree that Islamic law demands that alcohol and pork be prohibited in the Dar-al-Islam. In countries where there are non-Muslim minorities, this prohibition can only be applied at an individual level, since the state has to make allowances for the practices and beliefs of the non-Muslim population, and Islamic law can therefore only be applied to the Muslim population (this is the case in e.g. Malaysia). But, whether one agrees with it or not, the fact remains that in the Maldives, there are officially no non-Muslim minorities, and hence Islamic law can in theory be applied to everyone in the country. Applying that logic, it would be hard to see why, from a legal point of view, any exceptions should be made for tourists. From an economic point of view, it is clearly very lucrative for the country to allow these haraam practices in the resorts, so in the end, a decision will have to be made whether or not these economic interests should be allowed to trump Islamic law. This is not a dilemma that is easily resolved however, as it seems quite apparent that the beach holiday tourism industry, as it is run here in the Maldives, is quite incompatible with some basic principles of the Islamic faith.


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