MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi calls for debate on sale of alcohol to tourists in local guest houses

Former Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, has called for debate over the sale of alcohol to tourists in local guest houses, in a bid to promote mid-market travel to local islands.

Didi made the remarks during the debate in parliament over the proposed bill calling for the blanket prohibition of pork and alcohol imports to the country, sponsored by fellow MDP MP Nazim Rashad.

During the debate, Didi raised several questions on the issue including whether alcohol should only be sold by wealthy business tycoons, such as leader of Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim and Hussain ‘Champa’ Afeef.

“When we travel to several islands to prepare our election manifesto, and when we discuss about opening guest houses, the subject of allowing sale of alcohol in guest houses with provisions excluding sale to locals has to be discussed,” she said.

She further stated that before giving such a permit, views of the religious scholars in the country must also be sought. Didi added that it was important to know from religious perspective whether such sale could be carried out in the Maldives or whether the Maldives could consume the profits made by through sale of alcohol while remaining an Islamic country.

Didi called on parliament to accept the bill proposed by MP Nazim Rashad and have it sent to a parliamentary committee, to then seek the views of religious scholars.

Unlike many other Islamic nations such as Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi where the sale of alcohol is licensed to hotels and foreign workers, the Maldives classifies alcohol as a restricted substance and bans its use and sale on ‘inhabited’ islands.

The resort islands are classified as ‘uninhabited’ under Maldivian law, although technically under the Constitution no law can be enacted against a tenet of Islam, which potentially affects those relevant to the import, sale and service of haram products such as pork and alcohol.

“Clarified and addressed”

Speaking to Minivan News, Didi said that the issue of alcohol needed to be “clarified” and “addressed”.

“If this is a religious issue, that is if Islam bans sale of alcohol, it should not be sold in the Maldives as we are a 100 percent Islamic nation. If the sale is allowed, then the question to ask is whether alcohol is needed for the tourist trade to flourish,” she said.

She added that if alcohol proved to be a vital element in the tourism sector, then the sale of alcohol should be allowed for “registered places” to which a permit is given to accommodate tourists including resorts, safari boats and guest houses.

“If the objection to the sale of alcohol is on [religious] grounds, it should not be sold in places where Maldivians reside. But Maldivians do reside on resorts as employees. If we deny Maldivians the employment opportunities in the resorts, then the income from resorts will be restricted to those who own resorts, that would give way to increase in expatriate workers and foreign currency drainage,” she explained.

Didi stressed that the bill must be admitted to a parliamentary committee and “clarify” from religious scholars the position of Islam that concerns the issue at hand.

“Every island I have travelled to, most locals who I come across want tourist guest houses on their islands and employment opportunities where they can work and still go back home to spend time with their families,” She added.

The bill calling to ban the sale of pork and alcohol was proposed in October.

Presenting the bill, Nazim argued that the import of these products violates article 10(b) of the constitution which states that “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

“We often hear rumours that people have alcohol at home in their fridge, available any time. We’ve heard that kids take alcohol to school to drink during their break. The issue is more serious than we think, it should not be ignored,” Nazim told the house.

Consumption of intoxicants or pork products is prohibited under Islamic law.

Previous attempts

When in charge, the MDP government announced that it was considering banning pork and alcohol products in response to the December 23 coalition’s campaign to protect Islam.

Then Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair at the time said that trade of alcohol was not a business conducted by the government. He added that the government receives a relatively large amount of money through this trade from Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“The businessman running the trade of alcohol receives a huge amount of profit through this business as well,’’ he said. ‘’The government is now considering banning trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives.’’

The decision was followed after a mass protest against the government held by the December 23 coalition, consisting of several religious NGOs and opposition political parties, called on the government to ban the sale of pork and alcohol among other demands.

After being asked in January for a consultative opinion over whether the Maldives could import pork and alcohol without violating the nation’s Shariah-based constitution, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the case on the grounds that the matter did not need to be addressed at the Supreme Court level.

The Court did note, however, that pork and alcohol have been imported under provisions of the Contraband Act and that there is a regulation in favor of the trade. As no law has declared the regulation unlawful, the import of pork and alcohol is indeed legal, the court claimed.

Meanwhile, Article 10 of the Constitution states that “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

The Constitution also states that any law not struck down by the courts is valid.

Since resorts first opened in the Maldives in the 1970s, tourism has been the core of the island nation’s economy. To accommodate the industry as well as the national Islamic faith, in 1975 the Ministry of Economic Development regulated the sale of pork and alcohol to tourist establishments (Act 4/75).

While there is no regulation or set of guidelines specific to spa operations in resorts, Article 15(a2) of the Goods and Services Tax Act stipulates that spas are legally accepted in the Maldives as tourism goods, and therefore may be operated in compliance with tourism regulations.

After its formation in 2009 the Parliament had nine months to reject any legislation which did not conform with the Constitution.

Parliament did not reject the regulation on the sale of pork and alcohol in 2009, thus allowing it to stand by default.


11 thoughts on “MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi calls for debate on sale of alcohol to tourists in local guest houses”

  1. Didi is clever in asking for this clarification, while so many in the Coalition are spruiking religiousity, Didi is pointing out a glaring contradiction to the tenants of Islam. Don't worry folks the contradiction will continue, alcohol and pork will continue in the resorts because the simple fact is, No Alcohol = No Resort and those who have grown fat on the profits will not let it go!
    A friend of mine who is a foreign partner in a guesthouse has successfully been able to sell bed nights to surfers and divers from the west, on the full knowledge of No Alcohol. While I dont mind a quite drink myself, I think it would be a shame to change inhabited island culture with the introduction of alcohol. Good luck Maldives as you place pressure on resort owners to truly Muslim!

  2. Prefer wealthy Maldives not like in Afghanistan giving people to eat grass and the faith less radical to kill Islam,Maldives is tourism not terrorism

  3. I totally disagree with making alcohol available to foreigners on inhabited islands. I'm fairly certain the majority of non-Maldivians would understand and agree with me on this.

  4. First, religion has become a political tool for manipulation.

    Second, hardly any mullah or Islamic scholar dare to voice out the truth that Islam bans sale of alcohol if they believe that Maldives is a 100% Muslim nation.

    BTW, if any of you want to be rich - you should hold protest against it. When you are able to gain significant numbers of supporters - automatically those few resort tycoons will try to silent you; then you know what to act. It works all the times worldwide.

  5. There are many people in the world who do not like going on holiday to places where there is alcohol.

    Maldives could brand itself as a no alcohol destinatioon for its island based tourism, and still attract people.

  6. @ Fathun

    Setup a facebook page and Can you find 100 people from the major tourist markets who like your idea?

    Or how about stop tourism altogether and recite Quran and prey for money. Joking aside that the answer the Adduans got when they asked for aid and medicine from Male’ late 70’s, Recite quran and pray.

  7. I did not say ban alcohol all together. On resort islands, no problem. Let the tourists drink. On inhabited (populated by Maldivians) island guest houses, I see no reason to make alcohol available.
    This is not just about a few tycoons making money from alcohol sales. Tourists benefit the entire economy and lives of Maldivians. Keep the status quo, but don't destroy Maldivian Culture by allowing alcohol on inhabited islands.

    A better scheme would be to break the monopoly of the alcohol importers.

  8. Alcohol is dangerous in heavy quantities. In light quantities, it is no more dangerous than a Red Bull and less dangerous than a cigarette. I do not see how allowing registered hotels to provide alcohol is practically any different than allowing resorts to do so - other than restricting a certain trade to a more limited set of beneficiaries. A way to manage this is to allow licences to be issued at a regional or local level. Within a region or locale, if the population does not want an establishment that can sell alcohol, then they can restrict it or put limitations on it. Those that do not see it as a threat to their culture, may allow it. Even in the USA any hotel, bar or restaurant must obtain an alcohol license and such licenses are not issued in certain areas by the agreement of the local population.

  9. Why cannot MDP move out from its "revenge" attitude of Safari tours? Why can not they let go Anni family issues ?

  10. though the idea seems good small scale Maldivians benefiting from tourism business in inhabited island through boarding and lodging arrangements(include/exclude alcohol),i would say the bigger problem is preparing acceptable standard of food/snacks for your guests, believe me these foreigners will run back to their country the next day if you serve them gaurdia


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