The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) has issued a statement reaffirming the Maldivian government’s decision to withdraw from the New7Wonders competition.
The statement follows claims by the Geneva-based foundation’s head of communications, Eamonn Fitzgerald, that the Maldives was still in the competition “because the authority to withdraw a participant from the campaign is a decision for New7Wonders alone, not for any government agency.”
The government withdrew from the competition on May 18, after claiming that New7Wonders’ commercial entity, New Open World Corporation (NOWC), had solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars for the country “to compete meaningfully”.
“We no longer feel that continued participation is in the economic interests of the Maldives,” said State Minister for Tourism Thoyyib Mohamed, at the time.
The MMPRC today said that a second statement was necessary “to halt any further misrepresentation by the NOWC regarding the involvement of the Maldives in their competition.”
“After the many attempts by the MMPRC to negotiate and explain our financial situation requesting a reduction of the price to meaningfully compete and stay in the competition, we are again perplexed to learn that the NOWC are considering taking a smaller sum of money from a third party in order to keep the Maldives in the competition,” the MMPRC stated.
Secretary General Maleeh Jamal of the Maldives Association of Travel and Tourism Operators (MATATO) said yesterday that the association had been in contact with New7Wonders and was considering working on the event in the government’s stead, claiming that the competition promised “enormous return on investment”, and that “US$500,000 for such an award would be quickly recovered.”
The MMPRC today stated that “the democratically elected Government of the Maldives is the only legitimate authority to act in the name of the Maldives and its people”, as “NOWC originally sought acceptance and involvement of the Maldives in the competition with a government signature and payment.
“The Cabinet (not the MMPRC) has made the final decision to withdraw from the competition due to their findings. We feel that the continued participation of the Maldives in the NOWC competition is a matter entirely up to the democratically elected government of the country. Any infringement of this sovereign right, including continued disregard for our position on the matter, will leave us with no alternative but to seek legal recourse.”
In a recent opinion column for Minivan News, Fitzgerald argued that the MMPRC’s “unfounded complaints regarding the campaign sponsorship options have to be seen in light [of the] extraordinarily positive numbers.”
Fitzgerald referred to two “independent studies” he claimed estimated the economic benefit to each of the seven wonders as “US$1.012 billion”, and the total benefit to previous winners as “US$5 billion”.
The MMPRC stated that it “does not agree with the business arguments as quoted in the article for Minivannews.com. To imply that you can guarantee a positive response of an advertising campaign or PR stunt that is yet to happen is wholly unethical.
“The NOWC-commissioned reports and estimates cannot guarantee and secure a positive outcome for the Maldives. There are so many variable factors as to why marketing activities are successes or failures ‐ but no two scenarios are identical and so generalisations and assumptions should not be made when spending huge sums of the country’s money.”
The MMPRC highlighted several articles in the government’s contract with NOWC, noting that “the obligation to pay is determined and decided by [the Government of the Maldives] abilities and resources and that NOWC will respect this.”
“In light of our recent economic riots and financial crisis which was broadcast to the world, we feel that NOWC have totally disregarded our situation.”
The MMPRC further claimed that “despite our emails and answer phone messages to Fitzgerald, New7Wonders have refused to respond to our communications. We have also noted that their office premises appear to be empty and their colleagues with whom we previously had regular communications are no longer available.”
Fitzgerald said New7Wonders was reviewing the MMPRC’s statement, and confirmed that “all MMPRC messages to New7Wonders have been duly received and filed by us. As New7Wonders accepted the resignation of the MMPRC on May 17, this agency is no longer New7Wonders’s counterpart in the Maldives, so we have no reason to respond to it.”
He added that New7Wonders would issue a statement regarding the continued participation of the Maldives in the campaign on Thursday May 26.