Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf has said that “if the government has the courage to ban alcohol and pork across the country, PPM will support it.”
However, speaking at a press conference yesterday he claimed that protesters never called to ban alcohol in the resorts.
PPM’s statement follows the government’s announcement that it is closing all spas and massage parlors and is considering banning pork and alcohol nation-wide in response to the thousands of protestors who attended the religious rally on December 23 to defend Islam.
Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol and pork. Protest leaders including Jumhoree Party Leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yamin, all resort owners or share-holders who profit from such sales, asserted that there was no moderate, higher or lower Islam but rather “only Islam, which is above all religions.”
Thasmeen later reiterated to Minivan News that the protest was religious only, and intended to show that the people are “deeply concerned” about the dischord between the government’s policies and Islam.
Protestors interviewed by Minivan News expressed a desire for “100 percent Islam”, and claimed that President Mohamed Nasheed was against “flogging, stoning and hand amputation…That means he’s not following Islam. He wants music, he wants adultery and alcoholism to takeover us.”
Although no official statistics have been released, the opposition has claimed that its goal of 100,000 participants nation-wide was reached. Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed subsequently called on the President to “accept the people’s voices.”
The government has subsequently taken steps to address the coalition’s five official demands.
This week the parliamentary National Security Committee forwarded a resolution prohibiting Israeli airline El Al to operate in the Maldives. If approved by Parliament, the resolution would address the coalition’s request that Israeli flights not be allowed to operate in the country.
The coalition has also requested the government to “close the spas and massage parlors and such places where prostitution is conducted”.
Today, the Tourism Ministry issued a circular ordering resorts to shut down spa and massage parlor operations.
Gassim’s Royal Island Resort this week sued the government when it ordered spas in five of his resorts to close on allegations of prostitution.
In response to the request to remove the SAARC monuments on allegations that they are “un-Islamic”, the government has said the decision falls under the remit of the Addu City Council.
Addu City Council earlier told Minivan News it is considering removing them to a secure, interior location as only three of the original seven monuments have not been damaged or stolen.
Regarding the policy on selling alcohol on uninhabited islands, the government recently noted that only 200 people live in some less populous islands, but 400-500 citizens live in the tourist resorts, therefore the government is considering banning alcohol nation-wide.
However in a joint press conference held today by the coalition, religious party Adhaalath’s President Sheikh Imran Abdullah alleged that the government is attempting to aggravate them by “misinterpreting the demands” and instead “making excuses”.
Claiming that “the time for excuses is over”, Imran warned that the government has until January 5 to complete the demands, or otherwise the coalition would take action again.
Directly following the protest the coalition announced that there was no deadline, but indicated that they would be monitoring the government’s reaction to the demands.
“If the government continues to make excuses without fulfilling the demands made by the large number of people [at the December 23 rally], the government will have to pay the price,” Imran said.
Spokesperson for the NGO coalition Abdullah Mohamed further alleged that the government is targeting the protestors and announced a sixth demand, calling the government to “stop causing harm to anyone who participates in the religious movement”.
Meanwhile, opposition DRP Deputy Leader Mavota Mohamed Shareef said the party would do everything it could to make the government enforce the demands.
Spokespersons from Adhaalath Party, PPM, JP, and NGO Salaf had not responded to repeated phone calls at time of press.