Govt to allow sale of alcohol on inhabited islands

Liquor licences will be issued to all hotels on inhabited islands with more than 100 beds under the ministry of economic development’s new regulations on the use and import of alcohol and pork in the Maldives.

Under the new regulations, which will come into effect on 15 November, permits for selling alcohol and pork will also be given to yacht marinas, safari boats and picnic islands registered with the ministry of tourism.

Duty free businesses such as airport departure terminal bars will also be eligible for the licence. Permits will be given for six months at a time for hotels for sale of alcohol only in the bar area and will be banned from being minibars.

The regulations further stipulate that hotels will only be able to sell pork and alcohol for “immediate consumption” and taking either outside of the permitted areas is forbidden.
The issue of selling alcohol on inhabited islands first arose last month when Adhil Saleem, state minister for economic development, confirmed that the new Holiday Inn in the capital Male’ had applied for a liquor licence.

Following media reports of the application for a permit, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, a member of the coalition government, and NGOs appealed to the government to forbid the sale of alcohol on inhabited islands.

Speaking to Minivan News, Mauroof Zakir, vice president of Tourism Employees’ Association Maldives, said the organisation would be supporting other NGOs in taking action against the decision.

“This is a 100 per cent Muslim country…If they start on the 15th of this month, we will definitely have to go for a nationwide peaceful protest,” he said.

“We already have a big problem with drugs so we can imagine that if we allow alcohol on inhabited islands we can say definitely it will become the same issue,” he added.

Zakir said resort employees already had access to alcohol and its sale in hotels on inhabited islands would make it even easier to obtain alcohol.

He further pointed to the problems caused by alcohol in other countries such as binge-drinking by youth in the UK.

“We don’t want to open the door for another drug. Definitely we will not be quiet,” he said, adding those concerned were considering filing a case at court as the regulations contravened article 10 of the constitution.

Article 10(b) stipulates that no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the country.

Zakir added there was currently a bill in parliament and the government should have waited to see the outcome before implementing the regulations.

Fares-Maathoda MP Ibrahim Muttalib submitted a bill to parliament last month to ensure alcohol was not sold in hotels and guesthouses on inhabited islands.

The introduction of the bill states that it was proposed because the “plague of drugs” was worsening, the amount of alcohol seized in inhabited islands was increasing and there were an increasing number of reports about giving liquor permits to guest houses, hotels and airports.

“This bill is proposed to close off legal avenues as there is a chance that the government could change the legal framework in a change of policy to authorise sale of alcohol and as a measure to stop the easy availability of alcohol to Maldivians in places their frequent,” it reads.

If the bill is passed, the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, airports and uninhabited islands leased for purposes other than tourism will be forbidden.

If passed, those in violation of the law will be either sentenced to one to three years in jail or fined between Rf12,000 (US$944) and Rf36,000 (US$2,800).

Further, permits issued prior to the ratification of the law be invalidated. The law will come into effect once it is passed and published in the government gazette.

An official from the ministry of economic development has said a press release will be issued shortly.