The Maldives Police Service have arrested two men involved in the infamous ‘wedding’ ceremony at Vilu Reef Resort and Spa, in which the ‘celebrant’ and up to 15 complicit members of staff degrade and humiliate a Swiss couple in Dhivehi.
One of the men arrested was identified as Hussein Didi, a food and beverage assistant at the resort who acted as celebrant and who was filmed unleashing a torrent of hateful abuse at the oblivious couple.
Under Maldivian law non-Muslims are not permitted to marry in the Maldives, but many resorts offer ‘renewal of vows’ ceremonies.
“The court decided yesterday that [the men] should be kept in police custody during the investigation,” said Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam.
The men have not yet been formally charged, “but this is a very serious issue related to our economy,” Shiyam said. “Once we complete the investigation the Prosecutor General’s Office will decide the charges.”
President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile announced that the government will introduce strict guidelines for the conduct of tourist wedding ceremonies.
Speaking during his weekly radio address, President Nasheed said he was “disgusted” by the incident and described the behaviour of those involved as “absolutely disgraceful”.
He called on staff working in tourist resorts – indirectly responsible for 80 percent of the country’s economy – to be “vigilantly professional”, as such behaviour could cause “enormous damage to the country´s tourism industry.”
The government would leave “no stone unturned to ensure that an incident like this never happens again,” Nasheed said.
Meanwhile Maldives Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed issued a state apology to the couple, who have not been identified but are believed to be from Switzerland.
“The Maldives is a world-class tourist destination famed for its warm welcome and excellent customer service. Episodes such as that captured on video have no place in our tourism industry or in our society more broadly; and are alien to our cultural and religious values,” Dr Shaheed said.
The Maldives is grateful that the couple in question chose to renew their vows in one of our resorts and we cannot escape the fact that, on this occasion, because of the disrespectful and unacceptable actions of a few individuals, we have let them down.”
The Maldives Diplomatic Service had been instructed to contact the couple “and issue a face-to-face apology,” Dr Shaheed said.
“We will also be compensating them for any distress caused by this unfortunate incident. The Foreign Ministry will also be writing to our counterparts in Switzerland to offer our intense regret and to indicate the steps that the Government is taking to deal with the situation.”
Furthermore the government was seeking to hold talks with the Maldives tourism industry “in order to have assurances that this was an isolated incident,” the Foreign Minister added.
“If we do not receive such reassurance, we reserve the right to take all remedial steps necessary, legislative or otherwise, to ensure that episodes such that which occurred in Vilu Reef Resort never happen again, and do not tarnish the positive image of the country built up over so many years.”