Consultations between the police, government and tourism insiders continued today aimed at boosting resort security in the Maldives following recent robberies, with President Nasheed calling for additional support to address societal crime.
Tourism authorities in the country have said that the security seminar forms part of plans to try and proactively reduce the “internal and external” threats facing the country’s scattered array of island resorts. This is seen as increasingly important amidst growing concerns over industry preparedness for potential criminal attacks.
President Mohamed Nasheed opened the security seminar yesterday calling for the travel industry and authorities to not just focus on immediate solutions to protect resort customers and staff, but also to address the perceived root causes of national crime. Limited jobs and education opportunities for young people were highlighted by Nasheed as examples of the potential problems needed to be faced in Maldivian society to alleviate some of the causes of crime.
Police authorities have told Minivan News that the exact changes to be implemented as a result of the two-day security seminar could not be detailed yet as consultations between different authorities and organisations were ongoing.
President Nasheed said at the inauguration of the seminar that two prominent incidences of intrusion at properties such as Kihaadhuffaru resort and Baros Island Resort and Spa this year alone highlighted the “magnitude” of the threats facing the country.
While accepting that the tourism industry and the government could protect resorts against future intrusions by heightening security though measures such as introducing barriers, Nasheed claimed that there are wider social problems that also needed to be addressed.
Along with outlining new security measures, Nasheed used his speech to call on the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, industry insiders, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and law enforcement authorities to include plans to try and combat societal issues such as gang violence, theft and drug abuse that he linked with the “unemployed, uneducated and disenfranchised youth in the country”.
Nasheed claimed that these concerns were the root cause of the problems facing the resort industry in combating criminal threats.
The president’s claims echoed concerns raised by the tourism industry last week by groups like the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), which called for immediate measures to address the potential threats of gang crime, piracy and terrorism at resorts. The association said that it did accept that a relatively low number of security breaches that have occurred so far.
MATATO Secretary General Mohamed Maleeh Jamal nonetheless said that the entire industry would need to face up to addressing preparatory measures for resort security as it outlines a fourth tourism master plan that will cover the sector’s work from 2012 onwards. The current masterplan is said to relate to vital initiatives to develop the country’s travel industry from 2007 up until this year.
“We fear there is a big challenge ahead related to security,” said Jamal at the time.
Dr Mariyam Zulfa, Maldivian Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, also told Minivan News that she believed that rising levels of national crime and violence were beginning to impact the country’s secluded resort business. The Maldives tourism industry has this year witnessed a number of isolated criminal incidents at its resorts culminating last month in an attempted robbery at Baros Island Resort and Spa and the death of one of the alleged attackers.
Zulfa claimed that in the interests of trying to proactively protect the industry, authorities had been “working for some time” on developing new measures to protect resorts and bolster existing security systems that are in place in the country.
The tourism minister added the government alone could not handle the entire burden of dealing with security challenges alone. She claimed though that various stakeholders – from resort companies to airport operators – had so far been very cooperative in trying to ensure they were not “easy” potential targets for criminal attacks.