Resettling GITMO detainees will tarnish tourism industry: MATATO

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has warned the government that its plans to resettle Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the Maldives, and the recent Afghan peace talks that took place in the country, could “tarnish the prestigious name” Maldives has made for itself as a tourism destination.

“The association notes that the international media has been writing on the matter of bringing in the prisoners, who have been allegedly linked to severe inhumane crimes,” the association noted, adding that the BBC had described the government’s plan as “transforming a tourists’ paradise to a paradise for terrorists.”

Their concern was that tourist arrivals would decline due to the international perception of the country, creating a devastating domino effect in the country’s tourism industry.

Furthermore, they said “bringing Guantánamo Bay prisoners will badly affect the tourism industry and so this association calls on the government not to do anything that would pave the way for such a thing.”

MATATO board members have been planning a meeting on the issue this week, but it has been postponed twice due to several members being out of the country.

Secretary General of MATATO, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, said they did not have quorum to hold the meeting yesterday, but are trying to gather enough members to hold it as soon as possible.

He told Minivan News yesterday “we are meeting regarding the Afghan talks, which is quite a sensitive issue.”

Board and council member of MATATO, Sharif Ibrahim, said whether or not the recent events will have a negative impact on the tourism industry in Maldives “is all about how you see things.”

Referring to the Afghan peace talks, he said the international community “might see us as a loving, peaceful country. Somebody had to step in and help. Some people will see this as a good thing.”

As to the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay prisoners, he said “it may have a negative effect,” but added everyone must keep a “broad mind” before jumping to conclusions.

“I haven’t seen any bad reactions yet,” he said, “I don’t think it will have a bad impact. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Although MATATO have voiced their concern, other associations are not so worried about the Maldives’ reputation, or its effect on the tourism industry.

Maldives Resort Workers posted an article on their blog titled ‘Gitmo resettlement will NOT damage Maldives’ reputation’.

In the article, they repeatedly argued that MATATO’s concerns of the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay detainees and the recent Afghan peace talks are exaggerated views, and are sure that neither issue will have a negative effect on the industry.

They gave several reasons back up their argument, saying that resorts in the Maldives are usually visited by “high spenders” who “generally have their heads with them. So they could not possibly be unaware of world politics or ramifications of it.”

They also argue that Guantánamo Bay detainee centre is “not a terrorist camp or training ground for terrorists,” and they support US President Obama’s bid to close it down. They also added that, “this time, the president [Mohamed Nasheed] is correct. Absolutely correct to ZERO decimals without error.”

The article further reads the opposition parties in the country are “taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses to gather support,” and they have applauded President Nasheed for refusing to answer journalists’ questions at a press conference last week.

“In this case,” it continued, “the opposition is using media to the hilt to discredit a rather commendable move by the president.”

They add that MATATO members are “just individuals who make a life selling package holidays to unwary tourists” and they are “the most worker unfriendly people who works [sic] in the tourism industry.”

The Maldives Association for Tourism Industry (MATI) did not wish to comment on the issue, because “we don’t want to lend anything to either side of the argument.”

The government has sustained any prisoners resettled in the Maldives would be first cleared of any criminal charges, and have repeatedly assured “they are not terrorists” and the transfer is “purely humanitarian.”

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ali Sawad, did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

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8 thoughts on “Resettling GITMO detainees will tarnish tourism industry: MATATO”

  1. Hassan Saeed up to his usual tricks again, so I hear. Who is this MATATO is anyways? Case of the green eyed monster in Hassan Saeed. I bet he wishes he was president taking all these important decisions

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  2. If Maldives turn to the international games of political speculation , many tourists from Europe will go to other destination.Image of Maldives it is Great Nature Place on Earth and only because of that tourist select Maldives. but if it is become a prison for Guantanamo terrorists or other or military navy base for Indian or other Navy it will be terrible.
    how do you think it is be very good if you go to swim if near, you can see military ship or know that on the next island is new Guantanamo prison for terrorist?hehe you will pay for that rest thousand dollars?

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  3. A news Item in Washingtin Times today reads "The Maldives, once considered a liberal Islamic nation, has been increasingly adopting fundamentalist Muslim practices, hosting Taliban terrorists from Afghanistan and breeding a youth attracted to Islamic jihad. Many analysts report that Maldivian young people have been recruited by Pakistani terrorists."

    There is no doubt that articles like this would affect our image and tourism.

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  4. Ladies and Gentlemen..Did you know that MATATO is headed and controled by Maleeh who is Qaumee Party senior member and he did stand for MP post in the last election by DrHassan Party! I call upon MATATO real members to gain control of MATATO from Political influence studid people like Maleeh and etc!! Dr Hassan and Dr.Jameel you have no shame to gain Presidency at any cost like Dr.Waheed! ( I am very sure Dr.Waheed's son Salim would now defend this..what a joker!!)

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  5. Why every one is bashing the whistle blowers here, the real culprit of all these things is President Nasheed himself and his bad policies. Its not Nihan ,Ali Waheed or Hassan Saeed, who made the deals to bring alleged terrorists to this country. Its Dr. Shaheed and Nasheed keep on talking about Maldives and terrorism in international media to get world attention to secure their agenda and get good PR.

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  6. @Ekaloa

    Sure it is to 'secure their agenda' - but keep this mind.

    a) The previous government's reckless spending forced us to go to the IMF to bail our country out.

    b) If we had not gone to the IMF, our exchange rate would now be at MRF 16 to the USD

    c) Normally IMF only grants about USD 20 million to a country like the Maldives - which would not have been enough. We needed much more than that

    d) IMF is controlled by the US - and in order to get the bailout package - we needed to scratch their backs

    e) The key thing the US are now asking from small countries now is to house Gitmo prisoners. BTW - the Maldives is one of many 'moslem' countries who called Gitmo illegal and prisoners there to be released

    f) We managed to secure close to USD 70 million and the backing of the IMF that our country's economy is safe. The USD situation is improving and your own savings in MRF is not completely useless.

    g) This is a small small price to pay for 2 potential terrorists - and remember we can easily keep an eye on their every movement, email, telephone call...etc.

    The thing with political agendas is that the current government will rise or fall on their ability to deliver something good to the people. The opposition will rise if this is prevented - as in if NOTHING good happens to the Maldives. As such, by simple logic, the real danger to the country is from the agenda of the opposition rather than the Govt.

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  7. @Saleem

    Didn't Anni say he could run this country with a single dime?

    So why did he need to go IMF for a bail out?

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