The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated a travel advisory for the Maldives on August 24 to account for potential violent clashes linked to the release of findings by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI). Despite the update, the advisory has not recommended any restrictions regarding travel to the Maldives.
A statement on the official website of UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that there was a risk of unrest that may become worse after the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) releases its report on the controversial transfer of power on February 7. The CNI is charged to look into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office.
‘’There have been political demonstrations in the capital island of Male’. There is currently an increased risk of unrest and this may heighten towards the end of August when a politically significant report is expected to be released,’’ the statement said.
‘’Some previous demonstrations have resulted in violent clashes involving police, military and demonstrators. We advise that you stay alert, exercise caution and avoid demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings.’’
Meanwhile, in a video statement posted Friday (August 23), the UK High Commissioner for the Maldives and Sri Lanka, John Rankin, said that he would not like to speculate on the contents of the CNI Report before it is released when he was queried whether he thinks it will be fair.
“The UK follows the events in the Maldives closely and I and my team visit their on a regular basis. It will be wrong for me to speculate on the contents of the CNI report, we look forward to seeing it when it comes out,’’ Rankin stated in the video.
‘’But in the meantime we urge all the parties to remain clam, for people to refrain from violence. And for there to be a political dialogue, UK remains in touch with all the parties and our shared goal is for stability, peace and democracy for the Maldivian people.’’
Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor, Minister for Tourism, Arts, and Culture and Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press regarding the update to the FCO advisory. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) Secretary General ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim was also not responding to calls at the time.
Following February’s controversial transfer of power, the UK FCO advised against “all but essential travel to Male’ island” in reaction to violent clashes at the time between security forces and protesters against the new government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. Former President Mohamed Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have alleged that the present government of Dr Waheed came to power at the time in a “coup d’etat”.
In the ensuing clashes, the travel industry was quick to respond at the time that there had been no violence or unrest at the country’s main airport, from where guests are transferred to their resorts safely without having to travel through the capital of Male’ where protests had been mainly based.
Kuoni, which is one of the largest European tour operators working in the country, continued to fly UK customers to the country without incident, yet urged caution for tourists staying in Male’, while cancelling all excursions to the capital.
The United Kingdom was the source of tourists to the Maldives before 2010, before being overtaken by China. In 2011, however, the UK market still represented 11.2 percent of all arrivals in the country.
The travel advisory was followed by similar moves from major European travel markets such as Germany. These advisories were removed by the respective authorities as of March 2012.