Comment: Komodo Island remains in New7Wonders of Nature campaign, as do the islands of Maldives

On Saturday, readers of Minivan News were greeted with the headline: “Indonesia joins Maldives in withdrawing from New7Wonders competition”.

Now, a good headline is an essential component of good journalism, but headlines don’t always reflect the complexity of a story. An alternative title for the article could have been, “Komodo Island remains in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, as do the Islands of the Maldives”. Here’s why.

On August 11, the new Official Supporting Committee (OSC) for Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign was announced in Jakarta, Indonesia.

P2Komodo is led by Ms Emmy Hafild, the leading independent Indonesian environmentalist, recognised by Time magazine and the UN for her successful environmental campaigning in the past against the Suharto dictatorship. P2Komodo is an alliance of positive and forward looking members of Indonesian civil society, who are keen to ensure that Komodo Island has a fair chance of participating in the New7Wonders of Nature.

Four days later, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) of Indonesia organised a somewhat surreal press conference in Jakarta to announce the MCT’s “withdrawal of Komodo Island” from the New7Wonders of Nature.

But the MCT had no authority in this matter as it ceased to be the legitimate New7Wonders representative in Indonesia in February, so the announcement was absurd. Naturally, New7Wonders of Nature has no issue with the Indonesian MCT’s right not to be involved in the Komodo Island campaign, in the same way that we have no issue with the MMPRC agency resigning as the OSC for the islands of the Maldives in May.

By the way, the 41 Official Supporting Committees from 37 countries representing the 28 Finalists in the New7Wonders of Nature were invited, all expenses paid (including flights and accommodation) by the Indonesian MCT, to attend the press conference. Only one accepted the generous offer, Mr Simon Hawkins, the British head of the MMPRC agency. Does this mean that Maldives tourism policy is now being influenced by the money of another country? We do not know. However, the MMPRC agency shares with the Indonesian MCT the dubious distinction of both being former OSCs in the New7Wonders of Nature.

Despite a series of malicious attacks on New7Wonders by the MCT, the public and media opinion consensus in Indonesia is that the MCT should not interfere in the democratic right of the Indonesian people to vote for Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature. Voting for Komodo Island itself has increased dramatically since the events of the past few days, showing quite clearly how the people of Indonesia are viewing this matter. As Emmy Hafild has said, “Indonesia is a democratic country, so the government must not prevent the Indonesian people from voting for Komodo and making it one of the New7Wonders successfully”.

We believe the same democratic rights should be extended to the people of the Maldives. Three months have passed since we accepted the resignation of the MMPRC agency, and since then we have received reports of many Maldivian people and organisations that are willing to form a new OSC, but who feel threatened and unable to exercise their civil right of freedom of expression and organisation. That’s why we recently wrote to the government of the Republic of the Maldives, requesting the assurance that it will not interfere with or threaten the formation of such a new OSC for the Islands of the Maldives, and respecting the democratic principles that now guide the nation of the Maldives. We are pleased to say that the government of the Republic of the Maldives has agreed to our request, and we received this assurance in writing on August 20.

Because we believe the time has come for everyone to move on constructively we will not comment again on the many misleading statements that have been made about New7Wonders by the MMPRC agency. Instead, we urge the positive and forward thinking members of Maldivian society to exercise their democratic right to actively support the Islands of the Maldives in the New7Wonders of Nature, like the enlightened majority members of Indonesian civil society are now doing for Komodo Island.

So, here’s the story in a headline: “Komodo Island remains in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, as do the islands of the Maldives”.

Eamonn Fitzgerald is Head of Communication at New7Wonders

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Letter on New7Wonders and the Maldives

To Whom It May Concern,

New7Wonders welcomes the vibrant debate and enthusiastic discussion about the participation of the islands of the Maldives in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, and considers this a reflection of the democratic discourse that is at the heart of Maldivian society as well as of the global New7Wonders movement.

The presence of the islands of the Maldives in the voted and selected group of 28 finalists is a source of great pride for many Maldivians and fans of the Maldives, and New7Wonders has received many messages confirming this in the past days. Each of the 28 Finalists have qualified from over 440 participants from over 220 countries – more countries than participate for the World Cup and for the Olympics.

In the case of the Maldives, as with any of the finalists involved in the global campaign, New7Wonders can confirm that it remains open to working with any appropriate entity or body that has a dynamic and enthusiastic vision to support the islands of the Maldives.

In news this week that benefits all finalists, the extraordinary positive opportunity provided by participating in the New7Wonders of Nature has been further confirmed by a third independent study from Korea. These studies are not commissioned by New7Wonders, are entirely independent and objective, and reveal the following headline facts:

  1. Study published by Pearson of London in April 2010: US$ 5 billion overall in economic, tourism and brand image values for the participants and winners in the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World campaign;
  2. Study published by Grant Thornton of South Africa in April 2011: US$ 1.012 billion each in economic and employment value for the first five years for being successful in the New7Wonders of Nature;
  3. New study published by JDI of South Korea in May 2011: up to US$ 1.837 billion each per annum in economic benefits for being successful in the New7Wonders of Nature.

Concerning the use of the name “Maldives”, New7Wonders considers any possible action against the use of the name unenforceable and an avoidable waste of public money. It is also a worrying indication for the rest of Maldives society and business that the corporatised MMPRC agency is trying to take ownership and control of the Maldives name that is shared by everyone. However, should this matter be pursued blindly despite its unfounded rationale, then New7Wonders will not hesitate to consider alternative names or designations for the islands of the Maldives ongoing participation in the campaign – perhaps even inviting public opinion to suggest ideas. The beautiful islands and splendid atolls of the Maldives are the true potential natural wonders, even under another name.

To forbid people from voting for the islands of the Maldives, as the MMPRC agency wants to do, is the same as Mubarak when he used to forbid voting for certain parties in Egypt – and as with Egypt it is the people’s choice that must count in the end. New7Wonders defends the right of the committed, positive and enthusiastic voters from the Maldives and the world, who have voted for the islands of the Maldives in the past, and towards those keen to vote for the islands of the Maldives in the future.

The MMPRC agency, which is by statute a money-making corporation, should not waste any more resources and time issuing defensive and self-justifying statements. New7Wonders now urges it to move on and focus its energies on its important mission of delivering the necessary increase in economic value for the Maldives for which the MMPRC agency has been created and for which it will be judged. New7Wonders will continue with its own mission, honouring the will of the worldwide fans, with the islands of the Maldives (if necessary re-named) as an ongoing worthy Finalist in the New7Wonders of Nature. Both these can and will happily coexist without affecting each other.

Eamonn Fitzgerald is the Head of Communication at New7Wonders

All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter, please submit it to [email protected]