Hundreds of people marched in Malé on Monday calling for a boycott of businesses they claimed were owned by those responsible for financing the alleged coup d’état on February 7.
The march was organised by the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the NOON campaign (‘Noon’ means ‘no’ in Dhivehi). The campaign is the second boycott campaign targeting businessmen who support President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.
UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives (FOM) has also revived a 2006 selective boycott of resorts.
Both campaigns primarily target resorts and businesses owned by local tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, and Vice-President nominee Mohamed Waheed Deen. The NOON campaign also calls for a boycott of the food importer Euro Store and businesses owned by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer, PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof, Defense Minister Ahmed Nazim and MP “Redwave” Ahmed Saleem.
“We have numbers, they have money. If we don’t buy from them, they won’t get the money,” said Shamau Shareef, a member of the NOON campaign. “We want to show this brutal regime and its business tycoons that we citizens are against the coup and police brutality in the Maldives.”
A Euro Store marketing official who identified himself as Fahmy said the boycott was “not based on truth or facts.”
“We don’t think Euro Store will be affected. Our sales have actually increased since all of this happened,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said he was “saddened” by FOM’s “irresponsible” resort boycott. “How did they derive these conclusions? What proof do they have?” he asked.
Hundreds of protesters, waving yellow MDP flags, set out on foot and on motorbikes from Raalhugandu (surf point) at 5:00 pm calling on the public to boycott restaurants, shops and businesses that belong to “coup- financers.”
Products under boycott include Granini juice, popular Lavazza coffee, Red Bull energy drinks, Marlboro cigarettes and Lindt chocolate. These products are imported to the Maldives by Euro Store. Shops under boycott include MP Saleem’s ‘Redwave’ grocery chain and MP Mahloof’s clothing store ‘The Jeans’.
Protestors also called for a boycott of Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Gas and his airline Flyme. The campaigners alleged Gasim Ibrahim to be one of the main financiers of the coup.
Rasheed Carpentry and Construction Company, alleged to have ties to defense minister Ahmed Nazim, and PPM VP Umar Naseer’s security services Alarms and Whale Submarine tourist attraction are also included in the list.
“We have a long list of businesses, but we are still verifying most of them,” Shamau Shareef said. The campaign was only targeting businesses who have expressed outward support for the alleged coup d’état, Shamau said.
“For example the Euro Store supplied lavazza coffee and Red Bull to the 23 December alliance,” he claimed. The December 23 alliance is a group of political parties and NGOs that stood up against deposed President Mohamed Nasheed, claiming his administration was “irreligious”.
The NOON campaign had gathered over 1400 supporters within 24 hours of its launch on Facebook on Sunday. “It’s caught on very quickly. People support this campaign. If we can get mass public support, then we can be quite effective,” Shamau said.
The campaign intends to distribute leaflets on products under boycott to every household in Malé city, he added.
The Friends of Maldives first called for a boycott of resorts owned and operated by supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2006. The NGO relaunched the selective boycott under the name Maldives Travel Advisory in late February.
The NGO stressed the campaign was not a boycott of the Maldives, but rather a boycott of resorts “linked to individuals or groups who we suspect to be involved in the subversion of democracy and in human rights abuses in the Maldives.”
Resorts are classified into categories; “those we encourage you to visit, those under consideration and those which should be avoided.”
Seven resorts are currently on the avoid list; six belong to Gasim Ibrahim and one belongs to Mohamed Waheed Deen. Twelve resorts connected to businessmen Salah Shihab, Abdullah Jabir and Hussein “Champa” Afeef are under consideration.
“We also urge you to consider the idea of being a responsible traveler. Don’t let your pleasant holiday contribute to the suffering of others, whether it is to the Maldives or to any other place,” FOM said.
Ahmed Adeeb said he was “unsure” if the campaign would be effective as FOM is based in the UK, and because the UK market competes with the European and the Chinese markets. However, he said the government was working to counter FOM’s claims.
“From day one of my appointment, I have been trying to address cancellations,” he said. The UK and Germany issued travel advisories following the February 7 unrest, but revoked them in early March.