Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has revealed it will continue its case at the Civil Court questioning the government’s right to close resort spas, while the government yesterday lifted the nationwide ban on spas and massage parlors.
The controversial circular issued by the Tourism Ministry on 29 December 2011 ordering that spas be shut down was cancelled by a civil court injunction last night – a few hours after President Mohamed Nasheed ordered that the spas be re-opened to prevent further damage to the economy.
The government had earlier asked the Supreme Court to provide clarity on the legality of operating spas and the sale of alcohol and pork, as the constitution requires Maldives to comply with the tenets of Islam.
Speaking to Minivan News, MATI Secretary General Sim Ibrahim Mohamed pointed out that the court’s ruling was temporary, and that the spas would only remain open while cases in the Supreme and Civil courts on the matter await verdicts.
MATI claims that an agreement between the resorts and the government was violated.
“Spa facilities are approved by the Ministry of Tourism, and promoted by MMPRC (Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation). We are trying to find out if the government had the authority to close the spas in the first place,” he explained.
He insisted that the government’s decision had incurred “irrevocable damage” to the tourism industry and had become a “legal issue to which we are trying to find legal clarity.”
However, in the event that the court rules against the government’s actions, Sim was unsure if the government would be required to compensate for losses to the industry.
MATI’s lawyer and Former Attorney General Azima Shukoor observed that the resorts would be able to sue the government for damages, if the case is ruled in favor of MATI.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a statement today quoting Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, who claimed that the Government’s decision to re-open the spas operating in the country reflects the emerging national consensus that the Maldives should continue to follow the moderate and tolerant religious path it has pursued ever since Islam was introduced 800 years ago.
”Naseem expressed hope for a positive ruling from the Supreme Court on the matter,” the statement read. ”The Supreme Court ruling, once and for all, would settle the question of whether the Maldives wants to remain a modern, tolerant Muslim country founded upon democratic values and human rights, or would chose to become otherwise.”
According to the statement Naseem reassured investors with business interests in the Maldives and foreign tourists visiting the country that the government would remain steadfast in ensuring economic security and stability while upholding the fundamental values of democracy.
The Foreign Ministry added due to the judiciary’s delayed verdict, and given that public support for the moderate, tolerant Islam traditionally practiced in the Maldives had risen over the extremist rhetoric, the government had decided to remove the temporary spa ban.
”Naseem stressed that the government’s decision [to reopen spas] was backed by a clear majority of Maldivians who wished to continue to follow the path of moderation,” the Foreign Ministry stated.
As the government and public awaits a ruling from the top court, President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday that the ultimatum on spa operations “woke the nation from its slumber and sparked a healthy debate about the future direction of the country”.