Sale of Holiday Inn to be completed in November

The sale of the Holiday Inn business in Male’ to the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La group is to be completed by the end of November.

The current management were “working closely” with the new owners to “ensure a smooth transition”, said the hotel’s General Manager Michael Melzer.

Holiday Inn’s resort at Kandooma would be unaffected, he said.

The hotel will meanwhile be rebranded from the InterContinental Hotels Group’s mid-scale Holiday Inn brand once the hotel is handed to Shangri-La, presumably to the group’s business hotel brand Traders.

The landmark hotel was opened in September last year, the first international hotel chain to open in Male’.

Staff were informed in October of the decision by the owners, Male Hotel Associates, to sell the business to an international group. The Dhivehi Observer reported that the sum paid was US$42 million for the assets and business of the remainder of the building’s 27 year lease.

Despite opening to great fanfare the flagship Male’ hotel was quickly demonised through a series of cultural blunders, including advertising a BBQ and DJ during Friday prayers on the day of the lunar eclipse in January, but most notably its efforts to acquire a liquor license.

Liquor license denied

In November 2009 the Economic Development Ministry announced new regulations whereby individual liquor licences would be scrapped and instead issued to hotels on inhabited islands with more than 100 beds.

Adhil Saleem, state minister for economic development, confirmed in November that Holiday Inn had applied for a liquor licence, and the hotel quickly became a symbol for an anti-alcohol push by the Islamic Ministry and the government’s coalition partner, the Adhaalath Party, which appealed for no alcohol to be sold on inhabited islands.

Confusing matters, in December parliament voted 28-23 against a bill that would have outlawed the sale of alcohol on inhabited islands. Oddly, a number of MPs who argued vehemently for the bill then voted against it.

Among the MPs who opposed the legislation were Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Villigili MP Mohamed Ramiz, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP and Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abukaburu and Isdhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim from the People’s Alliance.

The Economic Development Ministry meanwhile argued that lax monitoring of the liquor permits had resulted in a black market for alcohol in the capital Male’.

But, the Ministry’s revised regulations were withdrawn following public pressure before it could be enforced and were sent to a parliamentary committee for consultation.

Under the regulations, tourist hotels in inhabited islands with more than 100 beds would have been authorised to sell alcohol to foreigners, but the hotel bar was to not be visible from outside or to employ Maldivians.

In February, the matter came to a head with a series of protests against the legislation, and as the primary symbol of the new regulations, the Holiday Inn reportedly received a number of bomb threats.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs and Adhaalath party spokesman Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, one of the leaders of the protest, threatened to resign his post in the ministry along with other senior people if the government approved the regulation.

Sheikh Ilyas Hussain also spoke to the protesters, warning that the former government had been changed because it had “walked in the wrong path”.

If the new government also chose the wrong path, he warned, “we might have to work to change the government.”

Gauging public sentiment, the government withdrew the controversial regulations following a meeting attended by the Maldives Police Service, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the Home Affairs Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and several religious scholars.

At the same time the government did not reinstate the old liquor licensing system, resulting in burgeoning black market prices for the commodity – the street price for a bottle of blackmarket vodka wholesaled outside the country for US$6 rose from Rf 700 (US$54) to Rf 2000 (US$160) with the demise of the licensing system.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said at the time that while there was scope for alcohol to be sold to non-Muslims in an Islamic state, alcohol was readily available to non-Muslims at resorts and the Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH) on the airport island.

“The tourism industry has sold alcohol [to non-Muslims] for a long time,” he explained. “But it is a concern to open bars in [wider Maldivian] society. Maldivians do not want to have bars near schools and mosques.”

Financial impact

The loss of potential liquor revenues drew speculation that the Holiday Inn would suffer financially.

Melzer said today that in his experience of managing the hotel for five months, “it has not affected us. We have very imaginative beverage menus that have been very successful, and there has not been a negative impact.”

The hotel was not in direct competition with the bar-equipped Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH), he said: “The main target of the hotel is corporate business and government travellers, and to a lesser extent the international wholesale market – particularly South Korea and Japan.”

The base business of the hotel was showing “very good progress” he said, with the main attraction “the high quality interior design, which is very luxurious and well received by international travellers from SE Asia and the Middle East. Another attraction is definitely the rooftop restaurant with its magnificent views and innovative dining concept.”

He acknowledged that one of the hotel’s key challenges “was attracting and retaining the right talent.”

“One of my areas of emphasis has been to localise positions,” he said, “but generally in the Maldives it is hard to attract local talent.”

Shangri-La, which already runs an upmarket resort property in Addu Atoll, has yet to announce its intentions for the rebranded hotel.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Holiday Inn property was being sold together with the business. The property itself will remain with the present owner of the premises.


Vice President launches teaching aid donation programme

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed attended the pre-inaugural ceremony of the 2010 Science Exhibition at Aminiya School.

Dr Waheed launched a teaching aid donation programme at the school which has been initiated by Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Holiday Inn Malé.

Dr Waheed said he was encouraged that the private sector took initiative to support education in the Maldives and hoped the science fair would encourage students to learn more about science.

He added that teachers should encourage inquiry-based learning in all subjects.

The 2010 Science Exhibition will be held later this year in June.


Comment: I’m not wearing white

Adhaalath and their NGO minions are asking all “those who love Islam” to wear white and meet up at the Artificial Beach today. By all means, go. Women and men, Maldivian citizens – go to this gathering, but do not wear white.

Do not support the degradation of our society, the proposed harm to our economy, and the manipulation of our religion for purely political purpose. Go to the rally, but do not wear white.

The Legislation Will Work

I have now met with over 100 current and recovering addicts in Maldives, and even over the course of this last year it was clear that the costs of alcohol was going through the roof as a result of effective police sweeps. This legislation gives the police the authority and means to ensure that resorts and hotel companies are held accountable for every single drop of alcohol that is brought into this country.

Daily logs, thorough accounting, security cameras and a whole host of other measures are made mandatory by this legislation. The Economic Development Ministry has found an ingenious compromise between progressive development – which will benefit our entire nation – and reinforcing stringent control over alcohol. The very notion that this legislation makes getting alcohol easier, just because it is now on the same island as many of us, is completely ludicrous and neglects every provision stipulated in the legislation.

Alcohol Based Economy

The Maldivian economy cannot be maintained without alcohol. This is the bottom line. Tourism is the largest sector of our economy, accounting for more than 28 per cent of our GDP. Without maintaining the strength of this industry, our nation will fail.

If we look into the industry itself, the three leading nationalities of tourists (Italians, Britons, and Germans) are all groups with traditionally high alcohol consumption rates. But if we go beyond that to look at marketing strategies, every single tour operator emphasizes the idyllic image of lying on a beach with a tropical alcoholic drink by one’s side. This is not unique to the Maldives, but inherent to every single tropical island paradise.

There is no difference between an island resort and a city hotel. The average resort will have around 150 staff members at any given time. 150 people are enough to call an island inhabited, and therefore if alcohol is banned because of Maldivians’ reside on the island, then they should be banned in resorts as well. But while we run around calling for bans on alcohol, we are simultaneously calling for more Maldivians to be employed by the tourism industry – instead of Bangladeshis, Indians, and Nepalis. We have soaring unemployment rates, and if we were to ban Maldivians from the largest economic provider in the country, how will we progress as a nation? How will we progress as a people, while destined to be eternally impoverished?

The answer to these problems is not greater exclusion, but rather inclusion of the Maldivian people in our largest and fastest growing industry. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade is taking the first steps to ensure that all Maldivians can benefit from tourism. Imagine entire islands whose local economies are vibrant and sustained by a perpetual inflow of tourists. Imagine a nation where 40% poverty rates were a thing of the past and everyone has equal access to education and adequate healthcare. The answer is not more separatism, but rather integration.

Disunity in Government

The best way to develop is through promoting tourism and integrating it with our communities, and this piece of legislation is the first step. However, it has led to great disunity in the government. We have Adhaalath breaking away and GIP (Gaumee Itthihaad Party) being hung out to dry.

In the past few months, Mohamed Rasheed – Minister for Economic Development (and a GIP member) – has come under significant pressure to put forward this legislation. Unlike myself, the GIP general membership’s will is firmly against legalizing these restricted alcohol sales in inhabited islands. However, because GIP has an active policy of supporting the government and being a “good coalition member,” Rasheed was determined on working within the current development framework for the overall betterment of this nation.

If the President’s Office decides to do a turn around, and hang him out to dry – the Government’s most steadfast coalition supporter will be slighted. Though the party has only 4,000 people in its membership – GIP has remained unwavering in its support of the government, even while its center left policy was neglected and its Island and Atoll councilors were sacked for supporting two GIP candidates during the Majlis election. At every step GIP has defended government policy and will continue to do so till the 2013 election.

Adhaalath, on the other hand, is already maneuvering for the Presidential election in 2013. That is what this demonstration is about. It is not about religion, it is not about alcohol. It is only about political gain. While State Minister of Islamic Affairs – Shaheem has said he will not call for anyone’s resignation, Adhaalath has said explicitly that any government that allows for economic growth through alcohol on inhabited islands needs to be removed. As State Minister, Shaheem is actively organizing dissent and a fully fledged demonstration against the government he is supposed to represent.

In spite of the government reaching out to Adhaalath, giving them autonomy, allowing them to lead in all Islamic affairs, and placating conservative trends, Adhaalath is not satisfied. They are not willing to meet the government half way, and are now actively working to destabilize it and flex their political power. This gathering is about both flexing that power and measuring it. It is a traitorous action, and against the developmental framework of this government.

New Islamic Leadership

They have drawn the battle lines, taken action against their coalition partner, and now Adhaalath needs to be expelled from this government. We need new Islamic leadership in the country. One that is moderate, willing to promote dialogue and not repress anyone (yes, even the conservatives). We need to promote balanced view points.

All of our new media regulations require fair and balanced coverage. This principle needs to extend to religion as well so that it is not only the radical conservatives who gain the airwaves.

What do I mean by moderate? Well, someone like President Gayoom. Now, I believe Gayoom’s administration to be responsible for the arrest and torture of eight of my thirteen uncles (as well as countless others), but there is no denying that his version of Islam is far more moderate than the conservatives we have running around.

It is time we stop skirting around the issue of religion. Stop living in fear of speaking our minds. We need to revolutionize the Ministry for Islamic Affairs with moderate sheikhs who will promote greater religious understanding, instead of only Salafi based conservative dogmatism.

As the result of a policy of appeasement during the First and Second World Wars, action came too late for many and millions died. For us, it’s not too late. We need to protect the security and economic prosperity of our nation. We need to save its soul from losing that which makes us inherently Maldivian.

Defiance of Tyranny

It is time to expel them from this government as one would poison from fatal wound. They have shown themselves to be uncompromising, unyielding, and unwilling to work with this government. Adhaalath is using these events and Islamic preaching to try and gain momentum that will bring them a 2013 Presidential victory, or at the very least, a Parliamentary one.

As they strut today, to and fro, albino peacocks on the stage of public Islamic opinion, remember their political motive. Go witness the spectacle, and do not wear white. If you must have white in your clothing, wear another color as well. Wear blue or turquoise. Pink or magenta. Wear green for Islam (though green and white is GIP’s colors). Wear yellow for our government. Black for the death of freedom and justice. Just do not wear white alone.

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


Comment: Holiday Inn, pariah or promise?

It is amazing how fast a place can fall from grace.

Holiday Inn was opened with great fanfare in September last year. The whole city was abuzz with excitement at the opening of the first international hotel in Male.

Government officials made noises about what a positive impact the hotel would have, while businesses said they would finally have a good hotel in which to lodge their clients and consultants. Maldivians zoomed around in ‘Holiday Inn, I Love Male’ t-shirts, the campaign the hotel used for its launch.

The hotel lived up to the hype. Beautifully finished, it almost makes you forget you are in Male. The views from the rooftop restaurant and upper hotel rooms are stunning, while the food is delicious and unlike any other dishes served in Male’. The wifi in the hotel works like a dream (guests from other Male’ hotels frequently complain about the poor internet facilities). Holiday Inn is like a resort located in Male’.

But alas what a difference five months have made. A series of PR blunders has alienated it from Maldivians, to the point that no one wants to identify with it, or frequent it much either. From the hope and the hype, the Holiday Inn has become toxic: the pariah of the city.

The major mistake was the hotel’s attempt to obtain a liquor license. Opening a bar in the rooftop restaurant potentially enables them to increase earnings manifold, but has nevertheless damaged their brand enormously.

This idea for a bar has found almost no support in Male’. Conservatives claim it was against religion, while expat foreigners are furious their personal liquor licenses might now get revoked (and they would end up paying quadruple the amount for a drink at the hotel as they would at home).

Meanwhile liberal-minded Maldivians couldn’t care less, except that now Maldivians would be banned from stepping foot on the amazing rooftop if the hotel were ever granted a license.

Holiday Inn’s plans for the solar eclipse watching also proved to be a disaster. How out of touch they were with the customs of the country, when they advertised that they would be holding a barbecue on a Friday from 11 to 3 – the time of Friday prayers? And this at a time when they were constantly being targeted by conservatives and was enjoying a good bit of media spotlight.

At the start Holiday Inn bragged about having qualified Maldivians among its senior management. For a while they did have a charismatic Maldivian as director of sales and marketing, who envisaged branding the hotel an integral part of modern Male’. Inexplicably, the manager left the company soon after it opened.

More surprisingly, around 70 per cent of the staff are foreigners, even though the hotel is situated in the capital where one third of Maldivians live.

Whatever happened to the ‘I love Male’’ campaign remains a mystery. Far from enjoying its relatively unique status and becoming a pillar of society, the Holiday Inn alienated itself completely. It is now normal to see police patrolling outside. Things have gotten so bad, the manager of the Singaporean Holiday Inn was reportedly flown in.

For all its early mistakes, however, the hotel has tremendous potential for improvement. It is stunning, in a brilliant location, and the food is among the best one can find in Male’. It has great conference facilities, the clientele give glowing reports of their stays, and it’s one of the few places in Male where the coffee is not burnt and staff actually smile when they are serving you.

The rooftop restaurant – the highest point in Male’ – has stunning views of the airport, nearby islands and the speedboats and dhonis whizzing up and down. The balmy wind keeps you cool and the restaurant could easily compete with any trendy capital around the world.

In a society that’s opening up after being closed for so long, Holiday Inn is well placed to repair the damage done to their image, if only they have the imagination. It could incorporate the music scene in Male, by inviting acoustic bands to play at the rooftop restaurant. It could resuscitate the idea of open air cinema evenings and from time to time let groups like Maldives Science Society, literary or poet’s societies, use their spaces.

It could become the cultural icon of Maldives, a hub for artists and intellectuals, and hold visiting art exhibitions. It could recruit more Maldivian staff and reduce prices to make it affordable for more Maldivians. In short, it could aim to be part of this city.

Of course, all this boils down to the question of whether or not to have the liquor license. No amount of good public relations will be able to undo the damage a liquor license and bar will cause, as it would mean alienating locals. The ball is in the Holiday Inn’s court: either have a liquor license or have a local friendly business and become an integral part of Male’ city.


Review: Azur

You could be forgiven for thinking you are sitting in a Parisian or Sydney-style lounge-bar restaurant when you are at the 15th floor rooftop of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Only the spectacular view of nearby islands, the airport and the dhonis bobbing up and down makes you realise you’re still in Male.

Azur combines Japanese flavours with the cooking techniques of the French and is a much-needed addition to the culinary scene in Maldives. The restaurant offers relaxed seating near the infinity pool and an inside area for those who prefer a more formal style of dining.

The staff are pleasant, and attentive; a smiling waitress hands us the menu when we take a seat near the poolside. It contains around 20 items, a rare sight in Male where menus are usually crammed to the brim with multiple cuisines.

Azur’s executive chef Eric Pout seems to have carefully designed an exclusive fusion of gastronomique excellence by using two different cuisines and making innovative use of local products.

The appetizers and main courses include interesting combinations of tofu, tuna, wasabi, duck, noodles, shitaki and pumpkin and others with complimenting textures and flavours. Main courses are priced between US$18 to US$40, and entrée’s from $15 to $25.

A strawberry and banana smoothie kick starts the night. It’s thick and delicious, with no cut corners. No watery brews at Azur.

Local delicacy, tuna, presented in a new way
Local delicacy, tuna, presented in a new way
We order appetizers, seared scallops with ginger, scallions and tobiko and Kushiyaki beef with garlic oil and pickled apples, and sesame tuna with crusted nori, grilled shitake mushrooms, shiso aioli and crispy wanton from the main course items.

It’s nine at night and a handful of people are soaking up the atmosphere, tourists and locals alike. And what an atmosphere it is: cascading water and the moon overhead gives the place a very soothing feel.

Individual portions of scallops are placed in front of us, with a slight wasabi-flavoured sauce and caviar – fish roe that looks like orange pearls.

The tiny eggs burst in the mouth, and the strong flavor is balanced well with marinated scallops.

Nevertheless the fact that it’s not seared as mentioned in the menu, leads us to inquire with the ever helpful waitress. A confused chat ensues, and there’s much laughter when we realize we had just been served a complimentary amuse bouche, which is quite unique in Male’.

Impressive, especially before the meal arrives.

Seared scallops, Kushiyaki beef and sesame tuna arrives on large white hotplates. The presentation is creative, colourful and a visual treat.

The scallops are seared with a nice crisp orangish top, caramelising the sugars. The scallion are fresh and crunchy with the just the right amount of seasoning, sprinkled with sprouts and crunchy shavings of vegetables; a delightful combination.

The large steak of sesame and nori crusted tuna, served medium rare, is very moist bursting with fresh salty flavour combined with shitaki and a generous serving of colourful julienne vegetables. The taste does justice to the beauty of the presentation.

Kushiyaki beef cooked to perfection
Kushiyaki beef cooked to perfection
A slice into the well-rested medium-rare Kushiyaki beef exposes the pink velvet colour. It is a succulent, flavoursome and juicy piece of beef, with a smooth grain. A tip of the hat goes to Sous Chef Phripat Dong for the precision cooking. The scrumptious apple pickle provides just the right contrast to the natural flavours of the beef.

Visually the kushiyaki beef dish looked a bit bare, and was not up to the level of the other two in terms of presentation.

An enjoyable meal, the gastronomic marvel created and executed by the talented kitchen brigade sets an example for local restaurateurs to follow suit.

However the absence of a dessert menu was disappointing, especially when one imagines the quality if they matched the same level of excellence as the rest of the food.

Azur is a welcome addition to the capital, and gives locals a chance to taste contemporary food without leaving on a jet plane.

Azur Restaurant
Food 9/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 8/10
Service 8/10
Total 8/10

Strawberry and Banana Smoothie US$8
Seared scallops with ginger, scallions and tobiko US$17
Kushiyaki beef with garlic oil and pickled apple US$19
Sesame tuna with crusted nori, grilled shitake mushrooms, shiso aioli and crispy wonton US$17

Azur Restaurant is located in Holiday Inn Hotel at Ameer Ahmed Magu. It is open from 9:00 am to 23:00 pm.

Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.


Maldives to receive best view of ‘ring of fire’ eclipse

The Maldives will tomorrow become the best vantage point in the world to watch the longest-lasting solar eclipse of the millenium – at least until the year 3043.

The eclipse will follow a 300-kilometre wide route across Africa, the Indian Ocean and eastern Asia, beginning at 10:45am Maldivian time and almost completely overlapping the sun at 12.27pm, creating a stunning ‘ring of fire’ effect that will be visible for almost 11 minutes.

So unique is the event that scientists and eclipse chasers from all over the world are converging on Male to watch the spectacular event.

Founding member of the Maldives Science Society, Ahid Rasheed, noted that the country is hosting the largest ever gathering of pendulum specialists in the world, drawn from the UK, Colombia, Australia and Canada, who will be studying gravitational anomolies during the solar event.

“We are very honoured to be hosting them, particularly as we are such a young organisation,” Rasheed said. “There’s also a cruise ship arriving from India especially to see to eclipse in Male, with four astronomers on board.”

News broadcaster CNN will be broadcasting live around the world from the roof of the tallest building in Male, the Holiday Inn.

The ‘annular’ eclipse means the moon will not obscure the sun completely, unlike a total eclipse, explains Rasheed, as the moon is currently further away from Earth as thus appearing smaller to those watching on the planet’s surface. This will make the moon appear framed by the sun, an effect Rasheed promises “is going to be very beautiful.”

“Ninety-one percent of the sun will be covered – it’s going to look just like the one on the TV series Heroes,” he explained.


As beautiful as the effect may be, watching it with the naked eye is very dangerous and can cause permanent eye damage just as if one was staring at the sun.

“It doesn’t matter if 100 percent or eight percent of the sun is visible, the infra-red rays will still be hitting the eyes,” Rasheed said.

“Some people say you can use the inside of floppy disks or x-ray sheets, but they won’t block all the IR rays. Sunglasses are not advisable at all, because they only protect from UV rays.

“Special eclipse-viewing glasses are made from mylar or black polymer. You can also use welding glasses, but I haven’t seen any in Male of the right standard.”

The Maldives Science Society will be holding a viewing session with 10 solar-protected telescopes starting from 9:00am until the eclipse ends at around 2:30pm, he said. with a break for Friday prayer. The society will also be providing a number of eclipse glasses, and has cleared the event with the Islamic Ministry.

“Friday is the Islamic weekend and in a 100% Muslim country, no event can happen during prayer time,” Rasheed explains.

The government recently asked the Holiday Inn to cancel an event planned during the eclipse which included music and a barbecue, after the event was criticised in an article published in newspaper Miadhu for contravening the Islamic tenet.

“The Holiday Inn [controversy] affected us. We tried to get students involved and approached a school about it, but the management were very hesitant,” Rasheed said, adding that the eclipse viewing would include a break during prayer time.

The Maldives Science Society event will be held at the back of Dharubaaruge (Usfasgandu) on Ameenee Magu in Male.

Live CNN coverage of the event will appear here.


Circus in parliament as MPs reject bill banning sale of alcohol

Parliament has narrowly rejected a bill outlawing the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, airports and other places frequented by Maldivians.

Of the 57 MPs in attendance, 28 voted against proceeding with the legislation, while 23 voted in favour and six abstained.

Several MPs from the two main parties vociferously raised points of order when independent MP Muttalib, who proposed the legislation, in his closing statement after the debate, told DRP MP Ali Azim to repent for his remarks and called on the authorities to take action against him.

Azim had argued against the legislation, claiming it was not a “sensible” or “necessary” law.

However Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim did not allow any points of order, leading to pandemonium in the chamber. The sitting was temporarily called off after almost every MP walked out in protest and quorum was lost.

Muttalib also accused MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi of opposing the bill because of her “close association” with the Holiday Inn in Male’, and accused MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa of defrauding pilgrims to “steal their money”.

After the sitting resumed at 11am, Muttalib said MPs would have to “bear responsibility” when the government authorised sale of alcohol in hotels in Male’.

A number of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance coalition (DRP-PA) MPs joined several independents and all the MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in either abstaining or voting against the bill.

Among the MPs who opposed the legislation were Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Villigili MP Mohamed Ramiz, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP and Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abukaburu and Isdhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim from the People’s Alliance.

Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim
Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim


During the debate, several MPs argued the bill was unconstitutional as it would indirectly authorise the sale of alcohol.

Article 10(b) of the constitution states no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be made or enacted in the Maldives.

Machangaoalhi North MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, chairperson of MDP, argued tourist resorts should also be considered inhabited islands.

“The constitution states all Maldivians have equal protection under the law. Therefore, if we are to give protection to people in inhabited islands, we must provide it to people in resorts,” she said, adding resort workers spend most of the year living in the resorts.

Ungoofaru MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the DRP, a religious scholar, said MPs were mistaken when they argued a law was not needed to ban a practice forbidden in Islam, as it was necessary to devise regulations to protect Maldivian society from social ills such as alcohol.

He added flaws and imperfections in the bill could be remedied at committee stage.

His DRP colleague, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim said MPs should consider whether such a law was needed and whether it would protect Islam in the country.

“My thinking on this is very different. We have to consider who we are trying to forbid alcohol to. We are trying to make it illegal for expatriates and foreigners who visit the Maldives. I don’t think this is a reason we should make it illegal,” he said.

With the economy reliant on the tourism industry, he continued, it did not make sense to outlaw the sale of alcohol only in parts of the country as this would not prevent Maldivians gaining access to it.

Azim said the bill was backed by “the Jews” as part of a long-term plan to weaken the country and introduce other religions.

Meanwhile People’s Alliance MP Abdul Azeez spoke in favour of the bill and urged MPs to send it to committee, but voted against it.


Speaking to Minivan News today, Mauroof Zakir, spokesperson for the coalition of NGOs and associations campaigning against the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, said the reasons given by MPs for rejecting the bill were “unacceptable”.

“We agree that there are problems with the bill, but throwing it out doesn’t solve anything,” he said. “While [parliament] has the power to send it to committee and cut and trim it, the things they said were intended to mislead the public.”

The coalition was considering proposing another bill, he said, and planned to stage protests and employ civil disobedience if the government enforced the revised regulations on the sale of alcohol.

Last month, the government revised the regulations on the import and use of alcohol to revoke over 800 liquor permits issued to expatriates in favour of authorising hotels to serve foreigners under strict supervision.

The Economic Development Ministry argued lax monitoring of the liquor permits had resulted in a black market for alcohol in the capital Male’.

But, the Ministry’s revised regulations were withdrawn following public pressure before it could be enforced and were sent to a parliamentary committee for consultation.

Under the regulations, tourist hotels in inhabited islands with more than 100 beds would be authorised to sell alcohol to foreigners, but the hotel bar should not be visible from outside or employ Maldivians.

Further, an inventory of the alcohol in storage and daily sales has to be maintained and made available to police on request, while the storage room has to be monitored by CCTV cameras.

Alcohol could not be kept at mini-bars in the hotel rooms and expatriate employees at the bar would be subject to police clearance.

Zakir said the coalition would begin work “immediately” on filing a case at the Supreme Court to abolish regulations made 50 years ago that gave authority to the Economic Development Ministry to allow the import and use of alcohol.

Following today’s vote, he said, the coalition expected the revised regulations to be enforced.