Maafushi guest house feud caught on camera

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

Staff members from Maafushi’s Summer Villa guest house were caught on camera yesterday entering a rival establishment and assaulting a member of staff.

The owners of Summer Villa guest house were seen to barge into Kaani Village guest house after a disagreement regarding a picnic island to which the former establishment owns the booking rights.

Summer Villa’s Sales and Marketing Manager Mohamed Nabeeh told Minivan News that the incident caught on camera at Kaani Village followed an assault on him which was edited from the leaked footage.

Nabeeh said that he was the man who appears without a shirt in the video, explaining that it had been torn during the attack on him.

The CCTV footage shows a group of four men forcing themselves into the Kaani Village lobby and dragging out a man behind the reception.

Police have confirmed that an investigation into the matter is underway.

Attempting to explain the feud, Nabeeh said that the picnic island was fully booked but that Kaani Village threatened them saying that “they would not let us do our business” unless permission was granted.

“With in a few minutes Kaani Village management was at Summer Villa already smashing the belongings threatening and being violent and creating a commotion in front of all our guests,” alleged Nabeeh.

An anonymous source was quoted in local news outlet CNM as saying that Kaani Village was given the permission to take their guests to the island before later being revoked by Summer Villa, sparking the disagreement.

Minivan News was unable to obtain a response from numbers publicly listed for Kaani Village.

Nabeeh also stated that despite the commotion, he went to Kaani Village on their staff’s request to resolve the issue at which point he was assaulted and “badly injured”.

While expressing disappointment over the fact that Summer Villa does not have video evidence to show Kaani Village management attacking the guest house, Nabeeh stated “we couldn’t control from our side, because they got me injured badly for no reason first”.

Nabeeh provided Minivan News with photos that allegedly show the harm and damage caused by the Kaani Village management to their staff and property.

Maafushi, in Kaafu Atoll, has become synonymous with the country’s burgeoning guest house tourism industry, with the island hosting the highest number of guest houses outside of Malé City.

Related to this story

Guest House Association established by Maafushi businessmen


Demands for release of Maafushi prisoners reportedly behind Flyme bomb threat

Demands for the release of unnamed Maafushi prisoners is reported to have been behind the Flyme passenger flight bomb threat last night.

A Flyme official speaking to Haveeru said that the bomb threat came via a note placed on a seat which was then handed to the pilot by one of the crew members on the flight.

The official also stated that the note threatened to blow up the flight and demanded the release of unspecified inmates from Maafushi jail.

On receiving the threat, the pilot immediately turned around and headed back to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. All arrivals to Malé were diverted and departures, including a Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines flight, were delayed.

The airport runway was opened after a two and a half hour closure while the flight was emptied under the supervision of Maldives National Defense Force who searched for explosive devices.

A press statement from Flyme today stated that there were ten foreigners and one Maldivian on the flight in addition to three crew members.

However, a Flyme media official speaking to Minivan News refused to comment on the details of the threat.

Exactly one year ago, on November 23 2013, a Flyme flight departing to Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Kaadehdhoo was delayed after a group threatened to hijack the plane.

Flyme is operated by Villa Air, a subsidiary of Villa Group. Tourism tycoon, Jumhooree Party Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim is the owner of Villa Group.

Last week a Flyme flight was forced to return to Malé en route to Kadadehdhoo after a 59-year-old woman died during shortly after takeoff.

Related to this story

Flyme flight makes emergency landing after bomb threat


Police urge public vigilance as hunt for “dangerous” convicts continues

Police have called upon the public to be vigilant as the search for two escaped convicts continues.

“The Maldives Police Services appeal to the beloved public to be aware of two dangerous criminals who were escaped from Maafushi Jail where they were serving life sentences,” read a police statement today.

Authorities have today reported no progress in the search for two convicts who escaped on Friday (October 17).

Ibrahim Shahum Adam – aged 23, and Fariyash Ahmed – aged 26 – were both serving life sentences for separate murder cases.

Police have pledged to take action against any persons withholding information regarding the whereabouts of Shahum and Fariyash, calling on the public to pass any information they may have to the following numbers: 332 2111 or 9911099.

Correctional services working alongside the Maldives National Defence Force have conducted searches of the area surrounding Maafushi, but told Haveeru today that there had been no developments in the search.

Authorities have searched the island, 17 miles from the capital Malé – also home to the highest number of guest houses in the country – and has notified nearby resorts.

Haveeru has reported that the pair escaped by sawing through an air vent after having identified a blind spot in the perimeter security. Home Minister Umar Naseer has described the escape as a good opportunity to learn about loop holes in security.

In August 2010 police arrested Shahum in connection with the murder of 17-year-old Mohamed Hussein. After extending his detention for six months, the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed released him citing a lack of cooperation from the then Nasheed government.

Shahum went on to stab 21 year-old Ahusan Basheer after being released. He was later taken into custody from an uninhabited island and charged with terrorism in relation to Hussein’s murder.

Fariyash was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Mohamed Shihab, from Kaduolhi in Gaaf Alif Villigili, on the island of Maamendhoo in 2006.


Guest House Association established by Maafushi businessmen

Thirty-two managers of guest houses in the island of Maafushi have established the Guest House Association of Maldives with the objective of developing and promoting the sector.

Association member and Manager of Maafushi Inn Hussain Raznee interprets the government’s current guest house island policy as an attempt to inhibit the current guest house business model.

“The establishment of guest house islands will not have any benefits at all for those of us living in the islands,” said Raznee, saying that the current model provide local youth and businesses with an decent income.

“Guest house owners assist in all community activities, donating funds to schools, school events, island community events, and even to efforts to keep the whole island clean. This is all made possible because of guest houses,” he added.

After previously expressing a reluctance to promote the guest house tourism model for fear of damaging the country’s luxury resort brand, the new guest house policy is designed to make the traditional one island/one resort model accessible to small and medium enterprises – with the government’s PR wing, the MMPRC, taking a lead role.

Raznee called on the government to further facilitate the running of guest houses in all islands, suggesting that it could handle promotional activities as long as permits for the businesses were approved.

The group will work to protect the rights of guest house owners and employees from all over the Maldives and to promote local tourism in international markets, he continued.

Raznee noted that, although members of the association are currently all from Maafushi, they are now in the process of contacting and inviting guest house owners from across the country to join the association.

Guest House Islands

The recently launched guest house island project will begin begin with the development of the uninhabited ‘Thumburi’ island in Laamu atoll into a 2000 bed resort.

According to promotional material, the guest house island concept – endorsed by industry groups – aims to “responsibly” diversify the tourism industry without encroaching on inhabited islands.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has previously explained the benefits of the policy – part of the Progressive Party of Maldives presidential election manifesto.

“It is a huge infrastructure investment to build a tourist resort. It becomes an expensive place to go to when they invest in water set-ups, sewerage systems – and all before building rooms,” Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb explained to Minivan News during an interview in January.

Adeeb stated then that the Malé Water and Sewerage Company will set up water and sewerage, and electricity systems in guest house islands, after which plots of land from the island will be given to different individual businessmen.

“The thing is, we just don’t talk about guesthouses so much. From a marketing perspective, we have positioned the Maldives as a high-end destination. A-category guests will continue coming for a long as we market the country as an A-category destination. Guests for B,C,D and E categories are something we automatically get,” said Adeeb.

He added, however, that the government supports the running of guest houses even though it will not promote them in international markets.

Some leaders in the industry have also expressed similar concerns regarding the destination’s brand, while the sector’s capacity has tripled in the past six years.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile criticised the government’s launching of guest house islands, with former President Mohamed Nasheed last week suggesting that guest house islands would not benefit locals, describing them as a threat to the success of guest houses in inhabited islands.

In April, the MDP-dominated Addu City Council passed a resolution to create an ‘Addu Guest House Venture’ which will develop and expand the guest house tourism industry within the city under the guidance of a designated promotion board.


Health awareness and consultation programme held in Maafuashi

Yesterday, a health awareness and consultation programme organised by the Holiday Inn Kandooma Maldives was held in Maafushi, in Kaafu Atoll.

The programme was held in collaboration with ADK Hospital, Maafushi Council, and the Maldives Medical Association.

”In the camp, apart from consultations screening was done for hypertension and diabetes mellitus. A public lecture also was delivered on common health issues to the general public by Dr Mohamwd Wisham and Dr Hamza Solih, and Mr. Mohamed Mustofa,” a statement about the awareness programme stated.

The health camp was conducted by Dr Hamza Solih (ADK Hospital) Dr Mohamed Wisham (ADK Hospital), Executive Committee Member (Maldives Medical Association) Dr Tata Rao (ADK hospital), and Mr Mohamed Mustofa (Phycotherapist) (Maldives institute for psychological services, training and reserach) the statement said.


Comment: Guest house business – my journey

This article first appeared on the Maldives Economist blog. Republished with permission.

Back in 2009, I started a new venture, along with a very close friend, Mohamed Shihan. Back then, it was something very new, something that nobody has started yet. We called this venture ‘White Shell’ as we rented a small house right on the beach of Maafushi. As the government opened up to allow guest houses in local inhabited islands, we were the first to submit our registration. As a result, White Shell Beach Inn, is the first guest house to be registered on a local island. So we became the pioneers in it.

Initially, we invested about MVR300,000 so that we could have 4 rooms fully furnished with AC, and very basic facilities. A small restaurant and a kitchen, and 4 employees. I was working full time in the public sector, as an economist in MMA, during my weekends – I was busy with setting up of the business, and marketing it. As I did not have enough funds for a professional webpage development, I had to learn on developing websites, and tried my luck with it. I developed our first website, uploaded it, and started the online marketing of it. Initial months of losses were borne by the monthly salary that I earned, and loans from my partner in business. We made sure the staff were paid on time, and utility bills paid every month. Some of my friends, and people from the tourism sector advised me that it would be a failure, as it is tourism without alcohol, pork, and bikinis.

Six months in business, with the various online marketing efforts, we were able to get guests from Russia, Poland, Germany, France, and the UK. With my efforts, I was able to put ‘Maafushi’ as a separate destination on various online booking sites, and travel sites. Before completion of the first year, I was able to rent the adjoining house, and later the house next to it, so that before the end of the second year, we were selling 10 rooms, and were running a successful beach restaurant. For the first one and half years in business, we were able to prove to everybody (especially those in Maafushi), that local island tourism can be successfully run for mid-market tourists, and it can be done without having alcohol, pork and bikinis.

During those months that we were the only guest house in the island, guests enjoyed their time on the beach, and Maafushi, without bikini (in covered clothes, of course), and there were no complaints from the locals. This was because, before the guests booked their holiday with us, they were given the information that it is a local island and that government regulation does not allow swimming in a bikini, just like they are aware that alcohol is not available. Hence, guests were fully informed and aware, and there was no room for complaints or dissatisfaction. Moreover, we got additional revenue because of this regulation – as guests preferred to spend their day in picnic islands, snorkeling, of fishing, and other activities, and that’s additional revenue for us.

We have altogether 20 guest houses in Maafushi now, and 144 rooms. Which means even if we didn’t consider the family rooms, that’d be 288 beds, and with 65% occupancy, that’s 68,328 bed nights per year. Assuming average duration of stay is 4 days, that’s 17,000 guests per year. With conservative estimates and past revenue records, it is estimated that about $9.7 million will enter the local Maafushi economy, and the guest houses will be paying the state – as bed tax and GST – a total of US$1.3 million (equivalent to MVR20 million).

The income per head from guest houses alone is $4,425 per head in Maafushi. The total income per head of Maafushi after adding incomes from other sectors will probably be the highest in the country. It is a perfect example of making economic growth more inclusive, and a case study for inclusive development. In fact, I presented a paper last year in Islamabad, during a South Asia Economic Summit.

With the 20 guest houses, more than 100 locals are being employed in various jobs – ranging from speedboat crew, receptionists, waiters, room boys, accountants, and guest relations officers. The majority of youth are actively engaged in economic activities, without having to spend their times in coffee shops or elsewhere, as they did before. Women with children are able to earn at least MVR10,000 a month doing laundry services. Last month we spent from our hotel MVR17,000 for laundry, which is done by a local family.

We – the White Shell – have played a key role in the expansion, and the success of Maafushi as a tourism destination through leading by example, and also assisting others in the setups. And thanks to MATATO, as we have recently been awarded the Maldives Travel Awards as the Leading Guest House, from the category introduced this year.

There is no doubt that this newly developed industry provides huge economic benefits to the local community and the government in the form of taxes. It also provides other positive outcomes like the guest houses taking charge of cleaning the beach area and streets, and taking care of waste disposal. The MWSC (water company), and STELCO are making huge profits from Maafushi, as the per unit rates are relatively higher in Maafushi compared to Malé. With more that 144 air condition units recently installed, Maafushi is spending heavily on electricity (there’s still more to be done in terms of using efficient energy sources).

There are many challenges as well, of course. With starting of many new guest houses, many have come to believe that the bikini is not a problem, and guests are being told so as well. Less seem to complain, however, as almost everybody benefits from the industry. We are yet to find an amicable solution to the issue, with serious discussions between the island council, tourism ministry, and the guest house owners. Other social issues/problems can also be addresses in a similar manner. Which means there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to make the business sustainable, environment friendly, and in order to make the this model a success in other islands. Wish you all a very happy new year.

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]


Police seize mobile phones and drugs in Maafushi prison

The Maldives Police Services have seized illegal narcotics and mobile phones in Maafushi Prison on Sunday.

A Police and Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) joint operation uncovered 50 rubber packers, one bullet size packet, one can and 22 cellophane packets containing illegal drugs. Five additional packets with traces of illegal drugs were also found.

Police discovered 15 mobile phones, 17 mobile phone batteries, 26 SIM cards, three mobile phone chargers, one SD memory card and one knife during the raid.

In a statement on Sunday, the police said that the operation was conducted after police received reports that inmates in Maafushi prison had been calling various people, asking them to recharge their phones with large amounts of cash.

Police said that inmates have also phoned people outside jail and told them that they will conduct useful projects in the Maldives and beneficial work and asked for money in return.

Inmates had also called shops pretending to be fishermen calling from a fishing boat or staff working on a safari boat, and have asked the shops to put credit in their mobile phones promising to pay the shop back at a later date, the police said.

The police advised people not to participate in money transactions proposed by strangers and not to recharge mobile phone accounts of unknown individuals.

Police said they clarified these reports first through police intelligence department before raiding the cells.

When asked how inmates were able to smuggle illegal substances into prison, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim said he had not yet received details on the operation.

The police said they have previously issued statements to increase awareness among the public regarding such crimes, and said it was regrettable that not enough cooperation is being received from the people to stop these types of crimes.

In March 2010, the then-State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil said that jail officers were being investigated on suspicion of helping inmates bring mobile phones and drugs into cells in Male’ prison.

In May 2011, the then-Head of Department and Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) Mohamed Rasheed  confirmed that a police officer was being questioned for allegedly attempting to smuggle charged phone batteries to inmates at Maafushi prison.


Police arrest man who swam to Maafushi prison with mobile phones

Police have said last Friday (1 October) they have arrested a man who attempted to smuggle 23 mobile phones into Maafushi prison after swimming to the island.

According to police, the man is 28 years old and has previous records of assault, theft, obstruction of police duty and drug related offenses.

Police said the man was first captured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service prison officers and was later handed over to police.

When his body was searched police found 23 mobile phones, five charges and one headset, the police said.

Maafushi Police Station is now investigating the case.


Maafushi Council chair arrested in connection with missing half-million rufiya

Police have arrested the chair of Maafushi island council in connection with the alleged theft of MVR 520,000 (US$33,722) from the council’s budget, which was found missing from a safe in the island council secretariat.

Local newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported a local councillor as claiming that Abdulla Mufeed of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had been taken into custody.

Police revealed that the case had been reported on 26 August before the council chair was arrested on Thursday night (August 29), while he was in Male’.

Police said the investigation team had obtained documents related to the case as well as questioned people to clarify related information.

The island council obtained the money by renting a house in an auction, and the money was paid by the buyer according to an agreement between the two parties, said police.

Police also said the buyer had paid the monthly payment of MVR35,000 (US$2,269) in advance, a total of MVR 420,000 (US$27,237) in advance for the year, as well as paying MVR 100,000 (US$6,485) for the council to spend on social activities.

The fraud and financial crime department is investigating the case.

The councilor also told alleged to the paper Mufeed had stolen MVR 51,000 (US$3300) given to the council by the Youth Ministry.