Malé City Council urges local hotel owners to beware of bikinis

Malé City Council has urged hoteliers and guest house owners in the capital to inform tourists of the importance of dressing modestly in the country’s inhabited islands.

Responding to a letter of complaint from the Islamic Ministry, city Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik has made a public announcement calling upon patrons to be more aware of the issue.

“Please look carefully at these kind of things that happen in Malé’s streets, and Hulhumalé’s streets,” said Manik.

“People have to be careful on this, because this is an islamic country. In inhabited islands, people should not walk in bikinis.”

“The ministry has to take that kind of action. If it prolongs it may be something beyond control.”

When asked about the letter today, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Ali denied any such message had been sent.

While the resorts islands have thrived on so-called ‘bikini and booze’ tourism for decades, Islamic Shariah is practiced among the local populace of the 100 percent Sunni Islamic country.

Despite the country’s billion dollar tourism industry being founded on high-end luxury resorts – located on individual ‘uninhabited’ islands – mid-market tourism has risen rapidly over the past five years.

The number of guest houses has grown rapidly after the rise to power of the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2008, tripling in number in the past five years – although the most recent government figures show guest houses to comprise just over 4 percent of the industry’s registered bed capacity.

While promoted as by the MDP as a way for communities and smaller businesses to tap into the country’s largest source of income, the rise in tourists staying on inhabited islands has caused concern amongst some Islamic groups who suggest tourists and locals ought to be kept apart.

“If the hippy-type of travellers come, along will come drugs and narcotics which even now our society is suffering from. Things like nudity are not acceptable in a place where people are living. The people complain that they are praying in the mosque and just outside there are tourists in bikinis,” Vice President Mauroof Hussain of the Adhaalath Party recently told the AFP.

One Malé guesthouse owner –  who wished to remain anonymous – stated that moderation should be shown by tourists when walking the streets of the capital.

“Bikinis in public I think it’s unethical considering our traditions and culture.”

The owner,went on to say that he did not feel the issue to be a serious one, however, noting that most tourists were “very disciplined”.

Mayor Manik also expressed his belief that this was not a growing problem, saying that he had received no complaints from members of the public.

The current government – having been elected on a protection of Islam platform – is planning to experiment with ‘guest islands’, which aim to utilise uninhabited islands while still giving smaller entrepreneurs the opportunity to enter into the industry.

Speaking with Minivan News last month, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said that while the current government was not against the guest house concept, he felt that publicising this small area of the industry could hurt the brand’s overall image.

“The thing is, from a marketing perspective, we have positioned the Maldives as a high-end destination. A-category guests will continue coming for as long as we market the country as an A-category destination,” he said.

Adeeb also noted that local concerns played a role in his reluctance to promote the guest house sector.

“Even locally, culturally, people get disheartened when we talk about guesthouses. So although I don’t much talk about it, guesthouse owners are aware that they have my full cooperation.”


Male’ City Council to appeal following court order to hand MDP protest site to government

Male’ City Council (MCC) has appealed to the High Court asking for it suspend a Civil Court ruling to hand over the Usfasgandu area to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been using the area as a protest camp after it was allocated the land by MCC. According to a Civil Court order, the MCC violated the government’s land use plan because it lacks the authority to hand over the land to other parties.

MCC Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik told Minivan News that the city council allocated the Usfasgandu area to the MDP in order to keep them from protesting on the streets around Male’, and that a letter had been sent to High Court today (January 21) asking it to suspend the Civil Court’s ruling.

“Usfasgandu is not only for the MDP but for the whole of Male’. Without it (the MDP) would be on the streets. To prevent this we gave them the area.

“The government want the MDP to go onto the streets, that way they can say there is no stability in the county and prevent early elections from being held,” Manik alleged.

Asked if the MDP would be allocated another area should they be removed from Usfasgandu, Manik answered “If they request for it, we will reply”.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The area has been used for protests by the MDP since their former site near the tsunami monument was forcibly dismantled by police and military on March 19, 2012.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the threat of eviction is not an issue for the party who, if removed, “will simply have to find a new space”.

“Occasionally there are efforts made by the government to go to great lengths in order to restrict freedom of expression and assembly and this is one of them. This should not impact the MDP, we have grown in the past without space,” Ghafoor added.

“MDP are thinking in a nutshell”

Responding to allegations that the government is attempting to limit freedom assembly, President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad told Minivan News that “if anything [the Usfasgandu handover] is facilitating freedom of assembly for everyone else”.

“By constantly being at Ufasgandu, are the MDP not limiting other people’s freedom of assembly and expression? If the Home Ministry is to take the site accessible for other parties to use the space as well as the MDP, it is not a restriction of assembly.

“They could make it like the artificial beach area so it can be used by all parties based on request, I am sure the MDP will be given the chance to use it,” Imad said.

Regarding Mayor Manik’s comments, Masood claimed the mayor needs to be more “Male’ mayor” than “MDP mayor”.

“Who is to say the MDP will start protesting on the streets if Usfasgandu is handed over? Why do some people think the [MDP] always protest?

“Contrary to what Mayor Manik thinks, I don’t think they go around making protests, I think the MDP are good guys,” Imad said.

Should MCC’s appeal to High Court fail to suspend the Civil Court’s order, MDP Spokesman Ghafoor stated it would be up to the National Executive Committee or the National Council to take the matter further.

“The reason for this would be because the MDP is being denied a constitutional right and cornerstone of the human rights based democracy we achieved through peaceful assembly,” he added.

The civil court’s ruling, which orders the area to be handed over within the next seven days, states that MMC’s current use of the area is in contradiction to the agreement made between the council, Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, and Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

According to the agreement, the land “shall be kept empty for public use and that the land shall be developed in manner accessible to the public all times.”

Ghafoor further claimed the government has become “very adamant” in taking back control of land from local councils, alleging that the ultimate aim is to prevent freedom assembly.

Condoms and black magic: Previous Usfasgandu raid

In May 2012, Maldives’ cabinet announced its decision to hand over the Usfasgandu area to the Ministry of Housing and Environment.

Following the “non-compliance” of MCC in handing over the area, police were asked to intervene and “take over”.

Police raided the MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu on the morning of May 29, 2012, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.

Reasons for the search as stated on the warrant included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.

Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25 “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”