MCSA calls off strike, to submit a petition instead

Maldives Civil Servants’ Association (MCSA) has called off the nationwide civil servants’ strike planned for April 20, deciding instead to submit a petition with its concerns, Vnews has reported today.

Quoting MCSA President, the report said the decision was made to prevent any difficulties it may cause to the public after consulting with senior members of the association and relevant government offices.

The petition which is being signed through social media website Facebook, is reported to have already received the signatures of fifty percent government employees.

It is expected to be submitted to the relevant offices on April 20 – the date previously set for the strike.


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.”


Guesthouse potential thrusts Maldives mid-market tourism into political fray

This story was originally published on travel review site,

Since the inception of Maldives tourism over 40 years ago, the country has seen the development of more than 100 islands into exclusive resorts which – by focusing on secluded luxury – are almost entirely cut off from local laws and politics.

The potential for expanding mid-market tourism in the Maldives through the “niche” guesthouse segment may emerge as an early election issue after senior opposition and government figures clashed over how best the country’s inhabited islands can profit from visitors.

While the present government has boasted of nearly doubling the number guesthouse business since coming to power in February last year, the country’s opposition unveiled plans to address what it called a “total disconnect” between the lucrative island resort model and local people.

‘Real Maldives’

Beyond the political rhetoric, a growing number of specialist operators have emerged trying to cater to the mid-market demand from tourists looking to experience the ‘real Maldives’ –  a side of the country often unseen due to the prevalence of the lucrative ‘one island, one resort model’.

One such group is Secret Paradise, which this year began offering tourists special packages in North Male’ Atoll and South Male’ Atoll aiming to combine the traditional tourist staples of sunbathing, water sports and diving with authentic Maldives experiences like cooking and eating with local families, or assisting at island schools.

Ruth Franklin, a senior UK business figure who helped develop Secret Paradise with a local partner, said that aside from providing a more authentic travel experience, a key selling point for the business was to provide more affordable holidays for tourists concerned the Maldives was out of their price range.

Franklin added that trying to realise the full potential for mid-market tourism was not without challenges, especially in terms of a tourist’s perception of budget.

“To many travellers, ‘budget’ means a room for US$20 or less a night in many Asian destinations. In the Maldives, budget should be interpreted in relation to the cost of a night on a resort for bed and breakfast. Guesthouses on average start at US$50 verses the cheapest resort at US$250,” she said.

Franklin identified another hurdle in the general lack of information available to tourists about life outside the country’s resorts; from the cost of transportation and the availability of local ferries – which are further limited on Fridays and public holidays – to adhering with local laws and culture on ‘inhabited’ islands. On these islands, drinking alcohol and wearing bikinis are not permitted.

“Our packages are designed to take this into account so that travellers have the option of day visits to resorts, sandbanks and picnic islands where the restrictions do not apply,” Franklin added.

Franklin said that compared to the country’s resort and even safari boat industries, the niche status of guesthouse tourism did grant the segment a unique appeal in the region.

“Independent travel will never be in my opinion as it is in Thailand for example and quite frankly I wouldn’t want it to be. My belief is that local islands should have a set number of tourist beds available that is governed by the Tourism Ministry,” she said.

“Whilst I think it is right to open up the island to tourists to allow travellers to experience local customs and traditions and to help support local economy I would not want to see islands inundated with travellers to the point that the best of the Maldives customs and traditions disappear.”

Franklin suggested that wider success for the guesthouse industry could eventually lead to growing pressure to amend laws relating to alcohol and allowing women to wear bikinis on local beaches as part of a potential trade off for greater economic viability of mid-market tourism.

“Whilst my belief is that alcohol will not and should not be available on local islands there is definitely already a keen interest by guesthouse owners to provide private beach areas for tourists,” she added. “I am not in support of this as I think those guests who stay on a local island should do so to also experience culture and tradition and as ‘guests’ should respect a country’s law and regulations.”

Compromise calls

In December last year, the author of the latest Lonely Planet travel book to focus on the Maldives told Dhonisaurus that compromise would be needed by authorities should they wish to ensure independent travel was viable for a wider number of businesses going forward.

Lonely Planet author Tom Masters said he ultimately believed that local islands could still provide independent travellers with “sufficient attractions”, even within the strictly conservative laws practices outside of the country’s resort islands.

“However, I think only a tiny proportion of potential visitors would be happy to accept such a number of restrictions on their annual holiday, and so if some degree of compromise could be reached on issues such as alcohol or sunbathing, then the number of travellers opting for island tourism over that in an expensive resort would rise enormously,” he said at the time.

“A weakling in need of love and nurturing”

Adrian Neville, a veteran of travel writing in the Maldives previously told Dhonisaurus that beyond the recent political arguments, guest-houses had played a major role in the development of the tourism industry, dating back to their foundation in 1972. However, such properties were abruptly closed for many years as of May 1, 1984.

“This was pretty much directly at the behest of the resort owners for obvious reasons and on the spurious grounds of social problems and the wrong type of tourists,” he said. “Of course, now those wrong types are just fine – now they are not ‘hippies’ but ‘independent travellers’.”

While guest-houses had been reintroduced back in 2008, Neville contended that he was not sure whether the general attitudes of resort owners in the country would have changed much, particularly in terms of supporting the fledgling industry.

“The sector is up and running, but it is a weakling in need of love and nurturing,” he said.

Neville claimed that while there was clear interest in the further development of a guest-house sector to allow independent travellers to take in the Maldives, the country’s long-term segregation of tourists from local communities may also serve to limit the potential.

“There is sufficient interest but it won’t grow quickly until the issue of separation or, most unlikely for the foreseeable future, co-habitation with different lifestyles, is resolved,” he said.

Quality standards

Tourism authorities last year noted that guesthouse demand would likely remain “quite insignificant” when compared to demand for the country’s island resorts.

However, speaking to Minivan News in March this year, Deputy Tourism Mohamed Maleeh Jamal praised the industry as a “phenomenon” that the present administration would look to continue to support.

“The industry is doing well right now in Hulhumale’ [an island situated ten minutes from the capital by speedboat]. I understand major operators are already coming out with their own brochures,” he added.

Despite pledging government support for the industry, Maleeh claimed that it would be vital to ensure that quality standards were maintained across the industry in line with the reputation built up by the Maldives resort industry over the last forty years.

“We don’t want anything unexpected to happen,” he added. With a growing number of domestic airports anticipated to be developed across the country in the coming years, Maleeh said he expected a growing number of guesthouses would be established to meet demand .

“Where there are transports hubs, there will of course be more guesthouses appearing,” he said.

However, Maleeh stressed that the success of mid-market tourism was dependent on making sure that infrastructure was in place to welcome tourists.

“In some of these islands, the infrastructure is just not there; sewerage, drinking water, garbage disposal and 24 hour electricity supplies are needed,” he said. “My main interest is that while any Maldvian can open a guest-housem can we make sure that the customers are there?”

Ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September this year, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed has pledged to promote and support wider guesthouse development as part of efforts to try and aid wider economic growth.

“Having tourists on inhabited islands is not going to result in the community facing any additional detrimental effects that do not already exist. On the contrary, having tourists will empower the islanders to overcome whatever objectionable issues that they may face,” the former president claimed.

“Maldivians will have to open their eyes to outside cultures, and allow for the increase in opportunities for development. In addition to direct employment and income generated by guesthouses, it will also boost other existing island businesses.”

Despite guesthouses seemingly being in vogue as a topic for electioneering, Raki Bench, founder of the guest-houses in Maldives website last year said he was  critical of the role played by the present and former government to develop the industry.

Bench added in recent years, despite previous government commitments to provide more mid-market accommodation for visitors wanting to explore the country’s inhabited islands, further support had been lacking.

“The government has not really been helping guest-houses at all. It is a small sector, but it is showing growth within the wider tourism industry. I don’t see any promotion from authorities,” added Bench.

“I do understand why this is the case. After all what is the point in promoting an industry with a value of US$50 a night when you compare that to what resorts can make.”


Independent MP Ali Mohamed joins MDP

Independent MP for Noonu Velidhoo Ali ‘Alibe’ Mohamed joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Thursday, the former ruling party’s Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih has confirmed.

Solih told newspaper Haveeru that MP Ali Mohamed’s membership form would be sent to the Elections Commission (EC) by the end of the day.

MP Ali Mohamed’s signing has given new strength to the party, Solih added, and expressed confidence that the MDP would get a majority of votes from the new MP’s constituency.

MDP won four out of five island council seats in Velidhoo in February 2011. At a recent rally on the island, a large number of youth signed for the MDP during a visit by former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Solih told Haveeru that the party was confident of winning a majority in Holhudhoo as well, the other island island in MP Ali Mohamed’s constituency.

Ali Mohamed – who is among senior MPs who chairs parliamentary sittings in the absence of both the speaker and deputy speaker – was elected to parliament on a DRP ticket.

He resigned from the party in mid-2011 and began working as an independent MP. Ali Mohamed voted with the MDP to pass the previous administration’s tax bills.

He however voted against the MDP to appoint Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate and MP Gasim Ibrahim to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Solih meanwhile suggested that several politicians were closely observing the changing political landscape, predicting that more MPs would join the MDP in the near future.

Ali Mohamed’s signing to MDP comes shortly after Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid also made the switch from the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Addressing MDP supporters at his first rally, Shahid said he joined the opposition to “prevent the window to democracy from being closed”.

“As our hearts yearned to stay in these gardens for good, an attempt was made to try and close this window. An attempt was made to extinguish that glow of hope in people’s hearts. It was the courageous members of MDP who obstructed the powerful forces that tried to close this window to democracy.” Shahid said during the rally held by MDP to announce his arrival.

“Today, I am here with all of you brave, steadfast warriors to prevent that window from being closed,” he added.

Earlier this month, local media speculated that a number of MPs were on their way to join the opposition, including MPs Alhan Fahmy (Independent), Abdulla Abdul Raheem (JP), Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed (DRP), Ali Azim (DRP) and Hassan Adil (JP).

Minivan News was unable to confirm the reports at time of press as none of the MPs were responding to calls.

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor previously speaking to Minivan News claimed that “a re-alignment in favour of the opposition was definitely happening”.

“I can confirm for you as I am a parliamentarian myself that several parliamentary groupings who previously stood behind the old dictatorship are slowly dismantling now. They have now started to realise that backing an old dictatorship is wrong,” said Ghafoor at the time. “I can guarantee you that a re-alignment is definitely happening and dismantling of the old dictatorship is imminent.”

Ghafoor however declined to reveal any names.

Following the signing of MP Ali Mohamed and Speaker Shahid, the number of MPs representing the opposition MDP now stands at 31, eight short of a simple majority in the 77-member house.

Parliament breakdown by party (prior to rumoured defection of five DRP MPs):

MDP 31

PPM 19

DRP 10

JP 3

PA 1


Independent – 10


Police reject claims that assault of Raajje TV journalist was politically motivated

Police have dismissed claims that an attack last month on a senior reporter for private broadcaster Raajje TV was politically motivated.

Journalist Ibrahim Waheed (Aswad) was left requiring major surgery abroad after he was beaten unconscious with an iron bar while riding on a motorcycle near the artificial beach area of Male’ on February 23. He was reported at the time to be on his way to see two Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists who were admitted to hospital after being attacked.

National media bodies have since raised concerns about a growing number of attacks on journalists. The same bodies have also claimed that reporters and other media figures needed to be more professional in order to ensure similar incidents and attacks can be better “contained and controlled” in future.

The police’s Head of Serious and Organised Crime Department Mohamed Daud declared at a press conference today that Aswad’s assault should not be viewed as a politically motivated attack, or an attempt to silence national media.

The claims were made as police announced that two suspects – an 18 year-old and 21 year-old – had been arrested in connection to what was believed to be a “planned” attack on Aswad.

Daud told local media that both suspects had criminal records and were believed to belong to “groups” based in the capital, though no further details were provided as police continue their investigations.

Speaking following the press conference, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today told Minivan News that with investigations continuing into Aswad’s attack, no motive had so far been established.

Following the arrest yesterday (March 12) of a second suspect in connection to the attack, Haneef added that the police investigation had so far found no evidence to imply a political motivation or that Aswad had been assaulted due to his role as a senior reporter for Raajje TV.

Targeted attack

Addressing Daud’s claims today, Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said he would not speak contrary to the police view on the case. However, he maintained that Aswad had been specifically targeted by his attackers.

“We cannot investigate the matter ourselves, so I cannot go against what the police have said. However, what I know is that Aswad is a journalist and he was attacked whilst out on a motorbike,” he said. “It was a targeted attack.”

The attack on Aswad was the most serious incident of violence against a journalist in the Maldives since July 2012, when a group of alleged Islamic radicals slashed the throat of blogger Hilath Rasheed. Rasheed, who had been campaigning for religious tolerance, narrowly survived and has since fled the country.

Aside from the attack on Aswad, Hiriga continued to express concern at what he believed were a growing number of attacks on journalists of late, notably following recent anti-government demonstrations in the capital.

Just last week, a journalist for private media group Sun and a cameraman from broadcaster Villa Television (VTV) were attacked near to the residence of former President Mohamed Nasheed during coverage of his arrest.

Two Television Maldives (TVM) journalists were also attacked with an irritant while covering protests on Sosun Magu in Male’ on the same night Aswad was assaulted.

“Too many opinions”

Following Aswad’s attack, National media bodies including the MJA last month called on journalists to act more professionally to prevent future confrontations between themselves and the public.

Senior figures from both Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) said that journalists needed to act in a more professional manner in order to help prevent future confrontations between the public and reporters.

MBC Vice President Mohamed Shahyb told Minivan News that journalists have been targeted because “hatred has been building” towards them over a long period of time.

“Some journalists are not doing their work professionally in the Maldives.  The biggest problem is that they do not have much education or training [in journalism] and because of that they write anything,” Shahyb told Minivan News. “If the professional standard can be maintained, similar incidents can be contained and controlled.”

The MBC Vice President claimed that there are “too many opinions” leaking into news reports and that politicians need to start “pointing their fingers” at journalists who are not working in the correct manner.

“Social networking is also a big problem. Even if they work professionally, they then go onto social media sites and start expressing their own personal feelings, this is an issue,” Shahyb said.

MJA President, Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, expressed similar concern, adding that journalists need to be more impartial with their reporting.

“We need to encourage media to be more objective. When we listen to the TV or radio we can’t tell the difference between an opinion piece or the actual news itself.”

Zahir has also requested the media to act more professionally and stop “spreading hatred”, while calling for police to give greater protection to journalists.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has also of late called on the media to “encourage stability, unity and harmony” in the country, adding that those responsible for the attacks will be brought to justice.


Man and woman arrested in Seenu Atoll over buried foetus

A 26-year old male and 20 year-old-female have reportedly been arrested by police in connection with the discovery of a five month-old foetus found buried on a beach on the island of Maradhoo Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll yesterday.

Local media has announced that the two suspects, reported to be a married couple, were presently being held in custody.

Police discovered the foetus buried on a beach on Maradhoo Feydhoo after local witnesses reported a motorist acting suspiciously in the area on Friday evening, according to local newspaper Haveeru.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Dr Aishath Rameela, State Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights, told Minivan News that her department had not received any official report from the police or the local council on the matter.

Dr Rameela added that the Gender Ministry was awaiting an official report by the Maldives Police Service before it could begin providing assistance in the case.

“Right now as the situation stands, we are not actively involved [with the case]. All we know is that there is a deceased child,” she said, adding that she had, at the time of press, only received information on the case through local media.

“In terms of this case, we don’t know who the mother is or is she is under-age. We also do not know who the culprits may be.”

Dr Rameela added that in cases of under-age pregnancy or suspected child abuse her department worked to support police in their investigations, with law enforcement officials unable to question children without a case worker assigned from the Gender Ministry.

She stressed that the ministry, through 19 island centres across the country, sought to provide protection to child victims of sexual abuse and ensure they remained safe following an incident.

Desperate measures

While police are yet to reveal details of the case, there have been a number of recent incidents reported in media where pregnant women have been forced to take desperate measures, such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or abandoning infants.

In June, police recovered the body of a newborn infant buried in the outdoor shower of a house on Shaviyani Feydhoo island. The baby’s mother was identified as a 15 year-old school student.

In the last two years, three newborns have been found dead in the country, with a further two newborn children discovered abandoned but alive.

Two foetuses were discovered in this two year period, one hidden in a milk tin and the other at the bottom of Male’s municipal swimming pool.  Another fully-developed baby was thrown into a park after having apparently been strangled with underwear tied around its neck.  The two babies found abandoned and alive have since been placed under state care.

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has described these incidents, as well as the figures detailing an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, as evidence of a sexual health crisis in the Maldives.

Nazeera Najeeb, who leads the reproductive health unit of the CCHDC, told Minivan News in an interview earlier this year that the centre was witnessing an “alarming” increase in cases of underage and unplanned pregnancies, where some girls are getting pregnant “without even knowing it”.

“These unwanted pregnancies are subsequently resulting in more unsafe abortions, baby dumping or infanticide,” she noted.

To curb these perceived problems, Najeeb stressed the need for implementing a comprehensive sex education curriculum in and outside educational institutions to create greater awareness on sexual and reproductive health subjects.

Though the concept of sex education is widely supported by health authorities, including former Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, efforts to implement such practices nationally have been limited.


Religious NGO Salaf to hold children’s evening

Religious NGO Jamiyythul Salaf has announced the organisation is planning a special event next Thursday for children, hosted by former singer Ali Rameez and Ahmed Simau.

The NGO said that the event will be named ‘Banoon’ and will be held at the Artificial Beach from 4:00pm to 5:30pm.

The event includes religious poems, advice from Sheikhs, dramas and stories. In addition, during the event children will be given gifts and the opportunity to show their talents on stage.

Salaf has appealed to all parents to participate.

On the same night, Salaf said there will be Q&A program for adults based on the topic ‘Faith and Salah’.

The program will start at 9:00pm and will end at 11:00pm. Five Sheikhs will be on the panel to answer the questions by attendees.


Police arrest 37 year-old man in connection with pregnant 11 year-old

Police have confirmed that a 37 year-old male is being held in custody in connection to an investigation into the case of an 11 year-old girl who gave birth to a premature baby on Thursday, November 1.

The confirmation was made as high-profile politicians, public figures and NGOs have launched a wider debate on child abuse and responsibility towards the welfare of young people in the Maldives.

Both government-aligned and opposition figures have called for authorities to properly investigate the pregnancy and alleged abuse of the girl, a stance backed by the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which has labelled the matter a “very serious” and “dirty crime”.

The 11 year-old girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, gave birth to her child two months prematurely on Thursday.

Her child later died early morning on Friday (November 2), after being taken to Feydhoo regional hospital in Seenu Atoll for further treatment, with medical officials telling local media at the time that the girl had said she had been the victim of multiple cases of child abuse.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that a 37-year old male was presently being held in custody in relation to the case, but could not confirm if the 11-year old girl herself was presently under observation by authorities or was back with her family.

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Minivan News he was aware of the ongoing investigations into the matter, which he labelled “a very big crime,” adding that the young girl should not herself take any blame or punishment.

“Personally I can’t say any word to punish a small girl in grade six. This may be a rape or sexual abuse case,” he said.

“We must find the man who did this dirty crime and he must be punished. I believe this to be a very serious case and have this morning talked with the Human Right’s Minster and Attorney General regarding the [issue].”

The Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights is presently is mandated to deal with the matter.

Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed referred Minivan News to Dr Aishath Rameela, State Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights.

Dr Rameela was not responding to calls at time of press.

Twitter debate

Debate over the case has raged on social media over the last few days.  Political figures including MP Rozaina Adam of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) stressed via Twitter that investigations conducted by both the police and the Maldives Gender Ministry of were proceeding at “top speed”.

Rozaina, who labelled the case as both “unacceptable” and “shocking”, demanded on social media that police make the case a high priority and find the person responsible for fathering the child.

“An 11 year-old doesn’t get pregnant by herself! This is child abuse we are talking about here n authorities need  to find out who is responsible,” she wrote on the social media service.

Rozaina was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Meanwhile, Ali Rameez, a famous singer who gave up music and now heads the Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, tweeted on Friday: “All you people who claim to be Muslims! In Allah’s Shariah [law], a child grows up when he or she reaches puberty. Not when they turn 16, 18, 25.”

Rameez, who also hosts a religious program on private radio station SunFM, tweeted earlier that he was “not aware that children could get pregnant.”

The comments were criticised by some social media users including former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, who tweeted: “Where are the children’s right groups… Where is HRCM.. Horrified with the preaching of people like Ali Rameez.”

Outside of the political sphere, local NGO, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) yesterday issued a statement calling on the government, civil society organisations and the general public to step up efforts to combat child abuse in society.

“ARC strongly condemns the recent case of child abuse resulting in the pregnancy of an 11 year-old child. ARC calls upon the authorities to utilise all necessary resources to ensure the safety and protection of the child,” the statement read It is an obligation for us as responsible citizens to protect our children, and it is the Maldivian government’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that all international commitments to protect the rights of all children are adhered to fully.”

ARC also highlighted the importance of respecting the child’s privacy, while urging parliament, the government and the nation’s judiciary to take “action urgently” over the case.

“We also call on the relevant state institutions, civil society and other international entities in the country to take all precautionary measures to prevent violations of children’s rights, protect their safety and well-being, and to maximize their efforts to address comprehensively the issue of the violations of children’s rights in the Maldives,” the statement added.


Maldives over half-way towards one million visitor goal following August arrival growth

Arrival numbers to the Maldives between January and August this year totalled 614,802 people – an increase of 2.9 percent compared to the same period during 2011, official figures provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture have shown.

With Maldives travel authorities aiming to welcome a million visitors to the country by the end of the year, the figures highlight a 3.8 percent increase in arrivals for August 2012 when compared to the same period the previous year.  A total of 79,768 international arrivals were recorded coming to the country last month.

Although unavailable for comment today, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Mohamed Maleeh Jamal told Minivan News earlier this month that the country’s travel industry was on target to meet its goal of attracting one million annual visitors – claiming the “the hard days” were over for Maldives tourism.

Maleeh claimed at the time that the industry remained on track to attract one million visitors, despite facing challenges such as the impact of ongoing financial uncertainty on some core European tourism markets like the UK and Italy.

According to the Tourism Ministry figures, for the first eight months of 2012, Europe continued to dominate visitor numbers to the Maldives, accounting for 55.7 percent of all arrivals – down 2.9 percent when compared to 2011.

During August, total European arrivals on a year-on-year basis fell by 9.6 percent to 35,488 visitors.

In Central and Eastern Europe, which includes markets like Russia, Poland and Bulgaria, visitors during August fell 7.7 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

In Northern Europe, which incorporates markets including the UK, Sweden and Ireland, arrivals dropped 14.3 percent to 8,202 last month, according to the official statistics.

Southern Europe also recorded a drop in arrivals with 7,710 visitors from markets such as Greece, Italy and Spain coming to the Maldives – a fall of 24.1 percent compared to the same period last year.

Arrivals were up by 5.6 percent from the Western Europe region on the back of growth in markets such as Germany, France and Austria, with 12,434 visitors entering the country during August 2012.

Europe’s smallest tourism market for the Maldives, Eastern Mediterranean Europe, saw 617 arrivals visitors coming from countries like Turkey and Israel, a fall of 7.9 percent.

The Asian impact

Asia was responsible for 38.5 percent of arrivals in the Maldives between January and August 2012, an increase of 9.1 percent over the same time last year.

Despite the overall decline in European visitors during August 2012 when compared to the same period last year, arrivals from the Asia Pacific market were up 12.6 percent to 38,898. The increase was reflected in increased visitors from key markets throughout the region.

North East Asia, which represents the bulk of the region’s travel market for the Maldives – with countries like China, Japan and Korea – saw arrivals increase by 9.4 percent to 31,020 people.

In South East Asia, visitors to the Maldives rose 45.1 percent during August 2012 to 2,809 from markets such as Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

South Asia meanwhile posted a 19.6 percent rise in visitors, with 3,623 arrivals from markets including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh being recorded for the month on a year-on-year basis. Arrivals from Oceania markets like Australia and New Zealand were up 18.1 percent to 1,446 people.

According to the same findings, arrivals from Africa reached 524, an increase of 24.5 percent, while visitors from the Americas rose 19.9 percent to 2,146. Arrivals from the Middle East during August rose 3.4 percent to 2,712 people.

Occupancy rates

Despite the growth in arrivals, the total occupancy rate for resorts, hotels, guest houses and safari boats during the first eight months of the year was down 1.2 percentage points in total to 70.8 percent. On a year-on-year basis, total average occupancy for August 2012 fell one percentage point to 68 percent.

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, the average resort occupancy between January and August this year fell 2.3 percentage points to 77 percent compared to the same period in 2011. During August alone, average occupancy fell 0.8 percentage points to 74.9 percent.

At the country’s hotels, average occupancy for the first eight months of the year was down 8.8 percentage points to 30.3 percent. In August, average hotel occupancy was down 6.1 percentage points to 25.8 percent over the same time frame last year.

Guest house occupancy for the first eight months of 2012, rose 0.8 percentage points to 16.3 percent. The same level of growth was also recorded in terms of average guest house occupancy for August 2012, which rose 0.8 percentage points to 16.3 percent.

Safari vessel occupancy meanwhile increased 4.1 percentage points between January to August 2012, totalling an average of 28.4 percent. However, average occupancy during August had fallen two percentage points to 19.1 percent.