Akon arrives in the Maldives

American R&B artist Akon has arrived in the Maldives this morning to perform tonight in the second show of the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Music Festival’ upon the invitation of Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Minister Adeeb and event organisers Chopart received Akon at the airport alongside a team of youth leaders who had shown support for Akon’s concert amid continuing opposition to the show from religious leaders.

Haveeru reported Akon as asking his fans to “get ready to party” before coming to the show, assuring a good time for all who attend.

Akon’s performance was announced during the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ on December 31, which eventually featured a host of Indian artists after the cancellation of Sean Paul’s performance.

Adeeb also confirmed yesterday (January 7) that Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra will appear alongside Akon in tonight’s show. Priyanka is due to arrive sometime this evening.

In 2010, a show featuring Akon was organised before organisers cancelled, citing a lack of technical support and security. As with the Sean Paul concert, both the Islamic ministry and local religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf had spoken out against the show.

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Adhaalath Party concerned that concerts are defying Islamic teachings

The Adhaalath Party is reported to have expressed concern at what it sees as “horrifying acts that defy Islamic teachings and social convention” taking place in the country.

“Entertainment activities and events are an important part of a society” read a statement obtained by Haveeru. “But these activities must abide by our religious and social traditions”.

The comments follow controversy surrounding the New Year’s eve ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’, which eventually featured Indian artists ‘Salim-Sulaiman’ after Jamaican artist Sean Paul cancelled following an online death threat.

After Sean Paul’s late cancellation, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb revealed that a second show would be held on January 8, with an announcement made at the conclusion of Wednesday’s concert that US R&B artist Akon would be performing.

Following the online threats against Sean Paul – later denounced as a hoax by authorities – members of the Adhaalath Party, including the Islamic minister criticised the decision to invite the dancehall singer.

Haveeru have today reported that the party maintained it would not support such activities, urging the youth not to invest all their time in pleasure.

“If the youth are not kept from such decadence they will undoubtedly grow into people from whom neither their families nor the society can benefit,” Haveeru reported the party as saying. “This is the bitter truth”.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comment from the Adhaalath Party members contacted prior to publication.

US R&B singer Akon will appear in Malé on January 8

After safety assurances from police prior to Wednesday night’s concert, the event passed without incident, culminating in the announcement that the country had received a record 1.45 million tourists in 2014.

Plans to hold a concert featuring Akon were attempted in 2010, before the artist pulled out citing technical and security concerns.

In the run-up to the scheduled Akon concert, Islamic minister Dr Shaheem reported receiving a number of complaints about the explicit content of the singer’s lyrics.

Adhaalath Party member Shaheem last week said that bringing foreigners to hold shows coinciding with New Year’s eve – as well as the threats made – were “unacceptable”. Adeeb later told Minivan News that the concert had been discussed at cabinet level and that Shaheem’s comments were merely his personal opinion.

While jihadist group Bilad Al Sham denied being behind the YouTube video threatening Sean Paul’s life, the group did describe the concert as “filthy” and an “ideological attack”.

Meanwhile, local religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf said the state was “investing in destruction” by funding the show.

Adeeb, who has taken a lead in organising and promoting the event, has insisted that attempts to “give back to the youth” will not be obstructed, tweeting: “I will stand against extremism”, and “We will not give into threats”.

In his video message announcing his performance in Malé on January 8, Akon said he would appear after receiving Adeeb’s invite, joking that he had heard everyone was blaming the tourism minister for everything that goes wrong in the country while his 2007 hit ‘Sorry, Blame It on Me’ played in the background.



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Police urge citizens to be wary of rising cyber-crime and fraud

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) has urged all citizens to be wary of cyber-crimes and the increasing prevalence of money-grabbing scams.

Speaking at a press conference today, MPS Drug Enforcement Department head Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said that cyber-crime has become an “emerging and trending” issue, with a separate police unit tasked with dealing with the problem.

Local media reported yesterday (December 30) that the Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem was claiming his official twitter account had been hacked and that all tweets posted after 11pm on December 29 were not posted by him.

Shaheem’s account showed one post after 11pm which reiterated his previously expressed discontent towards the Tourist Arrival Countdown Show which, at the time, was to feature Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul.

Sean Paul has since cancelled his appearance in the show, citing security concerns after a death threat appeared on Youtube last week. Religious religious groups within the country also called for the performance to be stopped.

In a press statement released today, the police also urged citizens to be more vigilant towards scams and embezzlement.

While revealing that two or three such cases are filed every week, the statement also said that such cases were difficult to proceed with because such criminals are often hard to trace.

The statement said that some of the most commonly reported cases were those where customers put in more money than was paid when getting mobile phone reload or ‘raastas’ services, and when scammers promised to provide gifts for money.

Police requested that people not hand money to anyone communicating through unknown phone numbers or individuals who promise monetary profits in return. They also urged shop keepers to dial in mobile phones of customers themselves.

People were asked to report any suspicious requests and to carry out monetary transactions more carefully.

Statistics provided by the police show that 374 embezzlement cases have been reported this year, compared to 391 in 2013.



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Police prepare for ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ as revised lineup announced

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) have said today that it is prepared for any event which might unfold at the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown’ show held in Malé tonight.

Central Operations Command’s Deputy Head Superintendent Abdulla Shareef said that all security measures for the New Year’s Eve show held at the National Stadium have been arranged.

“All roads surrounding the National Stadium and leading up to it will be blocked for vehicle entry from 6.30pm tonight. We request all individuals wishing to watch the show to walk to the National Stadium,” said Shareef.

Shareef’s statements comes after Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul cancelled his scheduled appearance at the show, citing security concerns.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has today announced that the show will now feature Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant.

Sean Paul’s cancellation followed the posting of an online death threat against the singer last week, as well as calls from religious groups within the country to stop the performance.

“Unfortunately, the world has reached a point where cyber threats must affect real life decisions,” read a message posted on the artists official Facebook page yesterday (December 30).

Meanwhile, MPS confirmed today reports on local media that the service had searched a house and questioned an individual in connection to the video after obtaining a warrant yesterday.

Tourism minister Adeeb told Minivan News yesterday (December 30) that Sean Paul had decided to continue with the concert before pressure in Jamaica caused him to make the last minute decision to cancel.

The singer’s decision had come despite assurances from the President’s Office and the security services that the posted threat was a hoax.

Adeeb revealed on his twitter account today that the show will now include performances by Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant who arrived in the Maldives this morning.

The brothers – who perform under the name ‘Salim-Sulaiman’ – have produced music for several Bollywood hit films and come from a Muslim family in Gujarat.

Also speaking at the police press conference today, Drug Enforcement Department’s head Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said the police will not allow “illegal new year parties, especially those with illegal narcotics” to take place.

Shifan revealed today that the police arrested a 29-year-old man with 140 bullets of heroin while a 35-year-old Maldivian arriving from Sri Lanka was arrested with 30 “pieces of narcotics” which he had swallowed.

The past week has seen a large amount of alcohol confiscated in the Malé area, with police reporting seven individuals taken into custody within the last 48 hours after having being found in possession of alcohol on Hulhumalé.

Last weekend police confiscated 70 bottles of liquor and 70 cans of beer with a street value of MVR200,000 (US12,970) from Faamudheyrige in Maafannu ward in Malé.

Shifan had claimed that it was foreigners who are mainly active in Malé’s black market trade in alcohol, but said they received help from Maldivians, resulting in the confiscation of at least 400 containers of alcohol since December 1.



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President Yameen warns of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against guests

President Abdulla Yameen has warned of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against tourists and urged Maldivians to leave aside political differences to assure a safe and secure environment for investors and tourists alike.

Yameen’s statement comes in the aftermath of a death threat issued against Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul who is scheduled to perform in Malé on New Year’s Eve.

“Even if such incidences do not actually disrupt the peace, if [guests] believe there is any danger, if they believe there is a threat, we are in effect pouring water into a bottomless container,” Yameen said in a speech in Addu City last night.

The President’s Office yesterday said that the online death threat against Sean Paul was a “local hoax” aimed at damaging the country’s reputation.

An investigation has revealed the threat is “designed to dissuade visitors, create an atmosphere of fear” and aimed “at tarnishing the longstanding reputation of the Maldives as a destination of peace, security, and tranquility,” the President’s Office said.

The video, which has since been removed, promised Sean Paul that “the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” should he perform in the Maldives.

Representatives of the singer are reported to be undecided about whether the performance is to go ahead.

The tourism ministry’s statistics have meanwhile revealed a 5.1 percent decline in tourist arrivals in November compared to the same month last year.

However, the Maldives welcomed 1.1 million arrivals by November’s end due to a strong growth in arrivals in the first half of the year. The figure amounts to a 7.9 percent increase in arrivals compared to 2013.

President Yameen said the government aims to bring the world’s wealthy to the Maldives and said Maldivians must find common ground with the government despite differences in political ideologies.

“With utmost sincerity, I note it will not be the same leaders ruling the country. Today it is me. Tomorrow it will be someone else. But Maldivians will continue to live on this land. This land must be peaceful,” he said.

Maldivians must not allow foreigners the opportunity to influence the country’s internal affairs, he continued.

“We must not call on foreign militants to come to the Maldives claiming the situation is bad in the Maldives,” he said.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over declining tourist arrivals at the onset of the peak tourist season in the Maldives, blaming the government for lack of a clear policy on tourism and ad-hoc decisions to levy additional tourism taxes.

Noting a seven percent decline in arrivals from European Union, a 22 percent decline from Eastern Europe, four percent from the United Kingdom, 24 percent from France, three percent from Italy, and a 13 percent decline from India in November, opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed in a tweet said “the government’s policy will damage the industry”.

Tourists from the European Union made up 43.3 percent of arrivals while Chinese tourists made up 31.4 percent of arrivals. Russian arrivals declined by 31 percent this year due to the economic downturn in the country.

Nasheed said the threat against Sean Paul is the latest threat to artists by extremists in the country, arguing that “Government support for and refusal to prosecute them [extremists] will affect tourism.”



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Sean Paul threat a hoax to create atmosphere of fear, says President’s Office

The President’s Office has said that the online death threat against Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul was a “local hoax” aimed at damaging the country’s reputation.

“The investigation has revealed that the threat is designed to dissuade visitors, create an atmosphere of fear and disappoint the many thousand fans of Mr. Sean Paul who eagerly await the landmark concert in the capital, Male’.”

“The threat is also aimed at tarnishing the longstanding reputation of the Maldives as a destination of peace, security, and tranquility,” continued a statement released today (December 28).

The video (since removed) promised that “the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” should the artist perform in the Maldives.

Representatives of the singer are reported to be undecided about whether the performance is to go ahead.

Although the logo of the Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) group appeared in the Youtube video, the Syrian-based jihadi group immediately distanced itself from the threat, also suggesting a hoax designed to defame the country’s reputation.

Though it condemned the concert itself as an “ideological attack” on the youth, BASM accused the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party of being behind the threat.

Despite assurances from tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb that the concert would continue, Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has criticised the decision to hold the event.

Similarly, Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem and religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf have since spoken out against the concert.

The President’s Office today noted that the Maldives was famous for its peaceful people and its safety as a destination for over one million tourists a year.

“However, local authorities will take every possible measure to ensure the safety of Mr. Sean Paul and all his adoring fans in the Maldives, to ensure that the concert is a resounding success.”

Police have corroborated the President’s Office statement, saying that their investigations into the incident had revealed the threat to have been a hoax.

Message from artist

Meanwhile, Sean Paul has thanked the people of the Maldives for inviting him to perform, noting that he was aware of the concerns raised by some ahead of the concert.

“I have felt the love and support from many Maldivian citizens looking forward to the concert,” read a message posted on the singer’s official Facebook page.

“I have also heard the concerns of some citizens regarding the concert and the concerns of my fellow Jamaicans.”

“During this very holy season for people of all faiths, I pray for peace.”

Jamaican media yesterday reported that a final decision on whether Paul would perform was yet to be made, following the threat posted on Youtube on December 25.

“It is because I have the utmost respect for various religions and cultures that I have sought to travel the world to learn and to share,” read the status update on Paul’s page today.

“I support freedom of expression within whichever context best suits you and do not judge others based on their religious beliefs.”

Sean Paul’s publicist has been quoted in the Jamaican Observer as saying that the discussions with event organisers were ongoing.

“We are aware of the developing situation. We are currently in contact with all related parties concerning the concert to address the matter. No further details are available at this time,” Carlette DeLeon told the paper.

The ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ has been organised by event management company Chopart after tourism minister Adeeb invited the grammy award winning singer to perform in a free concert as part of the government’s tourism promotion efforts.

Although the event’s posters feature the ‘Sunny side of life’ logo of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation, when contacted by Minivan News today, the corporation said that it was not involved in arranging the event.

When contacted for further comment today, Islamic minister Shaheem stated only that the concert was not being arranged by his ministry before declining to comment further.

Tourism minister Adeeb was not responding to calls at the time of publication.



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Jamiyyathul Salaf calls on government to cancel “sinful” Sean Paul concert

Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on the government to cancel a New Year’s eve concert featuring Jamaican artist Sean Paul in Malé, a day after an online group threatened to kill the singer should he visit the Maldives.

The NGO’s President Abdulla bin Muhammad Ibrahim said the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ on December 31 would encourage youth to remain ignorant and sinful and said the state was “investing in destruction” by funding the show.

“Instead of ensuring the youth, who are the future of this Islamic country, are educated in the ways of Islam and reformed into being religious, the wealthy are encouraging the youth to remain in their ignorant state by getting intoxicated with music and other sinful activities,” said Ibrahim.

The Facebook statement went on to accuse government leader of “keeping the youth on the attractive footsteps of the devil” by arranging the celebration, calling for its cancellation.

“I further call on all brothers and sisters to refrain from participating in such misleading actions, and to do whatever you are capable of doing, in whichever field you can, to ensure that such activities cannot be carried out,” he continued.

The sponsors of the event will “regret their actions on the day of judgement,” added Ibrahim.

Salaf’s statement comes in the aftermath of a video posted on December 25 threatening Sean Paul with death.

“If you visit the Maldives, the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” read the message in the Youtube video.

The video bore the logo of  Bilad Al Sham (BASM), an online group that claims to represent Maldivian militants in Syria. However, the group has denied any involvement in the video’s production.

BASM did, however condemn the concert as “filthy” and “part of the ideological attack being waged by the kuffar and their allies on the Muslim youth to take them further from their Deen.”

Police have confirmed that they are investigating the video and said they will strengthen security at the Galolhu Football Stadium where the concert is to take place.

“We are investigating the video. We also urge the public to not be alarmed or intimidated at all by the video. We are further strengthening security measures in response to the video,” a police spokesperson told Minivan News today.

Police have also issued a press release assuring the public that appropriate security measures would be taken and that a security plan, which includes blocking traffic in areas adjacent to the stadium, has been formulated.

The police said it is confident it can assure the safety of all concert goers based on its experience of overseeing security at international football matches at the Galolhu Stadium.

In addition to Jamiyyathuh Salaf, Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussain has also expressed his disapproval with the concert.

“I don’t like the planned new year eve show but I abhor more the extremism of some people issuing death threats which is more unIslamic,” a tweet dated December 26 from Dr Mauroof’s official account read.

The Adhaalath Party’s only parliamentarian Anara Naeem has meanwhile tweeted, saying the youth need Islamic education and not ‘music 24 hours’.

In a second tweet, she criticised the imitation of “Western” culture and celebration of Western festivals.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has commented on the threat yesterday via twitter, saying: “Bringing foreigners to hold shows coinciding with the New Year is unacceptable. Issuing death threats is also unacceptable.”

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has also condemned the video, saying that the government would not give in to threats.

The last major Western artist to perform in the capital was Irish singer Chris De Burgh in 2012. Prior to this, a concert featuring R&B singer Akon in 2010 was cancelled, with the event’s managers citing technical and security concerns.



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Online jihadists threaten Sean Paul with death ahead of New Year’s concert

A video has appeared online threatening dancehall singer Sean Paul with death should he visit the Maldives for a New Year’s Eve concert.

“‘Sean Paul’!!! If you visit the Maldives, the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” read cards held by a cloaked figure in the video posted on Youtube late last night (December 25).

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, has responded to the threat this afternoon, stating in a tweet that the concert will go ahead as planned. Meanwhile Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has that that both bringing foreigners to perform new year’s concerts, and the issuing of death threats were both “unacceptable”.

Adeeb informed media late last month that the Jamaican artist would be appearing in a free concert in the capital Malé as part of the government’s tourism promotion efforts.

Last night’s video bears the logo of ‘Bilad Al Sham Media’ (BASM) group – an organisation which claims to consist of Maldivian jihadis based in Syria and the Maldives.

Through social media, the group has reported the deaths of five Maldivians in the Syrian civil war this year, as well as taunting the police’s efforts to locate its members.

BASM has, however, posted a statement on its official Facebook page distancing itself from the video.

“We suspect that the video was released by MDP supporters/secularists or other such anti Islamic elements who have been pushing hard to potray [sic] a threat to the Maldives which in reality does not exist, and their mouth piece Minivan News is also pushing the same lies and has been the first to report on this video.”

BASM did, however condemn the concert as “filthy” and “part of the ideological attack being waged by the kuffar and their allies on the Muslim youth to take them further from their Deen.”

Minivan News was the first outlet to report on the story in English, after a number of outlets had published news of the video in Dhivehi.

“It is for all Muslim to jihad in the name of Allah. Hence disbelievers like ‘Sean Paul’, who are like the worst of devil’s advocates, deserve nothing but death!” continued yesterday’s video threat.

“‘Sean Paul’ who is joining from abroad in the celebration of year-end 2014, end [sic] the beginning of 2015, is a major disbeliever,” came the message, printed on cards in Dhivehi, with English subtitles.

The figure, whose face and hands are covered sits in front of a black flag which has become synonymous with the Islamic State militant group, ISIS.

“We will not welcome or tolerate the destruction of such cunning men anymore.”

“Even the government will not be excused for bringing such cunning disbeliever to our soil, because our beloved nation is 100% Muslim!”

Tourism minister Adeeb has condemned the video, saying that the government would not give in to threats.


The last major western artist to perform in the capital was Irish singer Chris De Burgh in 2012. Prior to this, a concert featuring R&B singer Akon in 2010 was cancelled, with the event’s managers citing technical and security concerns.

In the run-up to the scheduled Akon concert, the Islamic minister Dr Shaheem reported receiving a number of complaints about the explicit content of the singer’s lyrics.

Today, Shaheem has commented on the threat via twitter, saying: “Bringing foreigners to hold shows coinciding with the New Year is unacceptable. Issuing death threats is also unacceptable.”

“Lessons have to be learnt from the past of those who committed acts challenging the Muslim culture,” read a second tweet.

Yesterday’s Youtube message suggested that Maldivian society was being led to destruction through “beautiful painted pictures, songs and entertainment”, decrying what it saw as the celebration of western festivals such as New Year and Valentine’s Day.

“Mixing such festivities into our culture will result in a destructive future for the Maldives and our beloved children.”

Earlier this week, the religious Adhaalath Party was reported as urging Maldivians to avoid celebrating Christmas.

November and December have traditionally represented the high season for the Maldives’ dominant tourism industry, with tourists celebrating Christmas and New Year in the archipelago’s 109 single island resorts, on which the country’s Shariah-based laws do not apply.

The online threat concluded by suggesting that those who saw the group’s actions as “extremism” are demonstrating the weakness of their faith.

Concern regarding religious extremism in the country has grown this year, with a number of Maldivians reported to have travelled to IS held territory – sometimes with family members.

Despite the government’s condemnation of the Islamic State’s atrocities, around 200 individuals marched through the capital in September, brandishing black IS-style flags and calling for the implementation of full Shariah law in the Indian Ocean nation.

Authorities arrested unauthorised Imam Hussain Thowfiq in October before sentencing him to two years in prison for leading extremist anti-government sermons in Malé’s Dharumavantha mosque.

Prior to this, former police officers and opposition politicians had questioned the capacity and desire or authorities to prosecute such activities.

Police spokesmen reported that they were investigating the video, but had found “nothing authentic”, urging calm.

*Article updated at 7:58pm to incorporate comments from police and statement from Bilad Al Sham Media.


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