DRP MP Mausoom appointed GM of Sun Island

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom has been appointed General Manager of Sun Island Resort and Spa, a resort owned by Jumhoree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Gasim’s party allied with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) which won the recent election.

“Tourism has always been very close at heart. I’ve taken over as the resort’s General Manager yesterday,” Dr Mausoom said, according to Sun Online.

The resort’s previous manager, Mohamed Saeed, was last week appointed Minister of Economic Development.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sun Island is owned by Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam. Minivan News regrets the error.


Police charge Sun Media Group CEO for giving women jobs in return for sex

Police have issued a statement declaring that CEO of the Sun Media Group, Sinan Ali, is to be charged with criminal offences after he allegedly brought girls into his office and had sex with them after offering them job opportunities.

According to the statement, a 25 year-old woman identified by the police as Murishidha Shafeeq is to be charged in the same case along with Sinan.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that the paper understands the woman is to be charged for having sex with Sinan and assisting Sinan in having sex with other girls.

Under Maldivian law, the punishment for fornication (sex outside marriage) is 100 lashes and a period of house arrest.

Editor of Sun Media Group and head of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, told Minivan News the issue was a personal matter for Sinan and said he would not like to comment on the matter.

Sinan meanwhile told Minivan News he had no knowledge of the case.

‘’I don’t know anything about this,’’ he said. “Two years ago I was summoned to the police headquarters and they queried about a video. I said I didn’t know anything.’’

Local newspapers reported that Sinan Ali was accused of having sex with six girls after offering them job opportunities while he was the head of Job Market Maldives.


Maldivian journalist arrested by police for taking photos

Police have arrested a Maldivian journalist while he was taking photographs outside the justice building on Tuesday morning (March 26).

SunMV journalist, Ahmed Azif, was taken into police custody after contesting claims by police that he could not take photographs without displaying press identification, local media reported.

Maldives Media Council (MMC) and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) have since condemned the arrest of the journalist, calling for all parties to refrain from actions that might hinder freedom of the press.

A statement from MJA reads: “While it is not prohibited to take photographs near the justice building by a journalist or anyone else, arresting a journalist for taking pictures in the area is a deliberate act to instigate fear among journalists.”

SunMV has claimed that Azif had been picked out by police from a number of journalists standing outside the justice building.


Sun article alleging Indian deportation of Maldivian nationals “mischievous” misinformation: High Commissioner Mulay

Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives D M Mulay has accused local news outlet Sun Online of attempting to “mischievously” spread misinformation, after it published an article alleging that India had begun to deport Maldivian nationals.

On Tuesday (March 19), Sun published an article claiming that the Indian Bureau of Immigration had been informing Maldivians – who are residing in India without a specific reason – to leave the country.

The article entitled ‘More difficulties for Maldivians living in India’ has attracted criticism from both the Indian High Commission and the Maldives Foreign Ministry, who have both denied any knowledge of such practices being undertaken.

Speaking to Minivan News, High Commissioner Mulay claimed that the Sun article was an attempt to spread incorrect information between both India and the Maldives.

“We have not received any such reports from our country regarding this matter. The article is a mischievous attempt to spread misinformation between the two countries,” said Mulay.

The article reported that Mohamed Ashraf, a Maldivian who has been living in India with his family since 2008, was suddenly told by Indian immigration to leave the country within seven days.

When Ashraf had asked for the reason for his sudden deportation, Indian immigration allegedly told him they were not required to give any reason to foreigners living in the country, the article states.

The article further claimed that a Registration Officer had told Ashraf that “more Maldivians will be issued such orders in the future”.

A media official from the Maldives Foreign Ministry said that it had not received any information regarding the issue, stating that “these things are all rumours”.

Responding to the criticism, Editor of Sun and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir stated that the news outlet did not speculate or provide misinformation through its reports.

“The information we published is from the interview we got from the guy [Ashraf]. It is a practice of freedom of expression,” he said.

“We have received a lot of complaints from people living in India and they say they are having difficulties with visas. We are carrying people’s opinions.”

While Sun was able to obtain a copy of the document ordering Ashraf to leave the country, the article does not state whether any relevant government officials had been contacted for comment.

An official from within the Indian High Commission further denied that the Indian government was “clamping down” on Maldivians living in the country.

“There is no clamp down, except on those who flagrantly violate visa conditions. For example, people running guest houses on dependent visas.

In regard to the published article, the official asked: “Since when do we start believing in all media news? Most ‘news’ is published without checking with relevant parties.

“Incidentally, I still do not see any progress on any of India’s concerns like the seizure of passports [in the Maldives],” he added.


Sun apologises for brothel articles, while police summon editor for questioning

Local radio station and online newspaper ”Sun” today apologised to the public, after the Maldives Media Council (MMC)’s head Mohamed Nazeef yesterday sent a letter addressed to Sun Editors Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir and Shinan Ali requesting they do so.

The apology followed the publication of a series of stories in which journalists wrote detailed and lurid accounts of their visit to an illegal massage parlour, and solicited sex from the women.

‘Sun’ issued a press release today stating that it believed the articles were “not written professionally” and that the news organisation assured that it would maintain professionalism in its future writings.

Ali told Minivan News he was “really proud” of the journalists involved and what they had reported.

“As the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has said, this kind of reporting is new to the community and we need to get used to it,” Ali said.

In its press release, Sun said that the objective of the investigation into illegal prostitution conducted in the Maldives was to draw the attention of the concerned authorities and the public over the issue.

Sun also expressed concern that if no measures were taken, prostitution would become widespread as with the drugs that circulated in the Maldives in 1970s.

The MMC has forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General, and Zahir was today summoned to police headquarters for questioning.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said  Hiriga was questioned about the articles Sun published regarding illegal prostitution conducted inside some salons and massage centers in Male’.

”Others concerned persons were also summoned,” Shiyam said, declining to disclose further information.

The MMC has claimed that the context and phrasing of the articles published on Sun Online contained phrasing suggesting that the journalists may have engaged in ‘sinful’ activities, and were written in such a way as to encourage these activities.

The MMC claimed the articles violated its media code of ethics, including Article 1 which states that no media should publish anything against the constitution or Islam, and article 9 which stipulates that media should not publish pornography, sex stories, stories that encourage sex or anything that describes such activities.

The articles are now ranked ‘most read’ on Sun Online’s website.


Sun Travels to compensate couple while police investigate ‘wedding ceremony’ video

The Maldives Police Service have confirmed they are investigating staff at Vilu Reef Resort and Spa at the request of both the Ministry of Tourism and the resort’s operator Sun Travel and Tours, after a video of a controversial ‘renewal of vows’ ceremony was leaked to YouTube.

In the video, a Vilu Reef staff member, acting as the ‘celebrant’, unleashes a tirade of insults against the couple in Dhivehi in the solemn tone of a religious preacher, sparking both local and international outrage.

The couple, identified by the AFP as Swiss, appear oblivious to the humiliation as 10-15 resort staff look on and make disparaging comments about the couple’s appearance, and urge the celebrant to “make them suck mouth” – a Maldivian phrase to denigrate the act of kissing.

Non-Muslims are unable to be married in the Islamic country, however many resorts offer ‘traditional Maldivian’ renewal of vows ceremonies and the country is a popular destination for honeymooners.

Sun Travels and Tours issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying the corporate management of the resort was “deeply saddened by this humiliating event and expresses its serious concerns over the incident, including the content shown in the video and the unforgivable conduct displayed by the staff involved in the incident.”

“The management is in the process of contacting the two tourists who were victimised in this incident to extend sincerest apologies for this unacceptable incident. The management would offer compensation for the abuse they have suffered,” the company said.

“We sincerely apologise for the damage and serious repercussions this incident could cause to the tourism industry of the Maldives, the image of the country, the Maldivian people and their government.”

Speaking to Minivan News today, CEO of Sun Travels Ahmed Shakir confirmed that police had taken up the investigation “and the people directly responsible have been removed from the property.”

“Two employees have been removed to Male’, others have been suspended from duty and forbidden from leaving the staff area of the resort,” Shakir said. “[Staff] on the resort are being individually questioned as to how informed they were [about the incident].”

Vilu Reef Manager Mohamed Rasheed told Minivan News on October 26 that the that the staff member who uploaded the video, Ali Shareef, did so as “a joke”, without “realising the seriousness of the potential consequences”, and complied with management’s request to remove the video from YouTube.

Rasheed also said that he had become aware of the nature of the ceremony conducted by Food and Beverage Assistant Hussain Didi, and had banned Didi from performing any more ceremonies.

Shakir said today that the company was waiting on the advice of its lawyers as to whether it had grounds to take action against Shareef, and had established a proceedure for conducting the weddings and “eliminate the reading of anything in Dhivehi during the ceremony.”

Minivan News understands the company is attempting to contact the couple and explain the situation, and offer undisclosed compensation.

Shakir would not divulge the identity or nationality of the couple, “as we believe that at this stage it would do more harm than good.”

He would not comment on whether the humiliating ceremony was an isolated case or whether the behaviour had occurred before, but said the resort was “investigating”.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the resort was cooperating fully with the police investigation.

“We are discussing with the Prosectutor General’s office as to whether there is any way those involved can be charged,’ Shiyam said.

Not uncommon

Disparaging of guests in Dhivehi by resort staff was not uncommon, claimed Vice President of the Tourism Employment Association of the Maldives, Mahrouf Zakir.

“Sadly this is very common, and not only in Vilu Reef but even in very upmarket luxury resorts,” said Zakir. “I’ve seen it happening, and not just for wedding ceremonies but birthday songs as well. It’s a stupid thing to do, I think it’s crazy.”

“I don’t think this is new – if you look at the Vilu Reef video there are 15 people standing around for the ceremony, and a lot more people in the background. The management must have been aware of it.”

Many upmarket resorts actually prohibited Maldivian staff from speaking Dhivehi in front of guests, he noted.

“I know it’s difficult to believe, but the workers don’t do this out of disrespect for the guest. They don’t think that far. I know it probably doesn’t make sense, but they just do it for fun as they know guests don’t understand the language.

“We have to raise awareness among resort workers that this is unacceptable, as well as talk to the Ministry [of Tourism]. Many resort staff come from local islands, and simply do whatever they want for a laugh.”

Deputy Minister of Tourism Ismail Yasir said the Ministry was “very concerned” about the impact the incident would have on the Maldives’ reputation, and was also investigating to determine whether the practice was common.

Despite the religious insults in the video, Yasir said he did not believe the video was evidence of rising extremism.

“I don’t think this is extremism,” he said, “just irresponsibility on behalf of the management of the resort. It has had a huge impact on our reputation, and I would like to assure people that the government is doing everything in its power to make sure this does not happen again.”