Tourists warned to avoid certain resorts: The Telegraph

“The Ethical Maldives Alliance is asking tourists to consider ethical issues when choosing where and how to spend money in the Maldives.. In particular, it has drawn up a list of resorts that it wants visitors to consult so that they can be aware which are the resorts that it says are directly or indirectly linked to human rights abuses,” reports the UK’s Telegraph.

“The alliance believes that tourists can make a difference in protecting democracy in the country.

“The Maldives has a long and sad history of political oppression and human rights abuses,” it said in a statement. “Most tourists to the islands remain blissfully unaware of the realities of life for the local population. Money from tourism provides the bulwark of support to a government with a known record of intimidation and oppression.”


Worry over Xi’s trip to Maldives: The Telegraph (Calcutta)

“Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to the Maldives tomorrow has set off alarm bells in India’s foreign policy establishment amid worries that the atoll nation may, after a brief hiatus, again be swinging strategically away from New Delhi and closer to Beijing,” writes Charu Sudan Kasturi for the Telegraph.

Xi will be the first Chinese President to travel to the country, when he lands in Male on Sunday with First Lady Peng Liyuan and over 100 businessmen. Xi and his wife, one of China’s best-known singers from the 1980s,will then visit Sri Lanka on Monday before flying to India on Wednesday for a three-day trip.

The Chinese President’s visit to the Maldives comes less than a month after its President, Abdulla Yameen, travelled to Beijing and returned with promises of free financial aid and investments in key infrastructure projects.

Yameen, after his election in November last year, had said strengthening ties with India would be his priority following a bruising two years in bilateral relations, and had sent initial signals that comforted New Delhi.

But away from the public eye, relations between India and the Maldives have once again become testy over the past few months over diplomatic and strategic decisions taken by Yameen that hint at a subtle but growing proximity to China, senior officials have said.

‘We’ve been off the ball a bit on the Maldives, and things are tricky again,’ an official said. ‘The Chinese President’s visit to the Maldives is emblematic of that simmering unease.’ ”

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Maldives protestors hijack Twitter hashtag: Telegraph

“More than 50 Maldivian companies are attending this week’s event at London’s ExCel convention centre, where they hope to promote the Indian Ocean archipelago as an idyllic holiday destination,” writes Oliver Smith for the UK’s Telegraph.

Instead they may be asked to explain to visitors why the event’s official Twitter hashtag has been inundated with photos of the victims of alleged police brutality and tweets claiming democracy has been destroyed in the country.

Many of the messages are aimed at Qasim Ibrahim, one of the country’s richest businessmen and the owner of several luxury holiday resorts. Mr Ibrahim came third in the first round of voting for September’s presidential election, behind former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected leader who was overthrown in an alleged coup last year, and a third candidate, Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives. But Mr Ibrahim was able to convince the country’s Supreme Court to annul the vote, alleging electoral fraud, despite both the EU and the Commonwealth declaring the poll free and fair.

Others Twitter users utilised the hashtag to repeat claims made by Mr Nasheed that he was overthrown at the behest of resort owners. Others urge a tourist boycott of the country – something Mr Nasheed has also called for in the past. Tourism accounts for around a third of the country’s GDP.”

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Nasheed to appear in dock: Telegraph

Nearly eight months after he was toppled as leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago, Mr Nasheed is due to appear in the dock over accusations that he abused his power by ordering the arrest of a senior judge during his tenure, reports the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

The arrest fuelled already simmering anti-government protests which culminated in a police mutiny in February and led to Mr Nasheed’s deputy being installed as president.

The climate change campaigner, who was tortured during previous stints in jail for his political activism, insists that he was threatened by armed rebel officers and forced to announce his resignation on television.

“The judiciary in the Maldives is so deeply politicised, there is no chance of a fair trial, particularly in a case as political as this,” he said.

The 45-year-old became leader after the Maldives held their first democratic elections in 2008 following three decades of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

A conviction could see Mr Nasheed handed a jail term of up to three years in prison or banishment to an small islet, a move that would disqualify him from running for office.

The case centres around Mr Nasheed’s decision in January to send the military to arrest the head of the country’s criminal court Abdullah Mohamed on charges of corruption, misconduct and favouring then-opposition figures.

Mr Nasheed justified the arrest saying that the judicial service commission had failed to take action against the judge, who had a string of allegations against him.

Apart from the criminal case, Mr Nasheed now faces two defamation suits filed against him by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and by Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.


Maldivian President reneged on early elections deal: UK Telegraph

The Maldives President Mohammed Waheed has reneged on a deal for early elections that were aimed to settle the crisis on the tropical islands following the coup against his predecessor Mohammed Nasheed, writes Dean Nelson for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Dr Waheed was sworn in to succeed Mr Nasheed after he was forced to resign in February following a revolt against his government by the police and army.

During the revolt Mr Nasheed’s opponents seized the state broadcasting company while senior members of Mr Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party were beaten in scenes captured on film.

Footage of Mr Nasheed himself being manhandled by police on the streets of the capital Male was also broadcast on the internet and were followed by riots throughout the country’s far-flung atolls.

Mr Nasheed’s supporters, including senior figures in the British government – his party was formed in association with the Conservative Party, and he counts David Cameron and William Hague as friends – voiced concern over the scale of violence on the islands and the circumstances of his ‘resignation.’ Special envoys from the Commonwealth, the UN and India were dispatched to help solve the crisis and a deal was brokered by India for early elections to take place as soon as July – a year ahead of schedule.
President Waheed said at the time that he would open discussions with all political parties to bring forward the elections on the condition that peace returned to the islands and the MDP abandoned its protests.

But in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph during his visit to New Delhi on Sunday, President Waheed said there will be no early elections and the poll will take place next year instead.

He said the other party leaders had said because the country’s constitution requires elections at fixed intervals, an early vote would mean two being held in the space of just over a year.

Dr Waheed said he had not supported President Nasheed when his security forces revolted because relations between them had already broken down.

During his presidency, Mr Nasheed had been disrespectful to him, put some of the cabinet ministers from his party under pressure to defect to his MDP, and had excluded him from major decisions.

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Maldives’ carbon neutral goal proving formidably hard and expensive: Telegraph

Though simple to articulate, the [Maldives’] zero-carbon goal looks difficult to achieve, and it is easy to be led astray, writes Geoffrey Lean for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Wind power companies descended on the country soon after the goal was announced and Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India – which has a large wind industry – briefly persuaded Nasheed. But the wind scarcely blows in the islands for months on end, and the country’s new plan – drawn up with the help of a British engineer, Mike Mason – gives it short shrift.

The biomass plant is best suited for Malé, which is probably the world’s most densely populated city, with 100,000 people packed into just two square kilometres (if everyone came down from its forest of high-rise buildings at the same time, they say, there would be no room for them in the streets). And solar power, which is almost as cheap, looks the best bet for the 200 inhabited islands and 100 resorts scattered through the archipelago.

Meanwhile, the government is eliminating import duty on electric cars and motorbikes, leaving petrol and diesel ones subject to a 200 per cent mark-up. This month it will scrap the tax on renewable energy equipment and super-efficient appliances like fridges. And it has introduced a feed-in tariff to pay those who generate their own clean power.

All the same, it looks as if it will fail to meet its goal, for – while providing half the country’s power from renewables is relatively straightforward, and getting to around 80 per cent is possible – it is proving formidably hard and expensive to go all the way.

For the Maldives has no reliable, constant form of clean power – like hydroelectric or tidal energy – and though the sun rises every day, it sets at night and occasionally hides behind clouds.

Thus, solar energy has to be stored in batteries and it is prohibitively expensive to provide enough to cope with a string of sunless days, though costs are expected to fall. Replacing diesel for fishing boats and ferries will be tricky. And to cap it all, the government has just contracted with a Chinese company to provide a gas power station, partly to provide back-up for an ill-conceived windfarm, decided upon before the plan was drawn up.

So the bold zero-carbon goal is being quietly downgraded to 80-90 per cent carbon free, still an extraordinary achievement in just a decade, with the hope of completing the job later. As the plan puts it: “We can do it – almost!”

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Satirical news blog dupes Maldives media

Maldivian media outlets this morning published as fact a satirical Telegraph news blog citing “unconfirmed rumours” that the 14th edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World will omit the Maldives, Tuvalu, “and major parts of Bangladesh” as a statement on global warming.

The blog post, written by climate change skeptic James Delingpole who describes himself as “a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything”, features comments by a “Times Atlas spokesman” David Rose.

In a UK press scandal this year, ‘David Rose’ was found to be a psuedonym used by left-wing Independent journalist and climate change writer Johaan Hari to edit his own wikipedia entry, advocate his own position and attack his critics.

Rose, who in Delingpole’s article holds “a doctorate in Cambridge in Climate Change and Sinking Islands Studies so I know what I’m talking about, and  if you don’t believe me, ask my friend Johaan Hari who taught me everything I know”, acknowledges that it “may not be strictly geographically accurate to say the Maldives and Tuvalu will definitely have disappeared in about ten years time when our next edition appears.”

“But did you see that picture of the Maldives cabinet holding a meeting underwater? If the Maldives government says the Maldives are drowning, they must be drowning. And frankly I think it’s despicable, all those deniers who are saying it was just a publicity stunt, cooked up by green activist Mark Lynas, to blackmail the international community into giving the Maldives more aid money while simultaneously trying to lure green Trustafarians to come and spend £1500 a night in houses on stilts with gold-plated organic recyclable eco-toilets made of rare earth minerals from China. Why would a government lie about something as serious as climate change?”

Rose goes on to state that “I’m pleased to say that this is a view of the world shared by my colleagues at Times Comprehensive Atlas Of The World. They understand that maps based on accurately recorded geographical features belong in the Victorian age of child chimney sweeps. What we need now is maps that change the world, transforming into something which it isn’t actually yet but might be one day if we don’t act NOW!”

A spokesperson for HarperCollins, publisher of the Times Atlas, told Minivan News that “the piece in today’s Daily Telegraph is a satirical story. Of course we have no plans to erase the Maldives, Tuvalu or major parts of Bangladesh from the next edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. There is no one at HarperCollins called David Rose. Like the rest of the piece, he is a fiction.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Mahlouf, MP for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s new political party the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), today sent out a mass text message informing people of the supposed decision to erase the Maldives from the map, blaming President Mohamed Nasheed for holding the underwater cabinet meeting and “erasing the country, erasing religion and erasing the people.”

Delingpole’s post was written in response to a recent press release by HarperCollins, publisher of the The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, stating that global warming was “turning Greenland ‘green’”, and that cartographers had altered the maps to depict gradual melting of the icecaps.

In a statement yesterday, HarperCollins said the release did not reflect the content of the Atlas, and apologised for the release “which unfortunately has been misleading with regard to the Greenland statistics.”

“We came to these statistics by comparing the extent of the ice cap between the 10th and 13th editions (1999 vs 2011) of the atlas. The conclusion that was drawn from this, that 15 percent of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover has had to be erased, was highlighted in the press release not in the Atlas itself. This was done without consulting the scientific community and was incorrect. We apologise for this and will seek the advice of scientists on any future public statements. We stand by the accuracy of the maps in this and all other editions of The Times Atlas.”

Delingpole attended Christ Church college at Oxford, the same institution which earlier this week signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Maldives High Commission to the UK, to provide a postgraduate scholarship in environmental science to a Maldivian student.


Addu “tailor-made for the lazy tropical cyclist”: UK Telegraph

Once described as a place of “harrowing tranquillity” where “grown men weep with sheer geographical frustration”, Addu is now a secret speck of heaven, tailor-made for the lazy tropical cyclist, writes Nigel Tisdall in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

“Spared the worst ravages of the bleaching that has dulled the coral in other parts of the Maldives, the seabed here is bejewelled with flashes of blue, green and purple. As the sun gains strength, the lagoon surrounding me fills with an immense calm. It is 82F (28C) and you know it’s going to be another classic day of clear blue skies, sensational snorkelling trips, siestas on the daybed, then dinner on the beach with rows of candles decorating the sand.

“So far, so very high-end Maldives – except that down here in Addu, the southernmost atoll in this 500-mile island chain, the holiday experience is refreshingly different. Traditionally, a trip to the Maldives has meant flying into the capital, Malé, then bouncing onwards as fast as possible to one of almost a hundred small and luxurious lily-pads that ceaselessly vie with one another to offer the most indulgent experiences.

“Some islands are so small you can walk round them in 10 minutes, others proffer ridiculously OTT amenities such as an underwater restaurant, pretentious afternoon teas and wine cellars with bottles costing up to £38,000. Invariably there is a niggling fear that a week in the Maldives, however much you are in love, could well leave you feeling trapped, bored and overcharged.”

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Diving with the Maldives’ manta rays

The rays are great black silhouettes, scything streamlined shapes that fishermen called “devil fish” because of the curious horn-like fins hanging down near their mouths, writes Tim Ecott in UK newspaper The Telegraph.

“But side on and up close you can look into their eyes and get a sense of their peaceful nature. Unlike stingrays, mantas don’t have venomous spines in their tails, and unlike many fish species they seem to enjoy human company. They tolerate our presence and sometimes perform loop-the-loops through the air bubbles exhaled from my scuba gear.

I have come to Hanifaru, a small lagoon next to an uninhabited island in the Maldives, especially to see manta rays. These great harmless filter-feeders congregate here during the south-west monsoon between May and November and, if the tides and winds are right, enter a shallow cul-de-sac in the reef to hunt for food. On certain days, usually near to the full moon, the bay can attract more than 100 mantas.

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