European decline could stall tourism in 2013: MATI

As the economies of America and the European Union (EU) become more vulnerable in the coming years, the Maldives tourism industry will see a decline in business, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has predicted.

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) yesterday claimed that decline in European traffic to the Maldives was due to economic stability in that region.

MATI Secretary General ‘Sim’ Ibrahim Mohamed pointed out that total tourist arrivals has not declined; in 2011, the Maldives set a new record of nearly one million.

“Occupancy rates in resorts have gone up following the arrival of Chinese tourists,” Sim told local media. “But the number of tourists arriving from Europe and other western countries has declined and we are threatened by the economic instability that Europe is experiencing.”

Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has lately released data indicating that tourism comprised a majority of state revenue in 2011. The State Budget for 2012 was created on this assumption, and leans heavily on expected revenue from tourism in the coming year.

Although the tourism industry has recovered impressively from devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, Sim predicted progress would stall mid-2013 due to “global economic changes as economies of countries like America and the European Union become more unstable and vulnerable.”

However, the Maldives promises to remain atop its niche market of small island tourism. While Mauritius and the Seychelles are leading competitors, Sim affirmed that within the small island niche “we are unbeatable, and I believe it will stay that way.”

According to Simon Hawkins of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC), close correlation between a tourism industry’s marketing and arrivals is a strong indicator of success.

In 2011, Hawkins said, the Maldives destination board spent US$2 million on marketing and received close to one million tourists.

Comparatively, Mauritius spent US$13 million and received one million tourists.

“We’re six-and-a-half times more cost effective than Mauritius, and 30 times more cost effective than Indonesia,” said Hawkins. “We are batting very much above our weight, but that’s because the product is brilliant.”

Sim added that the Maldives product did not need to be reinvented during the European recession to suit the growing Asian market.

“Chinese tourists are like any Western tourist,” he explained. “When the Russians began coming to the Maldives they had some different expectations, but now they are used to what we offer. The Chinese will be the same.”

In 2011, Chinese tourists comprised a majority of total arrivals. However Minivan understands from conversations with resorts managers that while they come in high numbers they are not generally high spenders – while resorts make a bulk of their revenue from the bars, restaurants and spas, officials have noted that Chinese tourists’ primary expenditures are on board and transportation.

Minivan News inquired whether the 2013 presidential election would impact tourism.

“Political parties have matured, and the people have matured. They are accepting democracy,” Sim said. “2013 will be much better than when we started our multi-party system in 2008.

“Democracy is not a beauty pageant, it has ups and downs and hustle and bustle, and I think people understand that,” he observed.


MATI continues civil court case to determine legality of spa ban

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has revealed it will continue its case at the Civil Court questioning the government’s right to close resort spas, while the government yesterday lifted the nationwide ban on spas and massage parlors.

The controversial circular issued by the Tourism Ministry on 29 December 2011 ordering that spas be shut down was cancelled by a civil court injunction last night – a few hours after President Mohamed Nasheed ordered that the spas be re-opened to prevent further damage to the economy.

The government had earlier asked the Supreme Court to provide clarity on the legality of operating spas and the sale of alcohol and pork, as the constitution requires Maldives to comply with the tenets of Islam.

Speaking to Minivan News, MATI Secretary General Sim Ibrahim Mohamed pointed out that the court’s ruling was temporary, and that the spas would only remain open while cases in the Supreme and Civil courts on the matter await verdicts.

MATI claims that an agreement between the resorts and the government was violated.

“Spa facilities are approved by the Ministry of Tourism, and promoted by MMPRC (Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation). We are trying to find out if the government had the authority to close the spas in the first place,” he explained.

He insisted that the government’s decision had incurred “irrevocable damage” to the tourism industry and had become a “legal issue to which we are trying to find legal clarity.”

However, in the event that the court rules against the government’s actions, Sim was unsure if the government would be required to compensate for losses to the industry.

MATI’s lawyer and Former Attorney General Azima Shukoor observed that the resorts would be able to sue the government for damages, if the case is ruled in favor of MATI.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a statement today quoting Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, who claimed that the Government’s decision to re-open the spas operating in the country reflects the emerging national consensus that the Maldives should continue to follow the moderate and tolerant religious path it has pursued ever since Islam was introduced 800 years ago.

”Naseem expressed hope for a positive ruling from the Supreme Court on the matter,” the statement read. ”The Supreme Court ruling, once and for all, would settle the question of whether the Maldives wants to remain a modern, tolerant Muslim country founded upon democratic values and human rights, or would chose to become otherwise.”

According to the statement Naseem reassured investors with business interests in the Maldives and foreign tourists visiting the country that the government would remain steadfast in ensuring economic security and stability while upholding the fundamental values of democracy.

The Foreign Ministry added due to the judiciary’s delayed verdict, and given that public support for the moderate, tolerant Islam traditionally practiced in the Maldives had risen over the extremist rhetoric, the government had decided to remove the temporary spa ban.

”Naseem stressed that the government’s decision [to reopen spas] was backed by a clear majority of Maldivians who wished to continue to follow the path of moderation,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

As the government and public awaits a ruling from the top court, President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday that the ultimatum on spa operations “woke the nation from its slumber and sparked a healthy debate about the future direction of the country”.


DQP requests action against President, Tourism Minister as Maldives image shifts from glam to grit

Minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has requested Maldives Police Service to take immediate action against President Mohamed Nasheed and Minister of Tourism Mariyam Zulfa for ordering all resorts to close down health spas.

In a letter, DQP alleged that the government officials were conspiring to damage the Maldives’ image as a popular holiday destination.

The party’s statement added that the government’s “irresponsible” action is making headlines in the international media.

Police confirmed that they had received the letter, and would deliberate the matter.

DQP officials had not responded to inquiries at time of press. DQP Leader Hassan Saeed told local media this week that the government’s actions were causing “irreparable damage” to the tourism industry, from which “it would not be easy to come out of even after 25 years.”

An official at the President’s Office however argued that the opposition should bear responsibility for the fallout from December’s mass protest to ‘Defend Islam.’

“The opposition has been whipping up, and in some cases financing, extremism for months and spreading lies saying the government wants to introduce other religions. They can’t now complain about the economic damage they are ultimately responsible for.”

While resort reviews and booking services still make the first page of a Google search on the Maldives, headlines noting spa and resort closures amidst religious extremism and political turbulence have lately joined the mix.

Today’s Google searches for “Maldives”,”Maldives spa” and “Maldives resort” pulled a news feed exclusively addressing the political-religious whirlwind of the last week in which the government announced it was closing resort spas and considering a ban of pork and alcohol in response to popular demands favoring Islamic policies.

Over 229 articles are listed from leading outlets including UK’s The Guardian, India’s The Hindu, global Agence France Presse (AFP), and the BBC.

In keeping with the Maldives’ fame as a tourist destination, the headlines are eye-catching.

Global feed Associated Press (AP) ran the headline “Maldives closes hundreds of luxury resort spas,” while Sydney Morning Herald vigorously announced that “Sex claims force luxury resorts to close spas”.

Zimbabwe Metro simply stated “Maldives bans all spas after religious protests”, and Argophilia Travel News sardonically wrote, “Maldives spa ban: ulterior motives perhaps?”

Clicking beyond the headline, readers worldwide find content ranging from skeptical to sensationalist.

In their reports, America’s CNN today reported that “honeymooners and international hotel owners” were caught in “an acrimonious showdown over religious between the government and opposition parties”, while Mail & Guardian Online pointed out that the Maldives “reputation as a paradise holiday destination has come under pressure from a minority of religious fundamentalists who are growing in influence.”

Rather than ignoring the demands of the ‘Defend Islam’ demonstration on December 23, CNN observed that “the government raised the stakes” by issuing an order to close all massage parlors and spas.

Tourism accounts for approximately 70 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indirectly; a significant portion of resort profits are earned from spa services.

Although the stories do not always present an accurate picture of the situation, they are ubiquitous.

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) Secretary General Sim Ibrahim Mohamed said the industry “has serious problems with people not understanding what is going on.”

Sim said that the situation was generally “murky, with one thing leading to another and another”, and added that “most of our communication is in Dhivehi–press conferences, press releases, notifications, debates. It’s very difficult for the international community to report accurately because they don’t understand our language.”

Stepping back from the details, Sim explained that tourists trying to book a relaxing holiday are not soothed by a media storm at the destination, particularly when it involves certain hot-button words.

“Fundamentalism, radicalism, extremism–since 9/11 these have been very sensitive words. And they don’t go very well with tourism.” Sim added that the industry has suffered “many booking cancellations” in the past several weeks.

The media flurry is also being addressed by those inside resorts. The blog Maldives Resort Workers, which allows resort employees to express their opinions on a carefully-manicured industry, noted in the post “The media circus continues” that Maldives’ formerly polished profile is gradually becoming dark and contorted as the issue drags on.

“What is not so funny in these political manuevering is: the negative publicity this generated across the media despite the high value tourism we have. The administration clearly needs to dismiss their spin doctors who didn’t warn them about this media storm,” wrote one commentator.

Religious Adhaalath Party, one of the parties which had organised the mass protest against the alleged anti-Islamic agenda of the current administration, has also expressed concern that the media coverage is “damaging” the Maldivian people.

“I don’t want international media to treat Maldives poorly, I want them to do their job carefully and justly. You can’t see any country like Maldives in Islamic world, so why would we want to damage these people? These are Muslim people and they like moderate views,” said chief spokesperson Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Shaheem yesterday told CNN, “We respect tourists…we are very happy with the tourism industry in the Maldives.”

Adhaalath Party previously released a statement inviting tourists to visit the Maldives and promising protection, after the UK released a travel advisory.


PPM supports nation-wide alcohol ban “if the government has the courage”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf has said that “if the government has the courage to ban alcohol and pork across the country, PPM will support it.”

However, speaking at a press conference yesterday he claimed that protesters never called to ban alcohol in the resorts.

PPM’s statement follows the government’s announcement that it is closing all spas and massage parlors and is considering banning pork and alcohol nation-wide in response to the thousands of protestors who attended the religious rally on December 23 to defend Islam.

Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol and pork. Protest leaders including Jumhoree Party Leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yamin, all resort owners or share-holders who profit from such sales, asserted that there was no moderate, higher or lower Islam but rather “only Islam, which is above all religions.”

Thasmeen later reiterated to Minivan News that the protest was religious only, and intended to show that the people are “deeply concerned” about the dischord between the government’s policies and Islam.

Protestors interviewed by Minivan News expressed a desire for “100 percent Islam”, and claimed that President Mohamed Nasheed was against “flogging, stoning and hand amputation…That means he’s not following Islam. He wants music, he wants adultery and alcoholism to takeover us.”

Although no official statistics have been released, the opposition has claimed that its goal of 100,000 participants nation-wide was reached. Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed subsequently called on the President to “accept the people’s voices.”

The government has subsequently taken steps to address the coalition’s five official demands.

This week the parliamentary National Security Committee forwarded a resolution prohibiting Israeli airline El Al to operate in the Maldives. If approved by Parliament, the resolution would address the coalition’s request that Israeli flights not be allowed to operate in the country.

The coalition has also requested the government to “close the spas and massage parlors and such places where prostitution is conducted”.

Today, the Tourism Ministry issued a circular ordering resorts to shut down spa and massage parlor operations.

Gassim’s Royal Island Resort this week sued the government when it ordered spas in five of his resorts to close on allegations of prostitution.

In response to the request to remove the SAARC monuments on allegations that they are “un-Islamic”, the government has said the decision falls under the remit of the Addu City Council.

Addu City Council earlier told Minivan News it is considering removing them to a secure, interior location as only three of the original seven monuments have not been damaged or stolen.

Regarding the policy on selling alcohol on uninhabited islands, the government recently noted that only 200 people live in some less populous islands, but 400-500 citizens live in the tourist resorts, therefore the government is considering banning alcohol nation-wide.

However in a joint press conference held today by the coalition, religious party Adhaalath’s President Sheikh Imran Abdullah alleged that the government is attempting to aggravate them by “misinterpreting the demands” and instead “making excuses”.

Claiming that “the time for excuses is over”, Imran warned that the government has until January 5 to complete the demands, or otherwise the coalition would take action again.

Directly following the protest the coalition announced that there was no deadline, but indicated that they would be monitoring the government’s reaction to the demands.

“If the government continues to make excuses without fulfilling the demands made by the large number of people [at the December 23 rally], the government will have to pay the price,” Imran said.

Spokesperson for the NGO coalition Abdullah Mohamed further alleged that the government is targeting the protestors and announced a sixth demand, calling the government to “stop causing harm to anyone who participates in the religious movement”.

Meanwhile, opposition DRP Deputy Leader Mavota Mohamed Shareef said the party would do everything it could to make the government enforce the demands.

Spokespersons from Adhaalath Party, PPM, JP, and NGO Salaf had not responded to repeated phone calls at time of press.


Government considering nation-wide ban of pork and alcohol

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair has said that the government has decided to shut down all the massage parlors in the Maldives and is considering banning the trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives in response to demands made by protestors on December 23.

‘’The government has decided to take urgent measurements to fulfill the demands,’’ Zuhair said. “There are five demands made after raising voice in the name of protecting Islam.’’

Zuhair said one of the demands was to close massage parlors and spas, as there have been accusations that prostitution is conducted widely in these locales.

‘’Therefore the government has decided to close every massage parlor and spa in the Maldives,’’ he said. ‘’Those places are not operated with a special permission from the government, but the government has now begun inspecting those places.’’

Addressing the demand to disallow Israeli flights to land in the Maldives, he said the government has tried to commence operations of any flight only for the purpose of tourism, for the benefit of the citizens and for the benefit of businessman in the tourism sector.

‘’When tourists want to come they will first book the resort before booking the airline and if the resorts cancel their bookings they will not come to the Maldives and the airline will stop operations because it cannot run the business if there won’t be any passenger to travel,’’ he said adding that the situation was in the hands of tourism businessman.

Referring to the demand made to remove all the SAARC monuments placed in Addu, he said under the decentralization plan, the decision rests with the Addu City Council.

‘’The government will not obstruct any decision made by the council to remove those monuments.’’

‘’Next is [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights] Navi Pillay’s remarks made in parliament, according to the President during the meeting she held with the President she did not mention anything that a Muslim would resist,’’ Zuhair said. ‘’The parliament is the one that has said anything in response to comments made by her in parliament, because the meeting with parliament was not organized by the government.’’

Trade of alcohol, Zuhair said, is not a business conducted by the government. He added that the government receives a relatively large amount of money through this trade from Goods and Services Tax (GST).

‘’The businessman running the trade of alcohol receives a huge amount of profit through this business as well,’’ he said. ‘’The government is now considering banning trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives.’’

Only 200 people live in some less populous islands, but 400-500 citizens live in the tourist resorts, he pointed out.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf today said no matter what Zuhair said the government will not have the courage to ban the trade of alcohol in the resorts.

‘’It is all lies made by the government to mislead the citizens,’’ Mahlouf said.


“The Island President” to be shown in Maldives

Documentary film “The Island President” will make its debut in the Maldives during the week of November 21. Specifics have not yet been released.

“The Island President” was screened at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, where it received the Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary by audience vote. The film was one of 25 submissions in the documentary category.

The documentary was also screened at the exclusive Telluride Film Festival in Colorado earlier this month, where Hollywood Reporter named “The Island President” one of the festival’s “Top 12 films to know”.

The grant-funded film project began in 2009, when Oscar- and Emmy- winning American documentary company Actual Films contacted the Maldives’ newly-elected government. In an interview on Mavericks, Director Jon Shenk said the film was an evolutionary process. “It’s difficult to explain a film that involves a lot of  access and high ratio shooting,” he said, describing his initial proposal to the President. In other interviews, Shenk noted that Nasheed’s candid politics and acceptance of the cameras were key to the film’s success.

“The manner in which he’s done this is quite amazing,” Nasheed said in the same interview. “I myself am realising the things I have done and said, I hope it’s not going to get me in a bad boat! But I think it’s nicely done and I’m sure there’s nothing that anyone should get unnecessarily worked up about.”

Starting with Nasheed’s initial vow to make the Maldives carbon-neutral, the film documents the president’s efforts to make climate change an important issue for politicians around the globe.

“The ability to sustain human life here is very fragile,” Nasheed says in the documentary. “The most important fight is the fight for our survival…. There is impending disaster.”

The film culminates in Copenhagen, where world leaders met in December 2009 for the United National Climate Change Conference. Although the summit was later reviewed as a failure, it did mark the first time that leading world powers agreed that the issue needed to be addressed.

“The Island President” was co-produced by AfterImage Public Media and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with Actual Films and Impact Partners, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation, John D. and The Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund.

The Maldives is the film’s fifth stop on an international tour that has included TIFF, Telluride, Doc NYC and IDFA Amsterdam film festivals. After the Maldives screening it will be shown at the International Film Festival of India in Goa.

State Minister for Tourism Mohamed Thoyyib previously told Minivan News that in spite of its title the documentary was not about President Mohamed Nasheed. Rather, it is about the issues facing the Maldivian people. The film raised awareness of global warming, portrayed and promoted “the unique ” Maldivian culture and language, and illustrated government transparency, he said.

“No scene was created or scripted, some reviewers even noted that the film’s most unique aspect was that it shot real events on a level that had never before been achieved in the Maldives, or within other governments,” Thoyyib said.

Thoyyib also noted that the Maldivian government had benefited a great deal from the film, but had not spent money on its production.

“There is a lot to be achieved directly and indirectly when something positive happens,” he said, adding that tourism revenue was likely to increase. “But this doesn’t solve the issue. The President will keep on raising his voice on global warming.”

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair today said he didn’t believe the government was officially involved in the upcoming screening, but was optimistic about the event.

“I believe it will be well-received in the Maldives,” he said. “The film delivers a serious but hopeful message, addressing both the issue of climate change while also showing democratic improvements in the government.”

Zuhair elaborated on the country’s progress by comparing use of foreign aid in previous administrations. He hoped the Maldives would be used as an example for other small countries.

“Any small or new country receiving aid from a foreign party should process it democratically. The money received after the tsunami was not disposed of well by the former government, whose methods are highlighted by the ongoing debate in our judicial system. Comparatively, the government procedures that the movie covers show what a young democracy can do to improve transparency. The Maldives now has different democratic assets, and can handle change.”

When asked if the screening bore relevance to the SAARC summit now taking place in Addu City, Zuhair said climate change would be a major talking point. He added that the summit is another indicator of the Maldives’ democratic growth. “SAARC shows our effort to be not just an active, but a proactive member of an international organisation,” he said.

Filmmakers Shenk and Richard Berg will accompany the film to Male’.


Government investigates accused MPs’ “dark and evil schemes”, while UK issues travel advisory

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel warning for the Maldives following recent political turmoil in the country, urging caution around “large political gatherings”, while debate on the political deadlock has spread to the House of Lords in the UK Parliament.

During Question Time, the UK Labour Party’s Lord Foulkes expressed “disappointment that President Nasheed seems to be reverting to the bad habits of his predecessor”, following the detention of People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdulla Yameen, and urged the government to pressure the Maldives to restore “democratic freedoms”.

Conservative Lord Howell, also State Minister for the FCO, responded that the government was “pursuing full encouragement through our high commission in Colombo and other means to ensure that democratic development continues.”

Nasheed’s restoration of his cabinet ministers was “a step forward”, Howell promised.

Conservative Lord Naseby pointed out that the Maldives “is no longer a protectorate of the United Kingdom… and that being the situation, what role do we have at all to interfere in what is in fact the Maldivian exercise of democracy as they interpret it?”

Yameen meanwhile remains in MNDF custody on the Presidential Retreat ‘Aarah’, although appears free to communicate with the media given that Minivan News was able to contact him yesterday.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – and the government – insist that the MP and high-profile businessman is under ‘protective’ custody after demonstrations outside his home last week turned violent.

Yameen has told local media he does not wish to be detained in ‘protective’ custody. The MNDF have also refused to present him before the court on a court order, raising some international eyebrows.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair stuck to that story, insisting Yameen was being “protected” rather than “detained”.

Zuhair also claimed Yameen’s custodial protection was not unconstitutional, as the opposition has claimed, although Minivan News is still awaiting clarification from government lawyers as to how this is so.

“The MNDF is working absolutely within the constitution,” Zuhair said. “Yameen is being held by the MNDF, not the government. If Yameen is concerned about this he will be able to challenge it in court.”

“Dark and evil schemes”

Beyond the debate over Yameen’s detention, and recent court cases concerning the legality of his arrest along with that of Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, Zuhair said that given the severity of the allegations against them, neither could be considered prisoners of conscience.

“I cannot describe these people as political leaders – they are accused of high crimes and plots against the state,” Zuhair said.

“These MPs are two individuals of high net worth – tycoons with vested interests,” he explained. “In pursuing their business interests they became enormously rich during the previous regime, and now they are trying to use their ill-gotten gains to bribe members in the Majlis and judiciary to keep themselves in power and above the fray.”

“They were up to all sorts of dark and evil schemes,” Zuhair alleged. “There were plans afoot to topple the government illegally before the interim period was over.”

Zuhair explained that the government felt obliged to take action after six MDP MPs came forward with statements alleging Yameen and Gasim had attempted to bribe them to vote against the government.

The opposition PA-DRP coalition already has a small voting majority, with the addition of supportive independent MPs, however certain votes require a two-thirds majority of the 77 member chamber – such as a no-confidence motion to impeach the president or vice-president.

“In one incident early on in this administration, following the President’s return from Italy, they set up a telephone and a video camera in a committee room in parliament, brought a judge to sit in, and then tried to get two members of the president’s delegation swear on the Qur’an under oath that the President was drinking alcohol,” Zuhair observed.

The privatisation of Male’ International airport had clashed with the vested interests of the accused MPs, Zuhair claimed, sparking the current political debacle.

“Gasim was concerned the new airport might take the charter flights he had intended would be landing at the new airport he is building in Maamagilli,” Zuhair alleged, “while Yameen is a third party supplier of fuel at Male International Airport through the Maldives National Oil Company, which has representation in Singapore.”

The fuel trade is the most immediately lucrative part of the airport deal, Minivan News understands, and is a key reason behind both GMR’s interest and the government’s decision to award the contract to the Indian infrastructure giant. GMR has told Minivan News it will amalgamate the trade under one umbrella, a decision that will likely affect current third party suppliers.

Meanwhile Opposition DQP leader Hassan Saeed, who opposed the airport privatisation and is currently lobbying in the UK for international support for Yameen’s release, “is receiving huge legal fees from both Yameen and Gasim,” Zuhair claimed.

NGOs speak

A coalition of NGOs including Madulu, the Maldivian Democracy Network, Huvadhoo Aid, Transparency Maldives, Maldives Youth Action Network, HAND and Democracy House, meanwhile issued a statement “categorically denouncing the undemocratic actions of the three Powers of the State, at a time when democracy is in its infant stages in the Maldives.”

“We believe recent political and civil unrest is a consequence of these three arms of the State disregarding the spirit of the Maldivian Constitution,” the NGOs said. “We believe a culture of manipulation of the law to infringe upon the rights of one another has developed and that the three arms of the State have failed to give each other due respect.”

“It is not responsible on the part of the parliament, that they should pass laws that undermine the powers of the executive.

“It is unacceptable that the executive, should use its powers to harass and deter the functioning of the parliament, to disrepute the judiciary and to try to exert undue influence on the judicial system.

“The lack of consistency in the rulings of the courts, and actions which undermine the trust of the people in the judicial system are contrary to the high standards which are expected of Judges. We call upon the judiciary to work to restore the people’s faith in the judicial system.

The NGOs added that “other concerned State institutions” have also failed to “give due regard to the situation” and have acted irresponsibly.

The coalition also urged political parties to refrain from bringing violence to the streets, but condemned the security forces “for stepping outside the boundaries of the law with regards to arrest and detention” and the recent distribution of private telephone conversations by the media containing implications of corruption behaviour among MPs.

Between a rock and the Maldives

The government well aware of its status as international darling on climate change, but Nasheed appears willing to risk international censure for the sake of isolating Yameen while the state accumulates evidence in the background. Police were preparing to “make a splash” on the subject, Zuhair hinted.

However even if this evidence is obtained, demands from the international community – and opposition – that the government respect the rule of law and the judicial system, mean the government is faced with the new problem of legitimising its case against the businessmen and opposition leaders, now that allegations of obstruction have been levelled at the judiciary – including, yesterday, from the police themselves.

The government has been urging public respect for the judicial system – and the President’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef has stated that the government will abide by any rulings from the Supreme Court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), tasked with reforming the judicial system, has three sitting judges as members and vested interests, according to the President’s outspoken member on the commission, Aishath Velezinee.

“Of the 207 of the judges currently in office, 39 have degrees or higher. Some left school before grade seven, meaning they haven’t completed primary school,” Velezinee noted.

In addition there are seven sitting judges found guilty of a criminal breach of trust; five with allegations of a criminal breach of trust; two being prosecuted for an alleged breach of trust; one on trial for sexual misconduct; two have been found guilty of sexual misconduct; one was found guilty for an offence which had a prescribed punishment in Islam; and another who has both been accused of a criminal breach of trust, and found guilty of sexual misconduct – a total of 19 with documented criminal history.

Behind the scenes the executive is racing to nominate new judges before the interim period concludes on August 7, when sitting judges are granted automatic tenure.

However nominations for any new judges will have to be approved by the Majlis, which was cancelled this morning on points of order that developed into a scuffle outside.

“[The MPs] are trying to derail the process,” suggested Zuhair. “They are also panicking because they have no way of knowing who is going to be [implicated] by these corruption charges.”

As for tourists reading the today’s travel advisory urging caution in the capital, Zuhair observed that they “should be happier to know the top dollars they are paying are not being used for corrupt purposes.”