A number of governments have issued travel warnings for Male’ amid spiraling political chaos across the country.
No tourist resorts have been reported affected, and airport island remains calm – few tourists to the country even set foot on the capital island of Male’.
However Minivan News has received reports – confirmed during a press conference held on Wednesday night by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – of people seizing courts and police stations on a number of inhabited islands, particularly in the country’s south. In some cases the buildings have been reported burned to the ground.
The UK High Commission from Colombo arrived in numbers on Wednesday morning to assist British nationals in the country. High Commissioner John Rankin called a meeting of UK nationals in Male’, who included teachers, doctors and resort representatives, and asked them to register their presence in the Maldives.
Rankin, speaking prior to the dramatic protests and crackdown late this afternoon, said that the High Commission had advised against non-essential travel to Male’. He expressed concern about a reported ‘travel ban’ list that was circulating, which he said was believed to include several non-Maldivians and at least one UK national. Rankin said President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan had informed him that he had issued no such list and had no intention to do so, but that he would respect the right of the courts to do so.
Meanwhile the MDP on Wednesday night expressed concern that it was unable to send its seriously injured chairperson and MP, ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, overseas for medical treatment because his name was on a travel blacklist issued by the courts. Moosa was injured during a brutal police crackdown on MDP protesters on Wednesday afternoon.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a warning recommending that Ukrainians avoid travels to the Maldives at the present time.
“In view of the unstable situation in the Maldives the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine advises the citizens of Ukraine to postpone visits to that country, if possible, and closely monitor the official information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the world media about the political situation there,” the statement said. Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, is an increasingly lucrative market for the Maldives’ luxury tourism industry.
The Australian government also advised its nationals to reconsider travel to Male’, but noted that the rest of the Maldives was safe for visitors.
“Further protests, political unrest and violence could occur in coming days. You should avoid public gatherings and protest, particularly in Male, as they may turn violent,” today’s update read.
AFP has meanwhile cited several travel agencies reporting cancellations.
“We had four to five honeymoon couples who made bookings for Maldives and were due to travel in the coming week to be there around Valentine’s Day but they called to cancel their trips,” AFP quoted one operator, Flexi Tours travel agency in New Delhi, as saying.
Another tour operator told AFP that all hotels in the Maldives “are booked up until February 14. The unrest is restricted to a few islands. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.