Anantara donates over US$10,000 to Guraidhoo special needs home

Anantara Maldives today handed a US$10,000 cheque to the Home for Special Needs at Kaafu Guraidhoo.

The donation – raised through Cluster General Manager Torsten Richter’s participation in an Iron Man competition – represents the biggest corporate social responsibility project in the company’s history.

Speaking at the ceremony today, Deputy Minister of Law and Gender Iruthisham Adam said that awareness raising was needed to ensure the protection of the elderly and psychiatric patients.

“I think we have to recognise that these people are part of our society and we have a responsibility. They belong to some family, they belong to our family, they belong to us,” said Iruthisham.

Richter explained that the money will mainly be used to purchase medical equipment, which will then be imported by Anantara before being installed by the resort’s engineers.

Anantara – part of the Minor Hotels Group – currently operates four resorts in the Maldives, winning multiple awards at this year’s Maldives Travel Awards.

Chairman of Minor International William Heinecke presented the cheque to the centre today as well as launching the special needs home’s new website.

An additional US$1,500 was added to the donation through the Roy E. Heinecke Foundation – a fund named after William Heinecke’s father.

“All corporate citizens do as they’re required, but we have additional responsibilities – this is one of them,” said Heinecke, noting his company’s long term commitment to the Maldives.

One member of staff at the facility told Minivan News, however, that more major changes were needed, describing the today’s donation as “like sand in the ocean”.

“The people are suffering here,” said the staff member, “the management is not good”.

The Ministry of Law and Gender announced earlier this year that the government had plans to turn the centre into mental health institute, with the elderly and the mentally ill provided with separate facilities.

Deputy Minister Shidaathaa Shareef told VNews earlier this month that changes were proceeding according to plan.

“We are currently focusing more on programs on taking care of the patients, and we want to shift that focus to starting rehabilitation programs that are needed for patients with mental illnesses,” said Shidaathaa.

Of the 167 patients currently staying in the compound, just 19 were psychiatric patients, the staff member told Minivan News today, with the rest either homeless people or geriatrics.

The medical staff at the facility consisted of just one doctor and two nurses, they continued, leaving the facility unable to adequately provide even basic care.

“We are trying but we don’t even have the people to go and turn the patients in their beds to prevent bedsores.”

Additionally, the staff member repeated concerns expressed to Minivan News by former members of staff, that psychiatric patients were not being provided the opportunity to reintegrate into society.

“This place is called a rehabilitation centre, but it’s not really. The patients never leave the compound – maybe once or twice a year.”

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives reiterated calls on the government last month to address problems with the water and sewerage system at the home.

A team from the commission visited the home on September 16, conducting tests that found the water used for sanitation purposes in the home showed a high presence of e-coli bacteria, in contravention of WHO approved standards.

Anantara GM Richter explained today that equipment to deal with the water issues had been included on a list given to the resort by the facility.

Related to this story

HRCM repeats calls for clean water at special needs centre


MATATO expresses concern over airport outsourcing deal

The Maldives Association of Travel and Tourism Operators (MATATO) has expressed concern regarding rumours that a private Jet terminal and aeronautical services facilities at Malé International Airport will be outsourced exclusively to a foreign company.

“MATATO is very concerned that this will create an unhealthy market structure and put many local companies at risk,” read the statement.

Minivan News has learned that the cabinet’s economic council is currently discussing a deal with billionaire Thai businessman William Heinecke.

American-born Heinecke’s Minor International hospitality chain is reported by Forbes to consist of 1,500 restaurants, 100 hotels, and 250 retail outlets spanning 18 countries – including the Maldives’ Anantara resorts.

MATATO, which represents more than 50 local businesses, revealed that it had been approached by a number of concerned members whom it believed would suffer as a result of such a deal.

“Presently there are many local businesses that act as supervision agents, and ground handlers for the considerable corporate and private jets that visit Maldives year round. Many of these local companies depend solely on the income generated from this business,” read the statement.

The association requested that all stakeholders begin a dialogue that might consider alternative arrangements to an exclusivity deal which it suggests lacks market competition, leading to poor services and “consumer exploitation”.

“The absence of competitive pricing that benefits the consumer, allows companies with exclusivity rights to charge higher prices for services, and inconvenience buyers.”

Following the purchase of both the Maldives’ seaplane operators by US private equity group Blackstone last year, hospitality groups revealed a subsequent raising of prices and reduction of services, reporting a potentially negative impact on industry profitability.

MATATO today argued that the airport deal would “only lead to unnecessary outflow of foreign exchange, loss of job opportunities for locals, a significant amount of control of the local market to foreign bodies, among many other negative factors.”

Alternatives suggested by MATATO was for the current management of the airport – the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL)  – to retain control and upgrade the facilities itself.

MACL took over management of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) following the premature termination of the Indian company GMR’s 25-year concession agreement by the previous government.

Shortly after winning the presidency last year, President Abdulla Yameen pledged to redevelop the airport with new foreign investment, while the government would retain the overall management of the airport.

The expansion of INIA – to accommodate five million passengers per year – subsequently featured among the ‘mega-projects’ presented to international investors during a landmark investment forum held in Singapore in April.

Shortly after the Singapore forum, the Maldivian Democratic Party – in power when the original GMR deal was signed – called for GMR’s reinstatement, vowing to annul any new airport contracts should it return to the power.

GMR’s US$1.4 billion arbitration claim was also concluded in Singapore in April, though the court has yet to announce a verdict.