(eTN)- In 2004, Maldives caught the world’s attention when then-Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom jailed members of the opposition and branded them as political dissidents. This resulted in a call for democratic reforms in the Indian Ocean nation. A call that was answered four years later, in 2008, when the politically-beleaguered nation held its first democratic election which saw Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed emerged as the new president. The change was widely recognized as the beginning of a new era.
Mohamed Adam, then-director of the Maldives Tourist Board, said: “We have a new constitution, and we have a new parliament as well, and then we have a supreme court. There will be three different independent bodies that are coming up. There will be a lot challenges and a lot of changes in the government – that’s what I see. So it totally [will] be a new democracy in the Maldives.”
Maldives’ honeymoon with its new-found democracy was short-lived, however, as trouble has once again found its way into the streets of capital Malé. As of this writing, Nasheed has resigned as the president following protests over plans to expand the luxury tourism, which ironically enough is the mainstay of the Maldivian economy but clashes with Islamist ideas popular with the Maldivian population. While, a new president, Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, has taken office, recent events indicate that the trouble for Maldives is far from being resolved.
UK-based Friends of Maldives, in a statement, said: “Currently, a large part of the population of the Maldives is demonstrating every day for early elections and for an end to police brutality. Although the demonstrations happen mostly in the capital Malé and other populated islands, there is a possibility of industrial actions, strikes and other form of protests in resorts that have links to those suspected to have involvement with the coup and related human rights abuses. While these protests don’t pose any danger, it is an inconvenience best avoided by holidaymakers.”
According to Friends of Maldives, the current political turmoil in the Maldives has deterred people from visiting the islands. “We feel the situation is not so bad, as the airport and resort islands are not linked to any population centres. We strongly recommend the advice given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK.”
In addition, Friends of Maldives has called for tourists to avoid resorts with ties to the ongoing conflict. The group’s short list include Bandos Island Resort and Spa, Sun Island Resort and Spa, Paradise Island Resort and Spa, Royal Island Resort and Spa, and Holiday Island Resort and Spa. “These are places linked to individuals or groups who we suspect to be involved in the subversion of democracy and in human rights abuses in the Maldives,” Friends of Maldives said.
In its travel advisory, Friends of Maldives urges tourists “to consider the idea of being a responsible traveller.” It said: “Don’t let your pleasant holiday contribute to the suffering of others, whether it is to the Maldives or to any other place. Find out the background of the places you visit. In many cases, you can enjoy your holiday knowing you have helped, simply by being selective.”
Friends of Maldives joins governments including the United Kingdom and the United States which have also issued travel warnings as a result of the recent clashes in Male’ and other parts of Maldives.