The Maldivian opposition has hijacked the tourism slogan “sunny side of life” to highlight alleged rights abuses after failing to secure a boycott of the luxury destination, an official said on Sunday.
Government spokesman Masood Imad said the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party was sabotaging the tourism ministry’s Twitter campaign after an unsuccessful bid to discourage holidaymakers to the pristine archipelago.
“They hijacked the Twitter campaign after they failed miserably to discourage tourists from visiting us,” Mr Imad told AFP by telephone on Sunday. “This will also fail like their previous attempts to pressure the government.”
However, campaigners have been using social media to protest against the government of President Mohamed Waheed who came power under controversial circumstances in February.
It is unclear who started using the hashtag sunny-side-of-life (#sunnysideoflife) to send out anti-government tweets, but it had become popular to vent anger against a regime the opposition see as illegitimate.
“Young people of Maldives who have seen the violence have resorted to this clever use of Twitter,” MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said.
“Sunnysideoflife we’ve been beaten up by police again and again. It won’t be the first and won’t be the LAST unless we MAKE it so.
“SunnySideOfLife: Pepper spray victims all around me.” said one Maldivian blogger on twitter. “Sunny side of life or coup side of life, locals are confused!,” said another.
“TV crew attacked by Maldives police, sunny side of life, or brutal side of life in Maldives,” said another blogger using the hashtag the authorities use to promote the Indian Ocean atoll nation known for its up market resorts.
The government had last month paid $250,000 for an international campaign that included sponsoring the weather report on BBC with a catch line: “Sunny side of life.”
Anti-government protests in the past week had turned violent with police clashing with protesters at the Republic Square in the tiny one-square mile (two square kilometres) capital island Male in the past week.
Dozens had been arrested and later released following nightly demonstrations led by former president Mohamed Nasheed who resigned in February after weeks of protests were capped by a police mutiny.
Nasheed later accused his predecessor Mohamed Waheed of being involved in a military-led coup to oust him. Nasheed is now calling for early elections, a demand rejected by Waheed.
The European Union as well as the United States and neighbouring India have called for early elections to end the political turmoil in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Nasheed became the first democratically elected leader in the Maldives following multiparty elections in October 2008.