Saturday, December 25, 2010

Maldives to welcome 750,000 th visitor this year

Press Release

Maldives extended a warm welcome to the 750,000th visitor to the country today.  British citizen, Mrs. Daniela Ruth Selig arrived Maldives this morning by British Airways flight which landed at

Mrs. Selig clocked the 750,000th visitor mark at the immigration counter where she was met by the officials of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture and the Maldives Tourism promotion Board and were presented with a beautiful flower bouquet and sash.  Mrs. Selig arrived in the Maldives with her husband and two children.    They were escorted with a warm welcome procession of traditional Boduberu beats and dance from the arrival terminal up to the VIP lounge where they were warmly welcomed by The Minister of State for Tourism, Arts & Culture Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed together with the senior officials of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board and representatives of the Tourism Industry of Maldives.   

At the VIP lounge, Mrs. Selig was presented with a gift and a special letter from the Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture extending a warm welcome and offering a special holiday package for two in the Maldives within the coming year.   

UK is one of the biggest generating market to the Maldives with a total of 95,586 arrivals to the Maldives from January to October.   This is an increase of 9.4% compared to the same period of 2009.   The 750,000th visitor being a British citizen is thought to create more interest and publicity to the destination especially amongst the British consumers.   Mrs. Selig is spending her holiday at Anantara Digu with her family.   This is her second holiday in the Maldives.     

For more information, please contact:
Maldives Tourism Promotion Board
Malé, Maldives
Telephone: +960 332 3228
Facsimile: +960 332 3229


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Luxury Vacations: I had daunting preconceived notions of what the Maldives would be like. My mind had always envisioned Tiffany box blue water, creamy white sand, and islands shaded by oceans of palm fronds. My expectations for the Maldives were more than met at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, the second Maldives resort property of the Banyan Tree resort group.

At Vabbinfaru, intimacy and care of the environment are cherished in a luxurious, natural setting. I was impressed by a number of things at Vabbinfaru, three of which I'll highlight as the most dazzling assets.

The Villas: Vabbinfaru is ringed with 48 villas, all of which house a private sunbathing deck, outdoor and indoor shower, and a jet pool. I admired the unique spiral design of our villa: our 4-post bed rested in the center of the bedroom while the bathroom unfurled into a long stretch of tiling and beach décor.

We soon learned the design mimics a seashell, which only impressed us more. Nearly half of the bedroom was composed of windows, which every moment gave us pristine, private views of the ocean just yards away. As if the ocean wasn't close enough, our private wood walkway led to a shaded escape, suspended gently over the water. As one employee mentioned to us, some guests never leave their villas.

The Marine Biology Lab: This is a first of its kind and something that just enthralled me- a fully functioning marine biology lab funded completely by a private resort. Guests are allowed to join biologists on coral evaluations, species inventory checks, and green sea turtle monitoring. We were considering one of Vabbinfaru's many water sport activities, such as wake boarding or windsurfing, but we were captivated by the opportunity to join one biologist in an enclosed area to feed young green sea turtles.

Our biologist then treated us to a guided snorkeling tour, pointing out sharks and exotic fish tucked under coral crevasses. Perhaps most impressive was the "electric reef," an electrically charged web pioneered by a handful of biologists the world over. The electric reef attracts coral growth and speeds the recovery process of damaged coral reefs. The fact that Vabbinfaru is developing and implementing technology to help keep delicate coral reefs healthy is more than a notable attribute; it's a tremendous effort worthy of international attention.

Dining: I admire a resort that seizes the sense of adventure and delight in its cuisine, especially if adventure and delight are the elements already showcased throughout the property. At Vabbinfaru, fabulous feasts are a daily occurrence. Breakfast at the palm leaf sheltered Ilaafathi restaurant offers an array of traditional Maldivian specialties as well as international staples. At night, the open-air Sangu restaurant entices guests with themed dinners warmed by fire flames and the sea breeze.


UAE discusses insurance cooperation with Maldives

Senior officials from the UAE's Insurance Authority and Maldives Monetary Authority have discussed cooperation on exchange of insurance information and regulations.

Discussions were held at a meeting between the Insurance Authority's Deputy Director General Fatima Issac Al-Awadhi and the Maldives Monetary Authority's Governor/Chairperson Fazeel Najeeb and the Executive Director of the Human Resources Division Neeza Imad.

The Maldivian officials expressed desire to send financial control staff to the Insurance Authority for training.

At the meeting, the two sides also agreed on holding further discussions on signing a memorandum of understanding.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maldives Intensifies Campaign To Tackle Climate Change

Maldives, facing an existential threat from rising sea levels, has intensified its campaign on climate change, which is led by none other than its president Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed has figured in Foreign Policy magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s most influential thinkers for his endeavours to check climate change. The magazine has described him as “the world’s most environmentally outspoken president.”

Climate change has emerged as the most important aspect of Maldivian foreign policy. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that President Nasheed has been trying to highlight the issue at all global fora. Most recently, while speaking to students in Oxford University, he urged them not to work for oil and coal companies which were responsible for major carbon emissions into the environment. He also pointed out that these companies were also funding campaigns to deny the existence of climate change. He pleaded with the students to instead join those companies engaged in the area of alternative energy sources and green technologies.

However, his campaign on climate change has come to be mired in some controversy after a UK media report, citing documents leaked by Wikileaks, suggested that Maldives had pushed for US $50 million assistance from the US government in exchange for unequivocally backing the Copenhagen Accord. According to the leaked US State Department cable marked “secret” and dated February 26, 2010, the Maldivian Ambassador, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing that several projects including harbour deepening and strengthening sea walls would cost approximately US$50 million. The cable further says that Pershing encouraged Ghafoor to provide concrete examples and specific costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance and congressional appropriations. On the basis of this conversation, the report inferred that Maldives had agreed to support the Copenhagen agreement if the US were to provide it with $50 million.

The Maldivian Foreign Ministry has however refuted this. In a press release the ministry clarified that this meeting took place nearly two months after the Copenhagen summit. It also stated that Maldives gave its support for the Copenhagen Accord unilaterally and without reservations on December 19, 2009, just hours after the climate change negotiations concluded in Copenhagen.

The ministry also released a letter sent by Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Shaheed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on December 30, 2009, in which Shaheed informed Clinton that Maldives was keen to activate the Copenhagen Accord in order to get assistance from the $30 billion fund promised in the accord as early as possible. The letter pointed out the necessity of funds being allocated for countries like Maldives which have to undertake urgent adaptation projects and programmes so that they can reorient themselves towards a low carbon future.

The press release emphasized that Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and Foreign Minister led a diplomatic offensive to urge other countries, including the US, to follow suit. Nasheed, in an interview to Foreign Policy magazine, has also urged people to take direct action and put pressure on their respective governments to abide by the agreement.

In the meantime Maldives has been taking concrete steps for its part. On 24 November 2010, Maldives released the first ever carbon audit. The audit calculates current and future emissions trajectories and recommends steps to reduce greenhouse gases and oil dependency. This audit was funded by France’s Rothschild banking dynasty and carried out by BeCitizen. According to this audit, the country’s national emissions were at 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2009. The main contributors to this were the combustion of diesel fuel oil for power generation (50 per cent), domestic transportation (22 per cent), emissions from the fishing industry (13 per cent) and waste treatment (15 per cent). The audit projects that if nothing is done to change the situation then the amount could double by 2020. On the basis of the country’s population (310,000), these emissions correspond to 4.1 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per individual. By way of comparison, India records 1.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person per year, China 5.5, France 9, and the United States 23.5.

Rising sea levels threaten the survival of Maldives prompting the country to intensify its efforts to highlight the consequences of climate change. But the country faces challenges at both the domestic as well international levels in this regard. Domestically, the carbon neutral master plan would have to be approved by its parliament, where the opposition holds the majority; this at a time when the country is in the midst of an intense phase of fractious domestic politics. At the international level, Maldives can only set an example of how to move towards reducing carbon emissions. Much would depend on what other countries do. The big emitters are not looking at Maldives as an example, claiming that their social and economic development cannot be compared to that of a small state. It is not clear whether a broader agreement on climate change will be forged before major damage is done to Maldives.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu wins the World Travel Award - “The Maldives Leading Resort”

The Coco Palm Resorts is delighted to announce that Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has won the prestigious World Travel Award in the Maldives Leading Resort category. This award is the latest in a long list of international awards for Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu including previous World Travel Awards.

World Travel Awards is the most prestigious, comprehensive and sought after awards programme in the global travel and tourism industry. World Travel Award by a process involving 183,000 travel tourism and hospitality professionals across the globe, is the best endorsement that any travel product could receive.

Coco Palm Resort believes that this award is an affirmation of the high standards and dedication to service and customer satisfaction at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. Located on one of the most gorgeous islands in the Maldives, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is a unique natural hideaway.


Afghan peace talks in Maldives propose shura

Maldives – Denials by the Taliban and Hekmatyar faction of Hizbe Islami about peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government are intended to diminish the importance and credibility of last week’s intra-Afghan conference in the Maldives.

Those talks on the island nation were attended by unofficial representatives of two Taliban militias who came to participate in efforts to chalk out a peace mechanism to end the 9-year-old conflict.

But the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, in a message posted November 15 on a militant website, repeated his calls for jihad and his demand for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan before negotiations.

A spokesman for Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar, chief of his own faction of Hizbe Islami, also denied having entered talks with Karzai’s government.

Nonetheless, more than 60 delegates from a variety of political and ethnic groups in Afghanistan and unofficial representatives of Taliban militia, Hekmatyar’s Hizbe Islami and even the Haqqani network attended the Maldives talks. More than half a dozen members of the Afghan parliament also participated, as did observers for Karzai’s government.

The third intra-Afghan conference in two years was organised by Humayoon Jareer, once a close associate of Hekmatyar.

Conference yields suggestion of supreme shura

The five-day conference, which ended November 11, discussed ways to bring all stakeholders in Afghanistan to the negotiating table. The delegates ended with formulation of a proposed peace mechanism, under which a supreme shura, the Shura-e-Aali Amniyat-e-Milli, would convene.

The supreme shura would include representatives from all political, ethnic and warring groups of Afghanistan.

Once in place, the supreme shura would scrutinise all major government policies before they are introduced before the parliament. Policies would have to pass with a two-thirds majority of the shura before moving on to parliament or being implemented.

The proposed shura would be authorised to scrutinise ministerial nominees before induction into the government, as well as candidates for the higher courts. The shura would also examine the government’s nominees for the Afghan Election Commission and Elections Complaints Commission.

The peace mechanism calls for creation of a Peace Commission to broker a ceasefire between the government and insurgent groups and to resist attempts to thwart peace efforts.

It also calls for an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

A communiqué released on last day of the conference stressed that only Afghans should be involved in the peace process. It also asks the world community, the UN and Afghanistan’s neighbours to help in the return of peace to Afghanistan.

The conference organisers are hopeful and plan to discuss the proposed peace mechanism with insurgent groups.

The unofficial representatives of the Taliban and Hizbe Islami assured the conference that they would forward the recommendations to the militias’ top leaders and prepare ground for their successful implementation.

Maldives effect on broader peace plan is unclear

Despite the attractive recommendations and presence of unofficial representatives of militant groups, the prospect for the Maldives conference is unclear. A major reason is the absence of official representatives of the Taliban, Hizbe Islami, the Afghan government and the international coalition.

Despite shortcomings, the conference delegates are hopeful and a majority of the participants called the formulation of the peace mechanism a step forward.

To many, the Maldives conference was yet another effort undertaken by outside groups to thrash out a peace solution for Afghanistan.

Without engagement of the primary actors – the Taliban, the Kabul government, and the international coalition – and bringing them face-to-face for talks, peace in Afghanistan seems a distant reality. Those three groups need to come together for the return of a permanent peace in the war-torn country.

Neighbouring countries can also play a pivotal role in the return of peace to Afghanistan.

Pakistan, for example, can influence the Taliban leadership though it cannot dictate to them.

Saudi Arabia can help bring Afghans to the negotiating table. Riyadh, however, will not talk to the al-Qaeda- dominated Taliban.

Persistent efforts are required to convince the stakeholders to kick off peace talks. And efforts must be backed by all the neighbouring countries that have influence on any of the groups.


Saarc to discuss easing movement across border

Transport ministers of all eight Saarc countries will meet in New Delhi next week to build consensus on an aviation policy providing direct flight links to all capitals and a regional motor vehicle agreement which could enable barrier-free movement of people and freight.

The two-day conference will begin on Monday which will involve transport secretaries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh , Sri Lanka, Bhutan , Nepal, Maldives and India. The transport ministers would meet the next day.

India does not have a direct flight link to Islamabad and Male. According to sources, India will raise the issue with Pakistan and Maldives to have state carriers introduce at least two flights every week.

Another major issue would be finalisation of a regional motor vehicle agreement. India’s ministry of road transport and highways was entrusted with the task of preparing an arrangement similar to European Union.

The idea is to facilitate movement between neighbouring countries and to create dedicated transport corridors in the region. Each nation would identify specific entry points for movement of passengers and goods and sort out protocol, security and customs related issues in line with the agreement.

A consensus on the agreement has been elusive since mid-2007. While Nepal has pointed out that if countries want they can enter into bilateral agreement, Pakistan has been absolutely non-committal. In the last meeting in Kathmandu, Pakistan had even refused to allow a discussion on the agreement. Pakistan had said that a Reserve Bank of India directive had banned any Pakistani national from opening an account in any government bank. There was an ugly exchange between India and Pakistan delegation.

Apart from the draft agreement, there a number of rail and road corridors will be on the agenda. Sri Lanka has been pushing for a rail link between Colombo and Chennai.

There are obvious security concerns especially after intelligence agencies have pointed out that terrorists have travelled on Samjhauta Express from Pakistan to conduct recce of probable targets in India.


World's Poorest Nations See a Glimmer of Hope

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 (IPS) - When the U.N. General Assembly recognised a special category of member states ranked as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) back in 1971, there were only 25 which qualified for the dubious distinction of being the "poorest of the world's poor".

But since then, the numbers have kept rising, reaching a high of 50. So far, the only two countries to "graduate" from LDC status - indicating a significant improvement of their economies - were Botswana in 1994 and Cape Verde in 2007.

Despite the spreading financial crisis, however, at least three countries have been earmarked for graduation in the near future: Equatorial Guinea, the Maldives and Samoa.

But Samoa has been experiencing economic difficulties because of the after-effects of the September 2009 tsunami which caused considerable devastation to the Pacific Island nation.

As a result, the General Assembly has extended Samoa's transition period until 2014.

With the fourth U.N. Conference on LDCs scheduled to take place in Turkey, May 30 through Jun. 3 next year, the focus will once again be on the plight of some 800 million people who currently live in LDCs.

The largest number of countries in the current list is from Africa (33), ranging from Angola and Benin to Uganda and Zambia.

The Asian countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The only country from Latin America and the Caribbean is Haiti.

Asked if any other LDCs are likely to graduate, at least in the next five years, the Secretary-General of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Supachai Panitchpakdi told IPS: "Yes, but perhaps not as many as I would like to see graduating."

He said much will depend on the shape and pace of the recovery, which is still very uncertain.

But a return to "business as usual" will not deliver the sustainable and inclusive growth in LDCs that is needed for graduation, he added. "A change of direction in policies, both at the macro and sectoral levels and a new generation of international support measures are needed in the coming years."

These countries, he pointed out, are structurally vulnerable to external shocks and need a carefully crafted sequence of outward-oriented support measures with appropriate flexibilities.

But preferential market access and 'special and differential treatment' (SDTs) alone cannot accelerate development in LDCs.

"What is also needed are general measures that would help increase the resilience of the LDCs to external shocks, which include, among other things, insurance mechanisms, shock- facilities and counter cyclical financing," he noted.

The U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) usually determines "eligibility" to LDC status based on several factors, including population, national income and other economic indicators, but the ultimate decision rests with the countries themselves.

Zimbabwe, for example, has refused to join the LDC group despite being judged eligible by CDP. There has been speculation that East Timor may join the ranks of LDCs in the future.

"Obviously the downturn in the global economy raises worrying concerns for some countries and while LDCs have avoided the worst of the financial aftershocks, trade, investment and remittance flows have already been adversely affected," Supachai told IPS.

"In UNCTAD we are closely monitoring the debt situation of these countries, given the way in which external shocks have in the past had a lasting negative impact on LDCs through this channel," he noted.

Asked what Western aid commitments and pledges to LDCs have been fulfilled, Supachai said the main pledge of committing 0.15 percent of gross national income (GNI) to LDCs goes back to the first LDC conference in 1981 in Paris.

More recently, the Gleneagles summit of the G8 industrial nations committed to doubling aid to Africa by 2010. Unfortunately, neither of these targets have been met, he said.

Any cutbacks in official development assistance (ODA) flows will hit the LDCs hard and the fact that some prominent G20 members - of developing and developed nations - are promising to keep to their aid commitments is welcome but needs to be monitored, Supachai added.

In 2008, net ODA flows to the LDCs amounted to a record level of some $37 billion. However, had the target agreed at the first LDC conference in 1981 been met - 0.15 percent of donors' GNI - disbursements would have totaled $60.7 billion.

As a result, the cumulative aid shortfall to LDCs since 1990 amounts to almost half a trillion dollars.

The climate challenge is further exposing the ODA shortfall, particularly in financing adaptation responses in LDCs, Supachai said. These countries have contributed the least to rising global temperatures but they are already experiencing the damaging consequences of such increases, he pointed out.

Rich countries have committed themselves to supporting the additional investment costs needed to help countries adapt to global warming. But so far, the scale of flows has not lived up to that commitment. "It is not just the scale of aid that needs attention but its composition and delivery," said Supachai.

The shift of aid flows to social sectors at the expense of building productive capacities is something UNCTAD has been worried about for some time now.

"I feel strongly that an independent assessment of the development impact of aid - a sort of 'developmental auditing of the aid regime' - is long overdue," he added.

Perhaps the place to start is with the International Development Association (IDA), a subsidiary of the World Bank, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.

Although IDA accounts for only six to seven percent of total aid flows – and perhaps double that figure for LDCs - it has had a strong influence over the development paths of recipient countries through attached policy advice and conditionalities.

An independent examination of its successes and failures might cast useful light on the aid challenges facing LDCs, said Supachai.

But there is more to development cooperation than ODA. Additional measures are necessary to support LDCs to implement their national strategies.

For instance, there is need to articulate tailor-made national and international responses for each LDC to make support measures more effective and better targeted to countries' needs, he noted.

Greater coherence between the international strategy for LDCs and other existing development strategies, including those initiated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is also critical.



Asian countries welcome more visitors in August

Asian destinations continued to prove appealing to travellers in August 2010, according to the latest figures from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata).

The report indicated year-on-year growth of 10% in visitor arrivals, with travel sentiment remaining 'very robust' and airlines providing more seat capacity on flights to the region.

Locations such as the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka all reported double-digit increases in the number of inbound tourists in August.

Pata revealed that foreign arrivals to China 'surged' by 17% in the month, while the Pacific hotspots of Australia and New Zealand also welcomed more visitors.

Kris Lim, director of the association's Strategic Intelligence Centre, said: 'The growth momentum remains strong and the immediate outlook remains very positive.

'Early indications have suggested another strong performance in September as key destinations such as China, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore have continued to report strong inbound growth.'


Viceroy offers first look at Maldives hotel

Viceroy is planning to open its resort in the Maldives next summer with innovative design from Yabu Pushelberg and marking the first hotel for Viceroy outside North America and the Caribbean.

The resort is in the Shaviyani Atoll an hour north of Male and will have just 61 villas but serviced by 215 staff, who will include general manager Uday Rao, who comes with many years experience with Four Seasons, including in Mumbai and the Maldives.

The group insisted its growth – so far in places such as Anguilla, Snowmass Colorado and Miami - would be in absolutely the “right places for the brand” rather following the “bandwagon” growth of some resort groups.

Michael Lorenz, Viceroy’s vice president of sales, said key “sexy cities” such as London, Paris and New York are also in the group’s sights.

Abu Dhabi (Sowwah Island) and Beverly Hills (currently L’Ermitage Beverly Hills) are in development under the Viceroy brand and there could be up to 35 hotels in 10 years time. “There’s no need for speed, just good solid growth,” said Lorenz.

He added: “We will build the brand for our customers and what they want, not for us. This involves everything from listening to guests, to specific travel advisory boards so we know what people look for.”

Lorenz said the Maldives property would have the “amenities of an 120-room property but on just a 60-key island”, including five dining options and an over-water spa. A resort highlight will be the “tree house” beachside lounge (pictured above).

“We offer modern luxury that gives an edge. We have gathered top people from leading companies and are offering what we feel is something different," said Lorenz.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maldives offers warmest 'red carpet' welcome to Miss France contestants

Maldives offered the warmest welcome to participants of Miss France 2011, the organising committee said Thursday.

Special Envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, Tourism Minister Dr Mariam Zulfa, Sunland Hotel Directors and senior officials of Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) welcomed the 33 participants on Thursday. Cultural activities were also held at Male International Airport.

Organising Committee General Manager Sylvie Celia told journalists that Maldives offered an extraordinary welcome.

“This is the best welcome we received in the past five years that we have been working with this company. The red carpet welcome, the small children there and Maldives is very beautiful,” Celia, who won the Miss France title in 2002, said.

“The photos taken in Maldives will be published on a French magazine from today onwards. The event is very much supported by the French public.”

Miss France 2010 Melaka Menard said she never expected such a welcome from Maldives.

“This is the first time I have been in the Maldives. I am very pleased to be here. Maldives offered us a very warm welcome. After the trip I will talk about Maldives in France,” she said.

Miss France 2011 partner, Sunland Hotels, brought over 80 people along with the 33 contestants.

A Sunland Travels official said a fashion show would be held in Coco Palm Boduhithi where the candidates will be staying from November 11-18.

“Australian swimming wear and Maldivian designers’ dresses will be shown at the fashion show,” the official said.

According to Sunland Hotels, video and photo sessions and learning to cook Maldivian dishes will take place in Coco Palm.

The Miss France 2011 contest will be held on December 4 in Caen, France.

Maldives also hosted a Miss World event earlier.

Source: Haveeru Daily

ONYX Hospitality Group to manage MTDC resort in Maldives

ONYX Hospitality Group , Thailand’s leading hotel management company, has been appointed by the Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc (MTDC) to manage the Herathera Island Resort commencing December 1, 2010. Set on Addu, the southern-most atoll in the Maldives, approximately 480km south of the capital Male, the 273-villa resort features three natural lagoons, a turtle hatchery and a unique 4 km beach, the longest of any resort within the archipelago.

Recreational facilities at Herathera Island Resort include three swimming pools, a range of restaurants and bars, a spa and dive centre. During the course of 2011, the resort will undergo significant upgrades including enhancements to the beach and villas as well as the addition of numerous sports and children’s facilities. The resort will then be re-launched as an Amari, the centrepiece brand of the ONYX portfolio, and be positioned as a leading destination in the Maldives for activity and family holidays.

“We are thrilled that our first international management agreement is in such a renowned tourist destination as the Maldives,” said Peter Henley, CEO of ONYX Hospitality Group, adding, “we look forward to working closely with MTDC on a range of exciting improvements so that this wonderful resort will be able to showcase its full potential.”

MTDC’s chief executive officer Mohammed Mihad noted: “We are focused on further developing the southern part the Maldives with Gan International Airport as the hub. The re-launch of Herathera under the new management will play a significant part in this.”


Jumeirah’s First Maldives Resort is Opening in January 2011

Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality company and member of Dubai Holding, has revealed the new brand name of its first resort currently under way in the Maldives: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (formerly Jumeirah Meradhoo).

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is an exclusive all suite resort and scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2011. Situated in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, 400 km south of the capital city of Malé, it is located in an area of extraordinary beauty surrounded by unspoiled coral reefs.

The intimate resort comprises 22 island villas, offering a distinctive residential feel, as well as an exclusive water village, called the Hermitage Collection, including 16 ocean villas, that are separated from the main island. The Hermitage Collection at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is resplendently poised for the most discerning traveller wanting to experience a truly unique level of remote luxury. The villas, named Revives and Sanctuaries, range from 200m² to 600m² in size and offer stunning sea views, direct access to the beach and 24 hour butler service. The design of the bountiful bedrooms is inspired by traditional Maldivian architecture.

The resort features three restaurants and a bar with a variety of culinary options, as well as a Talise Spa with imaginatively designed over water treatment rooms and extensive sports and leisure facilities.

The second property under way in the Maldives is Jumeirah Vittaveli. The five star deluxe family resort is located in the South Malé Atoll and is scheduled to open in March 2011.

About Jumeirah Group | Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding, operates a world-class portfolio of hotels and resorts. Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts includes Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah The Meydan and Jumeirah Bab Al Shams in Dubai; Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London; and Jumeirah Essex House in New York. Jumeirah Group also runs the luxury serviced residences brand Jumeirah Living; the spa brand Talise; Jumeirah Restaurants; Wild Wadi Waterpark; The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management; and Sirius, its global loyalty programme. Jumeirah Group has recently unveiled VENU Hotels, a contemporary lifestyle hotel brand.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Maldives vows wedding crackdown

Maldivian High Commissioner to UK, Dr Farahanaz Faisal: "The whole country is shocked"

The Maldives' leader has promised strict new guidelines on conducting wedding ceremonies for tourists, after a couple renewing vows were abused.

All tourist hotels will be required to follow the rules to be issued shortly, President Mohamed Nasheed said in his weekly radio address.

He described the behaviour of those involved as "absolutely disgraceful".

Police have detained a celebrant who allegedly called the foreign couple "infidels" during a luxury ceremony.

'French' couple

The president's office told the BBC that the man was among two hotel employees detained.

Footage of the ceremony, which took place earlier this month, has gone viral since being posted on YouTube days ago.

With police refusing to confirm the couple's nationality, their identity remains a mystery, although a Maldives tourism official told AFP news agency they were French.

President Nasheed urged all those working in the Indian Ocean island's holiday resorts to be "vigilantly professional".

He noted that "bad behaviour, such as that depicted in the YouTube video, can cause enormous damage to the country's tourism industry".

The government has launched an investigation into the incident at the Vilu Reef resort.

Amateur film on YouTube shows a celebrant explaining the ceremony in English before everyone stands and holds their hands up to pray.


He uses the intonating style of prayers to unleash a torrent of abuse in the Dhivehi tongue on the couple, who smile shyly, unaware of what is being said.

"Your marriage is not a valid one," he says. "You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel.

"The other, too, is an infidel - and we have reason to believe - an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion.

"You fornicate and make a lot of children. You drink and you eat pork.

"Most of the children that you have are marked with spots and blemishes. These children that you have are bastards."

The camera focuses on the paperwork in front of him, which local media say was not a marriage document but employment contracts - he then begins to read from these.

The celebrant also makes references to bestiality, sexual diseases and "frequent fornication by homosexuals".

After the ceremony, the couple are taken to plant a coconut tree together, during which various comments are made about the bride's breasts.

Vilu Reef hotel, run by Sun Hotels and Resorts, charges $1,300 (£820) for the ceremony, which it says offers couples the chance to "mark a milestone in your amazing journey together".

The hotel has apologised for the conduct of its staff.

Manager Mohamed Rasheed told AFP on Thursday: "The man had used filthy language. Otherwise the ceremony was OK."


Tourists conned by Maldives marriage officiator

Two Swiss tourists who chose the Maldives' white-sand beaches as the setting to renew their marriage vows were instead mocked by the officiator, who chanted abuse and curses in the local language at the unsuspecting couple.

The ceremony, posted on YouTube with English subtitles translating the abuse, has embarrassed the Maldives, and President Mohammed Nasheed condemned it as "absolutely disgraceful." Police arrested the celebrant and a helper — an apparent damage-control bid for the country whose economy is driven by tourism.

Police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told The Associated Press on Friday that the two men under arrest were hotel employees.

The government identified the couple as Swiss nationals but did not name them.

The video, posted Sunday, shows the woman in a white dress and the man wearing a white shirt and khaki trousers, standing with their palms facing upward around a table with two rings in coconut shells. Two witnesses and the celebrant are also present, all of them in a palm-leaf enclosure.

The officiator begins chanting in the Dhivehi language that "under penal code clause seven, forbidden fornication is now legal," and goes on to insult the couple, including calling them "swine." The whole time he maintains a prayer-like, chanting tone, bowing his head and gently rocking forward and back.

"Most of the children you get will have spots on their skin. Because of these spots your children will be considered illegitimate children," he says.

Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed apologized to the couple and said diplomats have been asked to meet them.

"The Maldives is grateful that the couple in question chose to renew their vows in one of our resorts. ... Because of the disrespectful and unacceptable actions of a few individuals, we have let them down," Shaheed said in his statement.

The ministry will write to the Swiss government to express its regret as well, Shaheed said.

The country's Tourism Ministry said in a statement that it is working with the resort to compensate the couple for the distress caused by the incident. It also promised tough action against the offenders.

"Episodes such as that captured on video have no place in the Maldives and are not in any way representative of the holiday experience enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year," the ministry said.

The Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago of 350,000 people chosen by many tourists for weddings and honeymoons.

Source: AP

Celebrant insults couple in native language

A luxury resort in the Maldives is under fire after employees used their native language to viciously insult an oblivious couple during a wedding ceremony.

Video uploaded to the internet shows the couple renewing their wedding vows with a celebrant speaking in the Dhivehi language at the Vilu Reef Beach and Spa resort.

But while the Islamic-style ceremony sounds legitimate to an English ear, a translation of the marriage vows reveals the celebrant, an employee named Hussein Didi, had other intentions.

"You are swine. The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine," Didi says, according to the Daily Mail.

"Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage.

"One of you is an infidel. The other too is an infidel and, we have reason to believe, an atheist who does not even believe in an infidel religion."

He is holding a document in his hand that shows text referring to "staff employment", suggesting it has nothing to do with marriage laws in the Maldives.

The couple are surrounded by close to 15 employees from the resort, none of whom attempt to stop the ceremony.

Didi reportedly continues insulting the English-speaking couple, who have not been identified, for nearly 15 minutes.

At one point the bride bends down to plant a coconut tree and a man is heard saying "can see her breasts".

Didi replies: "She is wearing something ... because my beard has gone grey watching those things. I have seen so many of them now that I don’t even want to look any more when I see them".

Police in the Maldives are investigating the incident, which has reportedly horrified the country's tourism authorities.

Employees at the resort, where room rates start from $1335 per person per night, have reportedly been sacked after the video emerged online.

In a statement, the resort's management expressed "deep concern and regret" over the insulting ceremony.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beating the White House to the Solar Punch

An island nation races ahead of the U.S. to capture the solar limelight

The Obama administration plans for the White House to go solar by next spring, but the U.S. first residence will be beaten to the renewable energy punch by the presidential home of an island nation in the Indian Ocean at the front line of climate change risk.

Workers on Thursday finished installation of 48 solar photovoltaic modules on the rooftop of the Mulee Aage, the official residence of the president of the Maldives—a system engineered by satellite technology from halfway around the world in California.

It is the latest gambit by Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed to draw attention to the problem of global warming, a ladder-high follow-up to an underwater cabinet meeting he staged one year ago.

The Maldives, a tropical archipelago of 1,190 coral islands spread out over 500 miles (860 kilometers), averages only about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level, making it vulnerable to sea level rise and typhoons.

Nasheed says 16 of the islands already face serious erosion problems, and on 60 islands important freshwater sources have been contaminated by saltwater intrusion. The nation also worries that the depletion troubling its fishing industry, its second-largest economic sector next to tourism, is due to changes in the global climate.

“For the Maldives, climate change . . . is not a problem in the future,” Nasheed said in a conference call Tuesday from his nation’s capital, Male. “It is a problem that we are facing every day.”

The Maldives: Not a Big Polluter

The 11.5-kilowatt system that’s being installed is designed to generate 15,000 kilowatt-hours per year for the next 25 years, saving 200 tons of carbon dioxide. It’s meant to highlight Nasheed’s pledge to make the country 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2020, the most aggressive goal among the carbon-reduction plans submitted to the United Nations in the wake of the Copenhagen Accord.

For the Maldives to go zero carbon, however, hardly registers as a blip in worldwide greenhouse gas reduction.

The nation, with a total land area not even double the size of Washington, D.C., has little area for the kind of manufacturing or agriculture that would generate large emissions.

The Maldives ranks 168 out of 186 countries in carbon output, according to the World Resources Institute’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool.

But for the nation’s 400,000 people, there’s a short-term renewable energy benefit—saving money. Like many island states, the Maldives relies mainly on oil to power its electricity—an expensive option that also leaves the nation vulnerable to wild swings in the global price of oil.

The Oakland, California, solar firm that designed the Mulee Aage system, Sungevity, estimates that it will save the Maldives government $300,000 in electricity costs over the life of the system. The panels were donated by the Korean module manufacturer LG Electronics.

“President Nasheed is demonstrating it is a wise, affordable investment for his country, just as President Obama has decided to show the people of America that solar is a wise, affordable investment for them,” said Danny Kennedy, co-founder and president of Sungevity.

Kennedy, a native of Australia was a longtime Greenpeace activist before starting the firm and was involved in the campaign that helped spur the California Solar Initiative. Along with the climate activism group, he has been one of the driving forces urging Obama and other world leaders to install solar energy systems on their residences.

In addition to the Maldives system and the planned installation at the White House, one other first residence gets power from the sun. In July, India’s presidential estate, Rashtrapati Bhavan, became a green-certified facility after a solar energy system was installed.

A Natural Turn of Events’

But for the Put Solar On It campaign there was no greater coup than Tuesday’s announcement that the Obama administration would bring solar power back to the White House after almost 25 years. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels in the 1970s, but they were taken down during the 1980s by his successor, President Ronald Reagan.

When founder and writer/activist Bill McKibben led a group of activists to a meeting at the White House to push the solar idea last month, they came away disappointed.

The turnaround this week may have surprised some activists, but Nasheed said he wasn’t among them. “I have always felt President Obama is a believer,” he said. “That’s why in my mind, this was a natural turn of events.”

The Maldives solar system was designed using a remote-engineering system developed by Sungevity. Using photographs from space and other aerial images, the company creates a computerized three-dimensional model of a building that can provide enough detailed data on roof pitch and azimuth—essentially the angle at which the sun hits—to design the system in the company’s California offices. Pointing to a mango tree in a demonstration of the system using the Maldives photographs, Kennedy said, “That’s our chief shade threat right now.”

The two-year-old company has been doing such long-distance designs for homeowners in California, Colorado, and Arizona—allowing customers to get a system design and price quote by e-mail—and hopes to roll out a nationwide program next year. “We’re trying to make it feel like other internet commerce,” says Kennedy, whose company leases the systems so that customers don’t have to pay the entire capital cost of solar up front. He says about 60 percent of the company’s current customers save money on their electric bills right away, and the company pledges that all will save money over the 10-year span of their leases.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that we’ve got a solution, and that has been my view of what the social movements have to do now,” says Kennedy.

The Maldives presidential residence is the longest-distance installation that Sungevity has engineered, and Kennedy hopes to join Nasheed on the roof of the Mulee Aage to install the final panels and switch the system on Thursday. In the face of global inaction on a climate treaty, Nasheed—a former political activist who was imprisoned several times by the former governmental regime before he won election in 2008—said he is just taking the kind of step that’s needed.

“What we have to do, we have to do by direct action,” he said. “Now as a president, it’s very difficult for me to be talking like this. But whatever I have been able to do, I have done it against odds. This has to involve an amount of direct action on the streets.”


Maldivian president climbs roof to set up solar panels

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed climbed onto the roof of his official residence and installed solar electricity panels Thursday as part of a nationwide green drive, his office said.

Nasheed, 43, known as a stunt man in the fight against climate change, clambered onto the roof in the capital Male to install the solar panels.

It is the latest move by the president to highlight the Maldives' vulnerability to rising sea levels.

In October last year he took his cabinet to the bottom of the Indian Ocean and staged the first underwater cabinet meeting.

He insists that he wants the country to be a showcase for renewable and clean energy and has vowed to make the tiny atoll nation of 1,192 low-lying coral islands carbon neutral by 2020.

"Solar power helps combat climate change, reduces our dependency on imported oil and most importantly cuts out electricity costs," Nasheed's office quoted him as saying after installing the solar panels.

The Maldives, an upmarket tourist destination, is one of the most vulnerable countries to the rising sea levels anticipated as a result of global warming.

Source: AFP

World of corals at Maldives

By Preeti Verma Lal

On the sun-kissed sugary white beach, amid the crackle of the palm fronds and the murmur of the white waves, I first noticed his crown, edgy, spiky, decked in a luminous reddish-purple. He looked a tad tubby and awfully rugged. I had heard stories about his voracious appetite and his love for solitude. Yet, he mesmerized me.

That monsoon morning I was ready to forgive all his flaws. Faraway in the Vabbinfaru island of Maldives, I was falling in love with the enemy. A predator. A deadly predator.

Yellow Soft Coral underwater

"He is the biggest enemy; he is a ruthless killer". In the thatched Banyan Tree Marine Lab, marine biologist Dr Steven P. Newman's voice was getting drowned in the roar of the thrashing waves. In the emerald waters, the coral reefs looked resplendent and by the brown wooden jetty, the sting rays were gamboling.

The dhoni (traditional fishing boat) was waiting to take me on a fishing expedition, but in the world's lowest lying country it was the enemy that had me captivated. In the Marine Lab, all around lay corals, soft, pearly white corals that could serve as dainty curtains for a gnome home, red coral with symmetrical slits, stony coral, finger coral the size of fries, rubbly limestone made of petrified coral...

And there he was, the handsome predator for whom my heart was pounding, the crown-of-thorns starfish. I was aghast that something so gorgeous could be so treacherous, it can wolf down 65sq ft of coral annually!

Yes, the crown-of-thorns starfish that borrows its name from the venomous thorn-like spine is the nemesis of the coral, for it feeds on coral polyps and destroys the coral reefs that act as natural barriers for waves and beach erosion. In Maldives, a chain of 1,199 coral islands that sit smug in the Indian Ocean, the coral reefs can be deemed survival kits.

Male, capital city of Maldives

The highest point in Maldives is less than 1.5 metres above sea level and in the past 15 years the temperature and water levels have been rising menacingly and the nation is sinking helplessly.

Naysayers predict that by the turn of the century, Maldives would vanish off the map, buried in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The 1998 El Nino mass coral bleaching disaster aggravated the woes of the nation that was first settled in 5th century BC by fishermen of Tamil lineage.

The thought of the beautiful nation meeting its watery grave perturbed me and I forgot all about snorkeling and fishing for barracudas; in Maldives, I was game for a coral lesson in the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru Marine Lab that was established in 2004 for reef restoration.

"Want to plant a coral garden?" Holding a block of wet cement in hand, Dr Newman threw a question. A coral garden? And I thought only lilac, lilies, lavender, and laburnum and the like grew in gardens. Ah! I'm so ignorant. Yes, baby coral fragments can be planted on cement blocks, that can grow into burly reefs within years in tepid waters.

Pink Soft Coral underwater

"Or, one could plant electric reefs," Dr Newman was stumping me with jargon. Put simply, electric reefs are metal framework connected to a low voltage current that help in mineral accretion.

Coral use calcium to build their rock skeletons and they certainly grow faster on these 'electric' reefs. The barnacle and necklace reefs looked attractive...but all coral lessons were getting addled in my head.

World of corals at Maldives

All that stayed etched was the fact that due to the Banyan Tree initiative, the reefs around Vabbinfaru and Ihuru islands on North Male Atoll have attained 45% recovery since El Nino, a feat unheard of befoew in the island nation.

Coral had so taken over my mind space that in the downpour, I was ready to wriggle into my wellingtons, hop into a speed boat and head to the capital Male, pronounced Maa-lay, not like the opposite of female. Improbably the world's second most populated island, Male is miniature-sque, barely 2.5 sq. km. So tiny is Male that it could well be a mannequin, but the physical stats were the least of my worries.

Giant Clam mantle, Maldives

I plodded through puddles in narrow lanes to see the nation's oldest coral mosque in which neither an inch of wood nor an ounce of iron is used. Amazingly, it is made of handcrafted coral, blocks tidily stacked over each other. Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskander in 1658, the mosque is replete with tombs of the royal family, a sun dial and the imperial insignia chiseled in black coral.

I stood by the staircase (women are not allowed inside), covered my head, closed my eyes and muttered a prayer. Not for myself, but appropriately for the coral reefs that are so essential for the survival of Maldives. Thus beseeched in coral, can He ignore my plea?

Cluster of tiny green sea Anenome's in Maldives

That, however, was not the end of my tryst with Male, for turtles were waiting at the Velavaru Island in South Nilandhe Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane ride from the Male airport.

Roughly 10,000 ft up in the sky, I could not spot the Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles that nest near Angsana Velavaru; from close to the heavens, all I could see was the islands looking like squiggles painted carelessly by a neophyte painter.

Sea turtle in Maldives

In the luxurious Angsana Velavaru where villas stand on stilts in the middle of the Indian Ocean and where food is so sumptuous that even gods can order a take-away, marine biologist Mirta Moraitis taught me all that I ever needed to know about green sea turtles.

Endangered because of over-harvesting (only 1% baby turtles reach adulthood), Angsana Marine Lab initiated a Head Start programme for baby turtles, they are cared for in the pen for the first two years of their life and then tagged and released.

A starfish

Suddenly, I was distracted. I saw the handsome predator again. My heart pounded again. Moraitis knows that the predator deserves a horrid fate, it is killed with a knife and its remains buried. Burial is important because the nocturnal starfish can regenerate out of dismembered remnants.

I closed my eyes; I cannot watch anything getting killed. Not even an enemy. But in Maldives, I took a vow, never to fall in love with an enemy. Never with a predator. Coral, I will love you now...


Can luxury and greenery mix after all?

When you arrive at Soneva Fushi, one of the world’s most exclusive – and expensive – resorts, they take away your shoes: you are expected to go barefoot throughout your stay on this beautiful, wild island in the Maldives. When you leave, you get your loafers back, but are charged extra to cover your holiday’s carbon footprint.

Guests pay two per cent on top of their already hefty bills – room rates normally range from $1,000 to $8,000 a night – in a carbon tax believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. It is highly and explicitly visible on the account, but no-one has ever objected to stumping up. That’s a surprise – for although they can well afford the levy, the super rich can be notoriously tight-fisted.

Maybe it's because the money – $1.7 million raised so far from this and two similar Soneva resorts in the Maldives and Thailand – is used transparently to reduce carbon emissions. It funds a community project – which originated in the Somerset village of Chew Magna – to replace coal-fired power stations with wind turbines in southern India.

But perhaps, too, it is because the philosophy of the resort – which aims to take people "luxuriously back to nature" by creating "innovative and enriching experiences in a sustainable environment" – seeps into visitors as they collect their suntans. It is part of a growing move to reconcile luxury with greenery – a sharp counterpoint to the hair-shirt environmentalism promoted by some of the (at times wealthy) founders of the green movement.

Just three weeks ago, Paris staged a four-day Ethical Fashion Show with top designers parading skirts of recycled bottletops, dresses made from old photo negatives and gowns made of cast-off shirts. In Italy, Giorgio Armani has begun working with recycled polyester, and Fendi has produced a line of bags made from reused tyres.
Louis Vuitton has scrapped plastic wrapping for deliveries. The hybrid Toyota Prius quickly became the wheels of choice for high-rolling Hollywood stars. And this summer, Alistair Callender, a young British designer, unveiled plans for a guilt-free gin palace – a £40 million, 58 foot super-yacht powered by solar energy – at boat shows in Monaco and Abu Dhabi.

"Luxury and sustainable development are compatible", says Sylvie Bernard, head of environment at the LVMH group whose brands include Moët Hennessy and Dior. Sonu Shivdasani – who created Fushi Soneva with his wife Eva – not only concurs, but is this weekend hosting a conference at the resort addressed by leading environmentalist and tourism experts – including Jonathon Porritt and Prof Geoffrey Lipman, a former President of the World Travel and Tourism Council – in the hope of persuading other top hoteliers to go green.
The growing movement is in direct conflict with the many environmentalists who have long insisted that people in developed countries must lower their standards of living for the sake of the planet. But Shivdasani – a contemporary of David Cameron at Eton and Oxford – believes this is both unrealistic and wrongheaded.
"People are not just going to give things up", he says. "Instead we must help change habits while delivering the same luxury in a sustainable way, demonstrating an intelligent alternative."

His remote resort, beloved by celebrities such as Madonna and Paul McCartney seeking a place not to be seen, naturally – in both senses of the word – provides top-flight hospitality, while eschewing carbon-soaked conspicuous consumption. Guests are provided with ancient bikes with which to negotiate the resort's dirt tracks. Floors in public areas are sand, buildings are thatched in local materials, and the vegetables come from the organic garden.

Plastics are banned, waste is recycled at a special facility on site, and no bottled water can be brought in: the hotel desalinates its own, charges for it and gives the profits to charities, so far providing clean water for more than 250,000 people. Some celebrities have apparently objected that they only drink a particular brand, but accepted when told they cannot have it. A solar power station is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent next year – on the way to the resort becoming zero carbon.

It seems to work for Shivdasani: half his customers return and his business, Six Senses, is growing fast and constantly opening new resorts. He now wants to spread the word: anyone could adopt his eco-friendly practices, he says, not least because they are cheaper than the conventional alternatives.
But he'll need to try again. Only one other company is attending the conference – following some late cancellations. What a shame the potential barefoot hoteliers got cold feet.


Eco Symposium: Maldives president says 'travel hurts us but we can't live without it'

Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed appealed to travel agents to package the Maldives as a low-carbon destination as it moves to be carbon-neutral by 2020. He cited host resort Soneva Fushi, set to be carbon-neutral in 2012, as a choice customers could make over more carbon-intensive destinations.

But speaking to TTG at the Eco Symposium 2010, he admitted he had no answer to the problem of travel’s economic contribution to the Maldives versus its climate impact on the region. “It’s bad, travel is going to hurt us, but we can’t live without it. We’ve fashioned an economy out of travel and leisure.

“The only alternative we would be able to offer is no carbon emissions once you come here - so increase the length of your stay to minimise impact.

“This is where I concede I don’t have a good answer.”

In a passionate speech to delegates, Nasheed made clear the stark realities of the crisis his country is facing.

“The signs are clear – there is no doubt,” he said. “This is a very present challenge, not an issue for the future. We have already had to relocate people from 16 islands and we have water problems on 70 islands, pressure on fish stock and food security issues.”

He said the prospect of relocation was very difficult to talk about or consider for him and his people. “We have been here 5,000 years, we have a written history 1,000 years old. I recently visited an island where eight homes were being evacuated. Everyone was crying. A woman said to me: ‘I can move but where will the butterflies go? Where will the sounds and colours go?’

“It is not easy to talk about but the bottom line is dry land.”

When asked how to get the US to tackle climate change, the president called on young people in the country to replicate the street protests of the 1960s in a bid to persuade politicians to take action.

He said: “To move the US we must have direct action. The battle must be fought on the street. Politicians do not do anything unless told to do so by the people.

“In the US it must be possible to galvanise the people. I believe it is possible and mass direct action must happen. I don’t know when it will happen, but I think we will see another 1960s when everybody is out on the streets.”

Nasheed said his government had tabled a new national building code this month as part of the move to carbon neutrality, and other moves included a recent ban on shark fishing, with a payout of $30 million to compensate families whose livelihoods were affected by the ban.


Does spending two weeks surrounded by blondes sound like heaven? Think again

A Lithuanian travel agency (and who, when planning a dream holiday, would look for anything else?) has announced plans for a resort in the Maldives staffed entirely by blondes.

Reception staff, waitresses, hotel managers: all will be fair-haired women, reached by special charter flights with blonde cabin crew and, if they can find enough of them, blonde lady pilots.

It sounds TERRIFYING. All very comical on paper, but imagine actually being there. Ever since I read about the Lithuanian plan, I have been singing (to the tune of the old Stealers Wheel classic): "Blondes to the left of me, blondes to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with roots."

None of them will have dyed hair since the reason for the resort, the planners claim, is to "disprove the idea that blondes are less competent". Oh yes, that's the reason…

There must be no peroxide fakes if they want their story to hold up. So you have to assume everyone will be white, too. Everywhere you look: Identikit pale, yellow-haired, grinning people in uniforms. Spine-chilling. It's a vision of how Europe would look if Hitler had won. If not Nazi it is, at least, rather Midwich Cuckoos. Even if your conscious brain finds the idea of Blonde Island sexy, your subconscious would know something was wrong. You would feel unsettled, gripped by a sense of indefinable weirdness like the hour before food poisoning kicks in.

Does your conscious brain find it sexy? We have to assume that's the real motivation behind the scheme. These are business people, not scientists. You couldn't actually test the relevance of hair colour to efficient croissant delivery unless you ran an identical resort next door staffed by brunettes. And a third staffed by redheads; that one, I suppose, would have to be a little shadier.

Since my column about cheerleading for children, I am nervous to write anything about female stereotypes. My website, my Twitter feed and the Observer desk have been swamped by furious cheerleaders explaining that they do not operate in a "supporting" role (I apologise for the misunderstanding; should they perhaps consider changing their name?), plus men and women who think I despise anyone good-looking or that I'm radically opposed to femininity. ("Vicky Coren is likely to be envious of their youth and glamour," wrote one kindly gentleman on my blog.)

Let me say, then, that I have nothing against Lithuanian travel agents opening a novelty blonde resort. It will grab coverage in men's magazines during a recession; not a bad idea. And if anyone thinks they would enjoy a holiday where all the staff look the same, good luck to them; I expect they'd run screaming for the airport after a week, but it might make one interesting Sunday.

Forgive me, though, for being amused by the idea that men still grade women according to hair colour. I bet they don't. The average man who's old enough to book his holidays on a credit card has, I'm sure, enough experience of the world to know that nobody is so easily categorised. Yet the culture persists in trying to sell men "blondes" and "brunettes" as though they were different in any way other than how quickly you'd notice stray hairs in the bath. On the plus side, it's all very adoring. Anyone sounds gorgeous when described simply as a blonde, a brunette or a redhead. With only those nouns to go on, you imagine a line-up of Veronica Lake, Jayne Mansfield and Rita Hayworth. I don't know why, but your brain doesn't throw you Angela Merkel, Monica Lewinsky and Nicholas Witchell.

Women's magazines, meanwhile, divide men into far gloomier and more complicated stereotypes. Our theoretical lovers, when grouped, have more narrative attached. It's not about hair colour, it's about character type and potential misery. In a holiday resort, of course, this makes the activities far easier to organise.

Here is a list of the islands I am planning to open for business: ladies, let me know which you'd visit so I know where first to make my fortune.


Blonde island resort plans spark media maelstrom

A Lithunian company's plans to create a resort island in the Maldives staffed entirely by beautiful blonde women has created an international media sensation as it draws harsh criticism for being discriminatory.

The Lithuania-based "Olialia" has already built a business empire, with dozens of products advertised by beautiful, scantily-clad blonde models dressed up as scientists and businesswomen.

Their latest plan to create a resort island staffed wholly by blondes (even the pilots and flight attendents on the plane there would be blonde), has now drawn the attention of major news outlets in nearly every European country.

The company claims that their products help to shatter stereotypes of blonde women. Critics, however, argue that the use of beautiful, half-naked blondes to advertise their products only further objectifies women.

In an English-language press release, the company acknowledged the media attention, but downplayed plans to build a resort.

"„Olialia“ team received lots of attention from foreign media consurning (sic) THE TOTALLY BLOND ISLAND IN MALDIVES... While the Maldives project is still in the pipelines we can discuss other 75 already living and breathing „Olialia“ projects, such as „Olialia Cola“, „Olialia Models“ and so on," the English-language press release said.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CWG critics failed to judge new India: Nasheed

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who witnessed opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, on Monday hailed the arrangements for the sporting event and dismissed the criticism that preceded it as creation of "old and established" media which failed to judge "new" India. He said it was not fair
to project the image of entire CWG through one dirty "toilet" as some hitches are bound to be there in preparations for any mega event.

"They (critics) wanted to judge India, may be through the image of India (as was) in 80s or previous generation's idea of India. It is different India," Nasheed said.

"It is difficult for some of the people especially media, old and established, to judge India....I think it is their difficulty to understand how India has evolved," he said, adding some people have to "certainly understand that new India is different. They are also going through a learning curve."

Nasheed specifically came here to witness the opening ceremony of the Games at the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium last night.

"It was very spectacular and very beautiful", said the extremely impressed Maldivian President, whose country is among 71 participants in the mega sporting event.

He expressed confidence that the Games will be as "perfect and as good" as they would have been at any other place in the world.

On widespread criticism in international media over the preparations for the Games, Nasheed said there must be reasons for perception that the CWG will not be "efficient" but to "generally highlight the whole image of the Games with one toilet is ludicrous. I don't think, it was responsible or clever either."

The international media had severely criticised and raised question over India's capability to host such an event.

"The Games will be good, of course it is going to have some hitches here, a broken spring there and so on but by and large I am sure the Games are going to as perfect as any games anywhere else," the visiting President said.


Woman's body found washed up on Maldives beach

Police are investigating the death of a British woman whose body was discovered washed up on a beach in the Maldives.

Sharon Duval, 42, from Kidlington, Oxfordshire, is believed to have been on her honeymoon with husband Nick when the death happened.

A Maldives Police Service spokesman said the body was found on a beach at the LH. Kuredhu Resort at 0030 local time on Saturday.

The Foreign office said it was "urgently investigating" the death.

A spokeswoman added: "We stand ready to provide consular assistance."

The Serious and Organised Crime Department of Maldives Police Service is also conducting an investigation into the death.


Blonde-Only Resort Island Coming to the Maldives?

A Lithuanian company is hoping to set up a resort island in the beautiful Maldives that is exclusively run by blondes. Let the dumb blonde jokes begin!

The company, Olialia, is completely run by blondes and they want to extend their business model into the field of holiday making. Olialia wants to build a resort that is entirely run by a blonde staff, and would even offer special flights to the island with an all-blonde flight crew.

The business plan has faced heavy criticism, with objectors calling the idea both sexist and racist. But Giedre Pukiene, Olialia's managing director, denies that her company discriminates when hiring, adding that "when women with dark hair work here, they are surrounded by all these beautiful blondes, so eventually they end up going blonde too."

Whether or not you are offended by the company's strategy and even if the resort never actually comes to fruition, Olialia seems to be doing something right. The company expects to double its net profits to $10 million and is recognizable to the majority of Lithuanians.


Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh meets New Zealand governor general, Maldives president

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday met with visiting Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed and New Zealand Governor General Anand Satyanand, both of who witnessed the spectacular opening ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games here.

The first Indian-origin governor-general, Satyanand, met with Manmohan Singh in the morning, and discussed issues related to bilateral interests, as well as regional and multilateral issues. The governor-general is the representative of the British Queen, who is the head of state in New Zealand.

Satyanand had earlier met with members of the New Zealand sports delegation. He was also present at the welcoming ceremony for the team at the Games Village last week.

Later, the prime minister had a meeting with the Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed, who was very appreciative of the Games opening ceremony.

'It was very spectacular and very beautiful,' Nasheed told reporters.

He said the critics in the run-up to the Games had failed to understand that there was a 'new India' and they were judging the problems as per the standards of the 'old India' of decades earlier.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Principal Secretary to the prime minister T.K.A. Nair were also present at the meeting.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

UK opposes Maldives continental shelf claim

The United Kingdom has opposed the Maldives claim for the extended continental shelf off its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), The Guardian newspaper reported.

The border between the south of Maldives and British overseas territory Diego Garcia was not marked when the Maldives claimed for 168,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean seabed on July 26.

The paper reported that the UK filed its formal opposition at the United Nations aimed at protecting [UK’s] national interests in the Chagos Islands as the area claimed by the Maldives may encroach upon British overseas territory. The native population of Chagos Islands was expelled 40 years ago to establish a US airbase on the largest atoll of the archipelago, Diego Garcia.

The Guardian quoted the letter sent to the UN on August 9 as saying that the submission of the Republic of the Maldives does not take full account of the 200 nautical miles Fisheries and Environment Zones of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The UK promises to formalise these boundaries [with the Maldives] at the earliest opportunity.

On the other hand, leaders of the exiled Chagossians contrast the rapidity with which the UK Foreign Office defended its interests with the protracted refusal to permit them to return to the islands, the newspaper said. agencies


GMR, Axis Bank Discuss $360 Million Loan for Maldives Airport Development

GMR Infrastructure Ltd., controlled by Indian billionaire G.M. Rao, is in talks with Axis Bank Ltd. on a loan of about $360 million to fund an airport project in the Maldives.

GMR’s Maldives venture may sign the 12-year loan by the end of this month, Sidharath Kapur, chief financial officer for airports, said in a telephone interview yesterday from New Delhi. The debt may be syndicated to overseas lenders and multilateral agencies, he said, without providing a timeframe.

The Bangalore-based airport operator and partner Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. in June won a bid to modernize and expand Male International Airport as they seek to benefit from rising tourism in the Maldives, a nation comprising 1,190 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Indian companies such as GMR have expanded overseas as bureaucracy and land disputes slow infrastructure projects at home.

“For a company like GMR to grow, this is the way it has to be,” said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, chief strategist at SMC Global Securities Ltd., which manages $100 million in assets, in New Delhi. “Indian infrastructure projects can face bottlenecks and execution problems.”

A spokesman for Axis Bank, India’s fourth biggest by market value, said he wasn’t able to immediately comment.

Maldives Growth

GMR Maldives International Airport Ltd. will spend about $510 million on the Male terminal, which will have a capacity to handle 5 million users a year, Kapur said. The airport currently handles about 2.5 million passengers a year, he said.

“The government of the Maldives is taking steps to attract tourism from India and Southeast Asia,” he said. “That will drive growth.”

GMR Maldives, 77 percent owned by the Indian company and 23 percent by Malaysia Airports, will build and operate the terminal for 25 years. The facility will be ready by 2014.

GMR and partners also run airports in Istanbul, Turkey, India’s capital New Delhi and Hyderabad in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Maldives attracted 683,000 tourists in 2008, growing at an average 12 percent annual pace since 1980, compared with the world average growth of 5 percent, the government said on its website.

GMR got about 33 percent of revenue from airport operations in the year ended in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company also builds highways and operates power projects.

In July, GMR’s new terminal in New Delhi started international flights. The facility, run by a group also backed by state-run Airports Authority of India Ltd., Frankfurt-based Fraport AG and Malaysia Airports, cost about $2.7 billion to develop, along with other renovations.


Inner Maldives Holidays today announced the launch of the first Holiday Catalogue in Maldives, a free quarterly magazine that includes holiday packages to India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Australia, Africa, Medical packages, Honeymoon packages, Bollywood Tours, Disney Hong Kong packages, Visa & Migration services and many other exciting destinations & places.

A press run of 4,000 copies has already started to be distributed throughout Maldives. The magazine is designed to inspire the would-be voyager to take the travel plunge and explore new dimensions.

The first issue contains 14-pages, and upcoming editions will add more spice and new direction for travel, the company reports.

"We thrilled to be able to once again expand our services by offering something unique and a new way to stay on top of the travel news and outbound tourism," the company's Deputy Managing Director said.

Inner Maldives wants to serve as a one-stop solution provider for all travel and holiday needs, whether be it for a family getaway or medical checkup or business travel, the company want to create a platform that serves for all travel needs under one roof.

Inner Maldives already sells over 600 packages a month for local and expatriate travelers and the company hopes that this new add-on will help boost and open doors to educate the community on what best offers are available in the market and also educate them about exciting places around the world to visit and discover.

The company also hopes this catalogue will be an eye opener and pave ways for new and innovative travel in Maldives and looks forward to see how the public reacts and accepts this.

For more information call (960) 300 6886 or visit G. Bucha Hiya, Koimala Higun, Male'


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Green Guru: Mohamed Nasheed

As president of an island nation imperiled by rising sea levels, Mohamed Nasheed has become a hero among environmentalists. In the run-up to last year's United Nations climate-change meeting, Nasheed attracted global attention by hosting a cabinet meeting underwater. In Copenhagen, he shamed rich governments by pledging to make the Maldives the world's first carbon-neutral nation. Al Gore likes to quote him on the human cost of climate change. And in April, the U.N. elected him one of six "2010 Champions of the Earth." Achim Steiner, director of the U.N. Environment Program, praised Nasheed as a politician "who is showcasing to the rest of the world how a transition to climate neutrality can be achieved and how all nations, no matter how big or small, can contribute."


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maldives High Court In Limbo Amid Political Spats

Political turmoil paralyzing the Maldives deepened Monday after the attorney-general resigned in frustration over parliament's refusal to appoint a new Supreme Court.

In an attempt to prevent the country from spiraling into judicial chaos, President Mohammed Nasheed issued a decree Sunday - the day an interim court was to have been disbanded - allowing the Supreme Court to continue administrative functions until the crisis is resolved.

Political disorder has engulfed the nation of 1,192 low-lying coral islands after the 13-member Cabinet resigned en masse in June, accusing the opposition of undermining Nasheed's powers by defeating all motions put before it. The Cabinet was reappointed last month.

Nasheed took power in the country's first democratic elections two years ago, after being repeatedly jailed under the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he defeated in the 2008 poll.

The recent power struggle showcases the difficult transition to democracy for the country of 350,000 in the Indian Ocean archipelago, best known as a tourist paradise.

Attorney-General Husnu Suood resigned Sunday, claiming his position was untenable in the "constitutional void" triggered by parliament's failure to enact necessary legislation, Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told The Associated Press by telephone from the capital Male on Monday.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party has only 32 seats in the country's 77-member parliament. The opposition coalition, led by the Dhivehi Raithunge Party, has 36 seats, with the rest independents.

The president's decree appoints four legal practitioners to continue the day-to-day administrative functions of the Supreme Court, the president's Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said in a statement.

Zuhair said Nasheed had two options: allow the country to have no Supreme Court at all, or issue a decree so administrative functions of the Supreme Court could continue.

"The President chose the latter option," Zuhair said.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maldives to appoint interim supreme court: minister

The Maldivian president will set up an interim supreme court as the opposition-controlled parliament blocked the appointment of new judges, the foreign minister said Saturday.
President Mohamed Nasheed's move would ensure the administration of justice even after the two-year term of the current supreme court expires at midnight Saturday, minister Ahmed Shaheed said.
"The parliament has failed to approve a new supreme court and that means we would be without a judiciary from Sunday, but the president can't allow that to happen," Shaheed told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.
"You can't run the country without a judicial system. That is why the president is making an interim arrangement."
Prominent citizens will be included in the interim panel which will function until the parliament confirms the new judges in line with the 2008 constitution, he said. There was no immediate reaction from the opposition.
The luxury holiday paradise of Maldives embraced Western-style multi-party democracy in 2008 amid high hopes for reforms, but the country's parliament and president are from rival parties and are at loggerheads.
Nasheed's cabinet resigned en masse on June 29 saying it could not carry out its work because parliament was blocking their work.
Since then, Nasheed has reappointed the ministers but the parliament is refusing to ratify them as well as his nominee to head the supreme court in the archipelago of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.
The current political crisis in the Maldives goes back to the 2009 parliamentary election when the People's Party (DRP) led by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom won a majority.
Although it gained control of the legislature, the DRP fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to impeach the president. At the same time, Nasheed cannot dismiss the assembly until it completes its full five-year term

Source: AFP

My opponents try to silence me through fraud charges: Gayoom

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom yesterday dismissed fresh allegations that he had swindled the country to the tune of US$ 400 million as baseless and a conspiracy by local and international forces to defame him.

In an interview with the Sunday Times last night, Mr. Gayoom, who is in Sri Lanka to promote the mission of a foundation named after him, said the allegations were not new and kept resurfacing because he was still being seen as a major threat to the present Maldivian leadership and their international sponsors.

He said these forces were so well connected and active that articles defaming him had appeared even in the New York Times newspaper.

Now out of active politics, Mr. Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for more than 30 years, said the allegations that he had played out US$ 80 million in tsunami aid from the government of Qatar had been proved untrue and a Maldivian court had given a ruling in his favour.

"These allegations not only resurface but they grow in magnitude. First they said it was US$ 40 million, then the amount rose to US$ 80 million and now it stands at US$ 400 million. This is an attempt to silence me, for my political opponents still see me as a major threat," said the former President who charged that the country's assets were being sold to foreign companies in a haphazard manner that threatened the national interest.

Mr. Gayoom insisted he had no intention to return to active politics even though there had been many requests from Maldivian and foreign friends urging him to come back to politics and sort out the mess the country had fallen into.

Refusing to be drawn into any comments on the current crisis, Mr. Gayoom said it was he who initiated the process of liberal political reforms in the Maldives.

When pointed out that the very reforms that he had initiated had propelled his country into a political crisis, the 73-year-old leader said that it was not the reforms that were at fault but how these reforms were being adhered to or respected by the powers-that-be.

He said the reforms he initiated not only envisaged a multi-party liberal democracy but also aimed at good governance with independent judiciary and public institutions, but sadly many of these institutions had become highly politicized.

He said concentration of too much power in one single institution - the executive presidency - would be the main cause for the present crisis. Mr. Gayoom said he was thankful for the mediation efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to solve the current political stalemate in the Maldives, saying it was the Sri Lankan President's true love for the neighbouring country that led him to undertake the troubleshooting mission.

Mr. Gayoom, in January this year quit as the leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party which he led from 2005 to 2010 and his party bestowed him the title of "Zaeem" or Honorary Leader. Mr. Gayoom said his public life was restricted to his work related to his foundation which sought to contribute to the social development of the country he loved and served for three decades.

He said his foundation wanted to achieve its goal through education based on moderate Islam, which he described as a powerful force capable of solving the Maldives social ills such as the acute drug abuse problem.