Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Maldives unrest: FCO warns holidaymakers as holiday hotspot is rocked by 'coup d'etat'

It is hailed as a dreamy enclave of luxury resorts and woozy, sun-kissed appeal.
But travellers planning to visit the Maldives for a spot of winter relaxation have been advised to take care, with political demonstrations causing unrest – to the extent that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its advice on visits to the capital Malé.

The FCO is currently advising ‘against all but essential travel to Malé Island’, explaining that ‘there are political demonstrations in the capital Malé, which have resulted in violent clashes between government and opposition supporters, and the police and defence forces.’

‘The situation remains uncertain,’

‘If you are in Malé, or choose to travel to Malé, you should exercise caution, avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings.’

The mood in the Maldivian capital has been compounded by yesterday’s resignation of the national president Mohamed Nasheed, after police took over the state TV broadcaster, and called for him to be overthrown in what could be considered a coup d’etat.

Monday night witnessed riots on the streets of the capital, with police and army soldiers joining in the disturbances. Some reports have suggested that the headquarters of the ruling party, the Maldives Democratic Party, were set alight by police officers.

Nasheed resigned on Tuesday, saying that he was not prepared to use force against protesters to keep his government in power.

Nasheed has endured a turbulent four years since he was elected in 2008 – a triumph at the polling booth that was widely seen as introducing democracy to the Indian Ocean nation in the wake of the 30-year rule of the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

A new president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, has already been sworn in, amid claims from the Maldives Democratic Party that it has been illegally forced from power.

For now, the FCO has stopped short of advising against all travel to the archipelago.

Scattered across over 1000 islands, the Maldives is the most disparate country on the planet – with the international airport on a separate island to the capital.

Most of the country’s tourist resorts are also significantly removed from Malé

‘There are currently no reports of social unrest or demonstrations at Malé International Airport (which is on the island of Hulhule), or at the tourist resorts and other islands,’ the FCO adds.

‘Our advice against all but essential travel to Malé Island does not include Malé International Airport or travel from the airport to any part of the country other than Malé.

‘However, you should exercise caution, keep up to date with developments and check with your tour operator or travel company for further information.’

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