Saturday, November 16, 2013

Maldives election: Abdulla Yameen wins run-off vote

Abdulla Yameen has won the presidential election run-off vote in the Maldives, according to near-final results.

Mr Yameen had 51.3% of the vote compared with 48.6% for ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, with 98% of ballots counted, the Election Commission said.

Mr Nasheed had won 47% in the first round this month, just short of the 50% needed for outright victory, in an election process mired in controversy.

Mr Yameen is half-brother to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years.

Imad Masood, a spokesman for outgoing President Mohamed Waheed, told Reuters there were "four more boxes yet to be counted, but they won't make any difference to the final results".

There have been months of legal and political wrangling over the election, causing concern among foreign diplomats.

One result was annulled and two votes cancelled by the courts.

Mr Nasheed had been seeking to regain power after he was forced to resign in 2012.


Maldives presidential runoff: Yameen takes initial lead

Former President Mohammed Nasheed with nearly 48.5 per cent of votes was trailing his rival Abdulla Yameen with 51.5 per cent of votes in the controversy-ridden presidential runoff in the Maldives on Saturday, according to initial trends in the media.

With nearly 140 of the total of 475 ballot boxes counted so far, Progressive Party of Maldives leader Mr. Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had bagged 21,573 votes (51.5 per cent) as compared to Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mr. Nasheed, who got 20,499 (48.5 per cent), the media reported.

Mr. Nasheed, who won the first multi-party elections in 2008 and ended the 30-year autocratic rule of Mr. Gayoom, had resigned under duress in a controversial transfer of power in February 2012 .

The archipelago nation did not hold any mid-term polls as the Constitution does not permit it.

Elections Commission chief Fuwad Thowfeek on Saturday said preliminary results will be announced by midnight while a formal announcement of the final outcome will be made on Sunday.

Mr. Thowfeek told reporters that fewer complaints were received by the Commission during the latest polls.

Voters queued up outside polling stations as voting began at 7.30 a.m. across the Maldives for the second round of the much delayed election to choose a new president amidst a constitutional crisis.

The current polls mark the Maldives’ third attempt to elect a new President since September. The runoff became necessary as none of the candidates could muster over 50 per cent votes in the first round of elections held on November 9, 2013.

In a crucial re-vote on November 9, 2013 Mr. Nasheed bagged 46.4 per cent of the votes, a marginal increase from his previous tally of 45.45 per cent votes in the September 7, 2013 polls that were annulled by the Supreme Court.


Abdulla Yameen Wins Maldives Election Run-off

Abdulla Yameen won the Maldives presidential election run-off on Saturday, the spokesman for the outgoing leader said, beating favorite Mohamed Nasheed in a close-run contest that voters hope will end nearly two years of political turmoil.

The result, yet to be confirmed by the Election Commission, represents a victory for the political old guard that united behind Yameen, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled for 30 years and was deemed a dictator by rights groups.

Imad Masood, spokesman for outgoing president Mohamed Waheed, said Yameen had won more than 51 percent of the vote. “Four more boxes are yet to be counted, but they won't make any difference to the final results,” he told Reuters.


Maldives vote for president after delay

MALE: Voters in the Maldives lined up Saturday in a presidential runoff that comes amid international concerns that the tiny archipelago nation may slip back to strongman rule after long delays in the election.

People were arriving at schools being used as voting stations well before polling started in an election that pits the country's first democratically elected leader and the brother of a longtime autocrat.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was elected president in the country's first multiparty polls in 2008, is favored to win after receiving nearly 47 per cent of the vote in the first round on Nov 9.

His failure to get at least 50 per cent for an outright win required a runoff against Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, a brother of 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Yaamin, received 30 per cent of the first-round votes and it courting the support of the third-placed candidate, tourist resort owner Qasim Ibrahim, who received 23 per cent.

Maldives is under scrutiny after failing to elect a president in three attempts since September and after incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan extended his term in office by six days, purportedly to avoid a constitutional void because the country is past the legal deadline to elect a new president.

Some voters told The Associated Press that they were running out of patience. ''We are fed up with politics. It has slowed our life. There is no business anymore,'' said Abdullah Abeedh, a 25-year-old photographer.

The Supreme Court annulled results of an election conducted Sept 7 because it found that the voters' registry contained fake names and those of dead people.

Police stopped a second attempt at holding the election because all the candidates had not accepted a new voters' list as the court mandated.

The court intervened again to change the runoff election date, which had been set for the day after the Nov 9 election. It also ordered Hassan to continue in office despite the official end of his term on Nov 11.

The European Union warned that the country might slip back to autocratic rule and said it is considering ''appropriate measures'' if Maldives fails to elect a new president Saturday.

It said further delays will be seen as attempts to prevent Maldivians from exercising their democratic rights.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this week that Hassan's decision to stay beyond his term endangered the people's right to elect a new leader and called for the election to be concluded soon.

Maldives has seen much upheaval in the five years since its first multiparty election. There has been conflict between the judiciary, Parliament and the presidency, which often worked in different directions. The judiciary and bureaucracy were often accused of being loyal to Gayoom, the former autocratic ruler.

Nasheed was elected in 2008 but resigned midway through his term last year after weeks of public protests and declining support from the military and police over his decision to detain a senior judge whom he perceived to be biased. He later said he was ousted in a coup but an inquiry commission rejected the allegation.

Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation of 350,000 people. About 240,000 are eligible to vote Saturday.

Source: AP

Maldives president leaves country on eve of crucial polls

MALE – The president of the Maldives has left the country on the eve of national elections that have been delayed three times, his spokesman said Friday, leaving a leadership void amid a constitutional crisis.

Mohamed Waheed, who took office after a contested transfer of power last February, left for Hong Kong via Singapore on Thursday evening to accompany his wife to a medical appointment, spokesman Masood Imad said.

Presidential elections are to be held Saturday.

“I believe it was an appointment they had for some time that they deemed not necessary to postpone any more,” Imad said, noting Waheed’s wife was suffering an eye problem.

The married father-of-three, who as president commands the country’s armed forces, intended to return in a month and would in any case be stepping down as president after Saturday’s election, he added.

“He doesn’t have to be in Male. He is constantly in touch. There’s no reason for concern,” Imad added, saying that the legislature would be responsible for inaugurating a new leader Sunday.

Pressure has been mounting on the former U.N. official from Western nations and India, with the European Union warning of “appropriate measures” this week if the Indian Ocean islands failed to hold a free vote.

Under the terms of the constitution, Waheed’s term in office officially lapsed last weekend but he said he would remain in power to allow the selection of a replacement.

In a speech announcing his intention to step down on Saturday after 21 months in power, Waheed thanked the people of the Maldives but said his tenure had been “hard and stressful,” according to a statement Friday.

The tourism-dependent country has been gripped by protests and instability since February last year when the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, resigned.

He said he was forced out four years into his term by mutinous security officers acting on the orders of former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Waheed, then his vice president.

Both accused men denied the allegations.

A first round of presidential elections was held Sept. 7 that were won with 45 percent of the vote by Nasheed, a pro-democracy campaigner regularly imprisoned during the 30-year rule of Gayoom.

He faced a second-round run-off vote against the former leader’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, which was scuttled by the Supreme Court. The court upheld a complaint about vote list irregularities.

Two further scheduled elections announced by the Election Commission were prevented.

Nasheed, who has promised to bring the perpetrators of the “coup” against him to justice if elected, will face Yameen in Saturday’s run-off vote.

On Wednesday, the 53-member Commonwealth bloc expelled the Maldives from its disciplinary panel, which has begun investigating the political chaos that could ultimately lead to the country being expelled.

Waheed, who has criticized foreign countries for trying to interfere in the country, shrugged off the attentions of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in an interview later that day.

“CMAG can decide what they want,” he told the local Haveeru newspaper.

Gayoom, speaking at a rally of parties opposed to Nasheed’s return to power, said Thursday that if his half-brother were elected, the Maldives would leave the Commonwealth. He also took aim at regional power India.

“We will maintain good neighborly relations with all countries, but will not allow them to interfere in our internal affairs, particularly in our domestic politics,” he was quoted as saying in a statement from the president’s office.


Voting starts in Maldives run-off presidential polls

People in the Maldives have started voting in a run-off presidential election, amid months of political unrest in the troubled Indian Ocean nation.

According to Elections Commission official Aishath Reema, polling booths across the country opened at 7:30 a.m. (0230 GMT) on Saturday with around 240,000 electorate given eight and a half hours to choose between two candidates.

She added that many people had lined up to vote even before the polling booths opened.

Former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and his main opponent Abdulla Yameen are competing in the run-off vote.

Nasheed won a first vote on September 7 with 45 percent; however, Maldives’ Supreme Court dismissed the result, upholding a complaint about voter list irregularities.

After another attempt to hold the election was thwarted, a re-run of the first round was held on November 9 and Nasheed secured about 47 percent of the vote, which was still not enough for an outright victory.

On November 10, the Supreme Court postponed the run-off presidential election to November 16.

In a statement on November 14, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU underlines that “neither continuing uncertainty nor a drift towards autocratic rule would be acceptable to the EU and that it is therefore ready to consider appropriate measures should the poll on Saturday not bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion.”

The Maldives has been in chaos since Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected president, was toppled in a police-military-opposition coup in February 2012.

Nasheed has alleged that his resignation was in fact a coup at gunpoint, engineered by a clique of police, military and political rivals. His resignation brought thousands of supporters onto the streets across the country.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Commonwealth decides to wait till Saturday on Maldives

Colombo: The Commonwealth on Friday decided to wait till Saturday on how it should deal with Maldives, which has been struggling to elect a new president. Indian officials said the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has given a recommendation to the Summit that the conference wait till Saturdaywhen the rescheduled polls take place.

On Wednesday, the Maldives was expelled from the CMAG, which is investigating the political chaos after repeated court interventions to prevent the country’s presidential elections. The Commonwealth Charter provides for expulsion of members where democratic form of government is not allowed. CMAG expressed “deep disappointment” that the Maldives presidential election process had not concluded prior to the expiry of Mohamed Waheed’s term in office. India too has expressed its disappointment with the postponement of run-off polls till 16 November and said a new President should be sworn in at the earliest. A run-off between Nasheed, who led the first round of the presidential polls on 9 November, and his rival Abdulla Yameen is scheduled for Saturday. The current polls mark the Maldives’ third attempt to elect a new President since September. The first election on 7 September was annulled by the Supreme Court, citing the rigging of voters’ lists, while the Elections Commission’s attempt to hold polls on 19 October was thwarted by police after a Supreme Court ruling. Meanwhile, Waheed has stepped down as President of the Maldives and left the country.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

US warns Maldives president after vote blocked

MALE: The United States stepped up its criticism of the embattled Maldives on Tuesday, warning caretaker president Mohamed Waheed that a decision to remain in office after his mandate expired was endangering democracy.

The US State Department said Waheed's move to continue to govern after his time in office lapsed at midnight Sunday was unprecedented, after the tourism-reliant Indian Ocean nation failed to hold elections for the third time in two months.

"The US government is deeply concerned by President Waheed's unprecedented decision to remain past the legal mandate of his presidency, which ended on November 10," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement issued by the US embassy in Colombo.

"This action has endangered the Maldivian people's right to elect a leader of their choice," she said.
Waheed announced Sunday he would remain in office until a rescheduled run-off vote to elect a president is held on November 16, five days after the constitution mandates that his term should have ended.
The country's Supreme Court postponed Sunday's vote, just hours before it was due to be held, a move slammed by the United States and likely to draw further international criticism.

The court, dominated by judges named during 30 years of autocratic rule by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has blocked three attempts to elect a new leader for the Sunni Muslim nation of 350,000 people.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president who was ousted in February last year, is the frontrunner to return to power. He has accused the court and Waheed of deliberately blocking him. He secured nearly 47 percent of the vote in a first-round vote on Saturday, compared with just under 30 percent for his nearest rival Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of Gayoom.

The United States accused the Supreme Court of "unduly" interfering in the democratic process by postponing the runoff, five years after the island nation introduced multi-party democracy. The political crisis deepened on Monday when the parliament's speaker warned Waheed he had no right to govern past his official mandate under the terms of the constitution.

On Sunday night Waheed vowed he would not step down despite opposition calls for him to go.
"The president assured the public that he will resign on the 16th (after the run-off election) and will not accept any further delays to the elections," Waheed's spokesman Masood Imad told AFP.

Nasheed resigned in February 2012 following demonstrations and a mutiny by security forces which he denounced as a coup engineered by Waheed and former strongman Gayoom.


Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa achieves 'Silver EarthCheck' certification for second year

One of only 6 resorts in the Maldives – and 212 resorts globally – to be certified to the internationally recognised EarthCheck company standards

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, located in the heart of one of the largest and deepest natural atolls in the world, has achieved Silver EarthCheck Certification for the second consecutive year – making it one of the few resorts worldwide to gain such recognition..

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa was the first property in the Maldives to follow the EarthCheck Planning and Design Standards during construction, which resulted in the resort becoming bronze benchmarked in 2009 by EarthCheck – the world's leading sustainable travel and tourism certification organisation. Following an extensive audit in 2012, the resort reached the programme’s coveted Silver certification, and in 2013 was recognised for a second year, firmly placing the resort as a leader in the unique worldwide group of sustainable tourism operators.

As the Hyatt Group’s first sustainable tourism development, one of the primary objectives was to ensure that the resort was planned, designed and constructed in an environmentally sensitive manner. In addition, it also required that during operation, the resort should take great care to minimise its effect on the environment, enhance the Maldivian experience and to be as energy efficient as possible – a responsibility that the resort still places as a priority today.

Following the EarthCheck assessment in 2013, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa was highly commended for our use of reusable glass bottles for drinking water, which is bottled onsite reducing plastic bottle waste by approximately 100,000 per year. EarthCheck also identified that the apparent awareness of our staff on environmental initiatives was highly commendable.

Ciara McCarten, Resident Marine Biologist and EarthCheck Coordinator commented: “We are extremely proud to be one of only 6 resorts in the Maldives to have reached this level, and are delighted that our ongoing commitment to the environment has been recognised by EarthCheck. We are aware that we have a big responsibility to continue our growth as a sustainable company, and we will therefore continue to work closely with EarthCheck to maintain and develop our environmental and social responsibility programmes.”

In April 2013, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa was recognised in the ‘Best Sustainable Hotel’ category at the Asia Pacific Hotel Awards, receiving an international 5* award for their ongoing commitment to the environment. This achievement also follows the latest Hyatt Thrive initiative, the company’s global corporate responsibility platform, which focuses on community development work in the fields of education, the environment and promoting the cultural heritage of southern Maldives.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Maldives court postpones presidential runoff

Maldives' former President and candidate in the presidential elections Mohamed Nasheed, center left, casts his vote in Male, Maldives, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. After two months of political bickering and repeated failure to hold an election, Maldives voters headed to the polls Saturday to elect a new president for their vulnerable new democracy. (AP Photo/Sinan Hussain)

MALE, Maldives (AP) — The first democratically elected president of the Maldives and the brother of the country's former autocratic ruler have qualified for a runoff, according to results in the island nation's presidential election. But the Supreme Court postponed Sunday's runoff by six days, setting the stage for a constitutional crisis in this tourist paradise nation, which has been buffeted by political turmoil for the past five years.

Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned as president of the Indian Ocean archipelago last year, won nearly 47 percent of the popular vote in Saturday's election, while Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, the brother of 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, trailed with 30 percent. A third candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, had 23 percent.

A runoff between the top two candidates was required because neither received at least 50 percent of the vote.

The runoff was supposed to be held Sunday, but hours earlier the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition filed by a member of Ibrahim's Jumhoory Party who asked for a postponement, arguing there was little time to campaign or forge alliances. The court set the runoff election for Nov. 16 as it was originally scheduled before it was moved up on President Mohamed Waheed Hassan's behest to avoid a constitutional crisis.

Hassan's term ends Monday, and the constitution requires an elected president be in office by that day. The Supreme Court on Saturday reiterated its previous ruling that Hassan will stay in office until a runoff election is held if no clear winner emerged from the first round, ignoring the possibility of a political logjam.

On Sunday, Nasheed demanded Hassan's resignation before his term ends at midnight, which would enable the parliamentary speaker to be caretaker and oversee the runoff. The constitution provides for the speaker to take over powers if both the president and vice president vacate their positions.

The U.S. Embassy in neighboring Sri Lanka expressed concern over the court order and said the Supreme Court's efforts to "repeatedly and unduly interfere in the electoral process subverts Maldives' democracy and takes decision-making out of the hands of the people."

The Maldives, which is known for its luxurious resorts, has faced much upheaval in the five years it has been a multiparty democracy. Society and even families have been divided along party lines, and institutions like the judiciary, public service, armed forces and police have worked in different directions and been accused of political bias. There is fear that continued political turmoil could harm the Maldives' reputation for stability and its economy. The country is heavily reliant on tourism, which contributed 27 percent to the gross domestic product in 2012.

The next president faces huge challenges in building public confidence in government institutions and dealing with pressing issues including high unemployment, increasing drug addiction among young people and improving transportation among the far-off islands.

Gayoom also told reporters late Saturday that he wanted a postponement of the runoff to sort out alleged discrepancies in the voters' list. Nasheed had said the elections were fair.

There is deep mistrust between Nasheed, Hassan and the Supreme Court because the former president believes the other two are under the influence of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom himself.

The integrity of the Supreme Court has been called into question, with the United Nations' human rights chief, Navi Pillay, last week accusing it of interfering with the presidential election and subverting the democratic process.

Saturday's elections were the third attempt to elect a president this year. Two previous attempts since September failed with questions over the accuracy of the voters' list prepared by the Elections Commission. The chaos left voters isolated and divided, and their country's new democracy under threat.

Observers had regarded the September election as largely free and fair, but the Supreme Court said it found the voters' register included fake names and those of dead people. Police stopped a second attempt to hold the election last month, claiming all the candidates had not endorsed the voters' list as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Some 240,000 people were eligible to vote in the predominantly Muslim nation, and about 86 percent voted.

Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the country's first multiparty election in 2008, ending his 30-year autocratic rule. But Nasheed resigned last year after weeks of public protests and signs of declining support from the military and police after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge he perceived to be biased.

Nasheed claimed that he was ousted in a coup and accused his then-deputy, Hassan, of backing it. An inquiry commission set aside his claim of a coup but the country has since been in political turmoil.

Source: AP

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Maldives to hold fresh presidential poll, uncertainty lingers

By J.J. Robinson

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives is set to hold a presidential election on Saturday after two recent polls were abruptly aborted, blocking the country's first democratically elected leader from returning to power.

The Indian Ocean island state, famous for luxury holiday resorts and picturesque atolls, has been in political turmoil since February 2012, when Mohamed Nasheed was ousted as president in circumstances his supporters called a coup.

Nasheed became the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008 when he defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years and was accused by opponents and international rights groups of being a dictator.

Nasheed's main challenger on Saturday will be Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of Gayoom. The other main contender is resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, a finance minister under Gayoom.

The international community has issued stark warnings in recent weeks that the Maldives' reputation as a haven for wealthy tourists had been tarnished by the political crisis.

"Through weeks of political bickering and questionable delaying tactics, the Maldives' democracy is now in peril," said U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison.

The United States, Britain, the European Union and India, have urged the Maldives to hold a credible and inclusive election.

Nasheed won a September 7 election declared largely credible by international monitors, although he faced a run-off ballot having failed to garner more than half the votes.

The Supreme Court annulled the election amid allegations of vote rigging, and the police canceled an October 19 poll after Nasheed's rivals failed to sign a voter registry.

Following a meeting with incumbent President Mohamed Waheed on Wednesday, Nasheed's rivals dropped a threat to veto the election and agreed to sign the registry, removing a major obstacle to the vote.

Waheed says he will not remain in power after his term expires on November 11, raising the prospect of a leadership vacuum if the latest bid to hold the vote falters.

The Election Commission said it would hold any run-off on Sunday, if no one gets more than half the vote on Saturday, and announce the winner the same evening.

Some 240,000 people are eligible to vote.


The tension has set state institutions against each other.

The Supreme Court is generally seen as sympathetic to the those loyal to old leader Gayoom, while parliament is dominated by Nasheed's supporters.

The Supreme Court opened hearings against legislators from Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ahead of its planned vote on whether to impeach the attorney general, prosecutor general and defense minister.

Two MDP legislators were convicted and dragged from parliament by security forces last week, while the MDP voted to impeach Attorney General Azima Shukoor, a lawyer for former leader Gayoom prior to her appointment.

Nasheed's rivals say top election commission officials favor his party, and they still have major doubts about the credibility of the election.

Nasheed, who once held a cabinet meeting under water with members wearing scuba gear to highlight the danger of rising sea levels, is equally suspicious of his election rivals.

"There is no way they will participate in peaceful political activities," Nasheed told a rally this week.

Nasheed's removal in 2012 sparked protests by his supporters and a subsequent police crackdown. A Commonwealth-backed commission of inquiry later concluded that his removal did not constitute a coup.

The crisis has hit tourism, a vital source of earnings, and the Maldives has faced fuel shortages because it is unable to pay suppliers on time amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

As well as restoring investor confidence, the new president will also face rising Islamist ideology.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Maldives opens up to backpackers

Most visitors arrive at the Maldives' airport island, take a speed boat or seaplane to their expensive coral-fringed private resort and spend the next week relaxing in blissful ignorance of the country around them.

Most visitors arrive at the Maldives' airport island, take a speed boat or seaplane to their expensive coral-fringed private resort and spend the next week relaxing in blissful ignorance of the country around them.

Most visitors arrive at the country’s airport island, take a speed boat or seaplane to their expensive coral-fringed private resort and spend the next week relaxing in blissful ignorance of the country around them.

It has been this way for decades, the result of a deliberate policy of keeping the wealthy holidaymakers – mostly Westerners and often newly-weds – on uninhabited islands separate from the local Muslim population.

The Islamic Republic applies different laws for both: travellers are free to drink alcohol, eat pork, and for those not on their honeymoon, enjoy pre-marital sex. Elsewhere, Maldivian women can be flogged in public for fornication.

”Since Maldives is a Muslim country, we have always supported the idea that the tourism industry should be separate from the inhabited islands,” says Mauroof Hussain, vice president of the conservative Adhaalath Party.

”If the hippy-type of travellers come, along will come drugs and narcotics which even now our society is suffering from,” says Mauroof whose party has been a minority partner in successive governments since 2008.

While the archipelago is still far from the hippy trail, the sight of backpackers wandering around Male and the nearby island of Maafushi is growing thanks to a new policy to attract budget travellers.

”Things like nudity are not acceptable in a place where people are living,” adds Mauroof. “The people complain that they are praying in the mosque and just outside there are tourists in bikinis.”

Since a reform under the country’s first democratically-elected president Mohamed Nasheed in 2009, Maldivians have been allowed to open their own guesthouses on populated islands.

While fundamentalist interpretations of Islam imported from the Gulf and Pakistan are progressively taking root in the Maldives, Mauroof’s views lie far outside the mainstream and are ridiculed by many.

What started as a trickle of guesthouses has become a torrent with entrepreneurs like 25-year-old Ibrahim Mohamed converting properties and profiting from what is the islands’ biggest business and foreign exchange earner.

”Maldivians are very welcoming people. It wasn’t Maldivians that wanted separation, it was the government and a few businessmen saying that they should be isolated,” Ibrahim told AFP. “The Maldives can’t hide from the world anymore.”

His three-roomed Sundhara Palace located on a busy street of the cramped capital Male opened at the beginning of September, offering basic en-suite accommodation for US$30 (RM94) a night.

The cheapest resorts are usually about 10 times this, with prices stretching up to several thousand dollars a night – with expensively priced food and drink on top.

Ibrahim stresses that the guesthouse policy is also “a good system to get money to the people instead of to wealthy businessmen”.

A handful of well-connected resort owners who prospered under the 30-year autocratic rule of strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom continue to control the Maldives economy and are active in politics.

These oligarchs have united against Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted in February 2012 following a mutiny by security forces which he branded a “coup.”

His efforts to return to power through the ballot box have since been thwarted with the country wracked by protests and uncertainty after the Supreme Court annulled elections he won on September 7.

The court order came in response to a legal challenge from the third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim, one of the country’s wealthiest tycoons who is in alliance with the Adhaalath Party.

A re-run of the polls was ordered for Oct 19, with the British government warning travellers to avoid demonstrations and take precautions in the capital.

(Note: voting was delayed and will now be held on Nov 9.)

If re-elected, Nasheed has promised in to expand the guesthouse policy as part of his ambitious social and economic reform programme.

”The industry is flourishing very rapidly. We feel there is so much more scope for that,” he told reporters days before voting in the first round of the election in September.

One of the people to take advantage of the changes is Dutch tourist Chris Constandse, a 27-year-old web designer who works for a travel website in Amsterdam.

He booked a few nights at a hotel in the capital, but plans to spend the rest of his two-week holiday staying in guesthouses dotted around the country of more than 1,000 islands.

”Backpackers go to India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and I was like ‘I always do things different’, so I thought I’d go backpacking in the Maldives,” he told AFP shortly before leaving on a ferry for one of the nearby islands.

”The most important thing is that you get in touch with the people. I’ve stayed in Male for three nights and I’ve already met some people and made some friends.” – AFP Relaxnews

Source :

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ageing coconut trees in Asia put livelihood of millions at risk - ANN

Asia's coconut trees are so old that production is falling well below global demand for coconut products, experts say.

New trees must be planted soon, or the decline in production will affect the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers across the region, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

Indonesia, India and the Philippines as the world's top producers might have the most to lose, experts said at a three-day conference in Bangkok.

It ended yesterday with a call to immediately plant new stock and boost yields from existing "middle-aged" trees by using better farming techniques.

Global demand for everything from the flesh of the nut to coir fibre, as well as coconut oil and coconut water, is growing at roughly 10 per cent a year.

Yet, production is growing at only around 2 per cent a year in India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Together, the three countries produce 47 billion coconuts a year, accounting for 70 to 80 per cent of the region's production. The region in turn accounts for 90 per cent of the world's production of coconuts.

Of the 13 countries represented at the conference, eight had sent ministers - signalling the urgency of the problem.

A coconut palm is at its most productive when it is between 10 and 30 years old. However, most coconut palms in the region are over 50 years old, the FAO says.

Essentially, farmers content with good harvests have neglected to plant new seedlings. India, for example, needs to replant 450,000ha with new trees, which will require millions of seedlings.

There is no alternative, said Mr Romulo Arancon, the Jakarta-based executive director of the 19-member Asia and Pacific Coconut Community.

"It is really a smallholder industry, and even if it is a minor contributor in terms of gross domestic product for some countries, the population involved in it is enormous," he said.

He estimated that one in five people in the Philippines - which earns US$1 billion a year from coconut exports - depends directly or indirectly on the coconut sector.

Moreover, on some Pacific and Asian islands, coconut palms buffer shorelines against rising sea levels.

"It is the coconut that keeps us alive," said Mr Ahmed Shafeeu, the Maldives' Fisheries and Agriculture Minister.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Maldives Chaaya hotels pledge “I will be Green”

LOS ANGELES, California - The Maldives are home to a small group of Elite Green Globe Members, renowned to lead by example: The Chaaya Island Dhonveli, the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo, and the Chaaya Lagoon Hakuura Huraa. All three properties have been enthusiastically involved in environmental protection activities for years – to live by the John Keells Group pledge “I will be Green.” In observance of World Tourism Day 2013, all three Chaaya Resorts organized a series of events under the motto “Tourism and Water.”

September 27 marked the United Nations’ calendar day, highlighting tourism – a sector that is driving socio-economic growth and development all over the world. This year’s World Tourism Day was held under the theme of “Tourism and Water – Protecting our Common Future.” The Republic of Maldives, one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries, and a major tourist destination, was hosting the official celebrations.

A special VCD was produced for each resort, capturing major water related activities and marine life around the resort. In addition, an information leaflet was provided, giving insights on sustainability and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and climate change – with respect to the tourism industry. More than 400 VCD’s and leaflets were handed out to in-house guests during their breakfast, and everybody was invited to participate in the special seminar on marine life around the Maldives. A special proposal on coral reef restoration project was submitted by the Dive Center Manager at the Chaaya Dhonveli.

Participating guests, students and teachers from nearby island schools appraised the efforts of the Resort Management and Dive Center staff, in celebration of this special event. The students were also given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the hotel operations. A delicious lunch concluded the morning activities for the students.

“We are delighted to host the celebrations of World Tourism Day and support this important and timely initiative here in the Maldives,” said Mr. Kumar Prem, General Manager at the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo Resort. “The Maldives is a paradigm of well-managed and sustainable water use in developing island states, where the availability of fresh water and the level of water consumption have become a particular concern. Our commitment is reflected in our management principles and daily practices, which aim at building a sustainable future for the generations to come. Chaaya Resorts in the Maldives have reduced their water consumption by 31.1%. The current water footprint of the sector is 543 liters per guest.”


The amazing array of Chaaya Maldives Hotels & Resorts offers everything from intimate honeymoon hideaways to luxurious pampering spas, and exotic underwater havens. There is romance in the air, adventure in the ocean, and indulgence all over. Chaaya Island Dhonveli is the perfect destination for the discerning pleasure seeker. Warm waters of the azure sea are an ideal balm that lifts the spirits and calms the soul. Perfect waves make surfing an unforgettable experience here. For an ultimate holiday experience, the Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa makes the impeccable destination. Located 145 km from the capital Male, it takes 45 minutes by seaplane to get to this idyllic 6-acre island paradise. Accommodations include 70 over water bungalows and 10 beach bungalows. Peace and tranquility envelops you at the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. Once you stayed here, life will never be the same again. The pristine coral reefs have the most incredible underwater life that you can ever imagine. A kaleidoscope of florescence colored fish in an underwater garden of coral reef is certainly a spectacular sight.

Contact: Kavinga Karunasekara, Specialist Sustainabiity & Processes, John Keells Maldivian Resorts (Pte) Ltd., 2nd floor, H. Maizan Building, Sosun Magu, Male, 2052 Republic of Maldives, E-mail, Phone: +960 7970 795 (mobile), +960 6640 055 (general), Fax: +960 6640 066, or:


Green Globe Certification is the worldwide sustainability system based on internationally-accepted criteria for sustainable operation and management of travel and tourism businesses. Operating under a worldwide license, Green Globe Certification is based in California, USA, and is represented in over 83 countries. Green Globe Certification is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, supported by the United Nations Foundation. For information, visit


Maldives President condemns calls for foreign intervention

Asserting that government is making preparations to ensure a smooth transfer of power, Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed today condemned calls for foreign military intervention in the country amid political chaos.

In his address to the nation, Waheed accepted that country has been pushed into "chaos" following a Supreme Court order suspending the first round of elections.

"I strongly condemn calls for foreign military interventions in the Maldives and to interfere in domestic affairs of the country. We are not intimidated by such calls. We are prepared to save the country from such foreign parties that may attempt to interfere in the powers of the state," Waheed said.

The President said everyone in the country is looking forward to the elections to be held as soon as possible and the candidate elected to assume the presidency on November 11.

"I give my full assurance that the government will do everything possible to achieve this target. This government is making necessary preparations to ensure a smooth transfer of power," he said.

Waheed said the country has so far overcome difficult political situations, by working peacefully and patiently.

"I am confident that we can resolve the current issue and complete the election process." Waheed, who could muster only five per cent of the votes in the first round, said.

The President reminded the Maldivian people, especially political leaders, that every moment of discord and disharmony amongst Maldivians opens a door for foreign intervention in domestic issues.

"Even though our independent institutions are young and imperfect, they are the institutions of this country. When we disrepute and dishonour those institutions, foreign parties giving opinions in place of those institutions, is not a far-fetched possibility," he warned.

Maldivian Democratic Party leader Mohammed Nasheed, who led the first round with over 45 per cent votes, has to face in the second round the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdullah Yameen who was the runner up in the first phase held on September 7.

The second round of the Presidential run-off between former President Nasheed and Yameen had to take place on September 28 but it was indefinitely postponded by the Supreme Court which is hearing allegations of irregularity in the polls.


Maldives says Supreme Court to rule on election petition soon

UNITED NATIONS — Maldives says its Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on a petition that has held up a second round of voting in its contentious presidential election.

Acting foreign minister, Mariyam Shakeela, told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday that the integrity of the second round can't be maintained without ensuring the first round was fair.
Shakeela said the election process can continue after the court's verdict, allowing a new president to be sworn in Nov. 11.

The U.N. and Western nations had all praised the conduct of the first round.
The front-runner in that vote accused the court of colluding with Maldives' former autocratic ruler to deny him victory.

Maldives held its first multi-party election in 2008 but has faced political turmoil in the past year.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Helen Flanagan tweets about swimming naked in Maldives

Helen Flanagan has shared a series of revealing bikini pictures from her holiday in Maldives on Twitter.

The 23-year old former girlfriend of English footballer Scott Sinclair tweeted pictures from her private resort in the island nation located in the Indian Ocean, and wrote "Swimming naked in my pool", the Mirror reported.

She posted snaps from the pool side, from her first class plane seat and another while sipping champagne.


'CSI turtle' launches investigation into ghost fishing nets found in the Maldives

Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme , Maldives

Call it CSI Turtle. In the Maldives, at the heart of the Indian Ocean, scores of turtles are being found with gashed or ripped-off flippers and deep scars in their shells. The cause is clear: the turtles are becoming ensnared in "ghost" fishing nets that have either have been lost or dumped.

The turtles that don't drown are then attacked mercilessly by accomplices. The stumps of the turtles' flippers show clear signs of being ripped off by sharks, while the shell damage points to a sharp implement: the beaks of birds and the claws of crabs. The nets themselves cut through the turtle's flesh like cheesewire, leaving deep wounds.

But what the investigation has not yet established are the culprits behind the crime and the motive. "It's OK to keep finding these turtles and keep stitching them up, but it's just going to keep happening. So we need to try to find out why the nets are being lost," says Dr Jill Hudgins, a scientist from the Seamarc consultancy and employed by the Four Seasons resort on Landaa Giraavaru island.

The turtles are the Olive Ridley variety, which live in the open ocean, not the atolls and lagoons of the Maldives, and Maldivian fishermen don't use nets, pointing the investigation abroad. Hudgins' team has now compiled a database of more than 40 net types, detailing the mesh size and the twine diameter, as well as the types of floats attached and other data like the labels on debris trapped in the net such as plastic bottles.

The evidence all points to trawler nets floating in from India and Sri Lanka, and a recent breakthrough was finding a net manufacturer's label: Garware, an Indian company. Hudgins has now sent images of the nets and severely injured turtles to the company and awaits their reply. "We want to scare them a bit," she says, and then get their help in finding solutions.

If it is because the fishermen do not have access to disposal facilities, she says, that could be set up. Or if boats fishing illegally are dumping nets when challenged by patrols at sea, that could be addressed too. Hudgins' team has also hooked up with Ghost Nets Australia, which successfully tracked nets back to fishermen in northern Australia.

So far 42 turtles have been released from the centre on Landaa Giraavaru and more islands are starting to join in. They spend an average of a month or two in rehab, after being treated.

The team has also demonstrated that the turtles can adapt to the loss of one fin by attaching £1,600 trackers to rehabilitated animals. "They travelled just as far – about 1,000km a month – as those not missing flippers," says Hudgins. But the loss of two fins is thought to be too much, making it near impossible for the turtles to dive and feed.

One turtle – which arrived with its skull split open, probably due to a boat collision – also travelled successfully, although in the opposite direction to the others.

But another turtle, now blind and with neurological problems probably due to being poisoned, has been at the centre for 18 months so far. Some are too injured to ever be likely to return to the ocean, and with a 60-year lifespan, Hudgins says: "They are going to be really long-term residents."


Monday, September 30, 2013

Future sea level rises should not restrict new island formation in the Maldives

he continued accumulation of sand within the iconic ring-shaped reefs inside Maldivian atolls could provide a foundation for future island development new research suggests. Islands like the Maldives are considered likely to be the first to feel the effects of climate change induced sea level rise, with future island growth essential to counter the threat of rising sea levels.

The study published in the journal Geology, and carried out by researchers from the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Auckland, James Cook University, the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan, Curtin University and the University of Glasgow, focussed on the formation of islands inside the atolls of the Maldives.

The researchers studied the history and timing of island building, a process which starts when the lagoons fill sufficiently with sand that is derived from the surrounding corals reefs, to provide a foundation for island establishment.

Assuming these reefs continue to flourish and can thus maintain high rates of sand supply, those lagoons that are already nearly full have clear potential to provide foundations for new island development over the next few hundred years.

Professor Chris Perry from the University of Exeter said: "Many of the heavily populated islands in the Maldives have limited capacity to respond naturally to sea-level rise and this will necessitate additional spending on shoreline maintenance.

"Our research suggests, however, that the potential does exist for new island formation on those reefs inside the atolls that have near fully infilled lagoons. These may ultimately provide additional land options across the region, and some possibilities for mitigation options under higher sea level conditions."

The study suggests that it is the smaller reefs, with lagoons that are already nearly in-filled, that are most likely to give rise to new islands. Once established, and given sufficient sand supply, the findings suggest that these new islands can develop rapidly, over a few 100 years, and that these may then evolve into larger, island structures that could provide alternative land options in the region.

Evidence from this region also suggests that many existing islands established and expanded under slightly higher than present sea-levels over the last few 1000 years.

Larger reefs with deeper, unfilled, central lagoons are likely to only fill with sand over much longer timescales and are thus unlikely to support new island development over any meaningful future timescales.

Sea level rise is projected to put increasing pressure on the Maldives. Heavily populated islands, including the low-lying capital Male, have limited capacity to respond to natural shoreline changes and will thus require ever more costly management interventions to sustain them under projected sea level rises.


Helen Flanagan chills in the nude on luxurious Maldives break

Model and former Corrie star Helen Flanagan did just that on her recent break at the Indian Ocean resort.

The 23-year-old, voted FHM’s world’s sexiest woman, was holidaying with her agent and her children.

And just because she was over 8000 kilometres from home didn’t mean she couldn’t update her social media accounts with snapshots of her luxurious break.

Flanagan posted plenty of photos of the deluxe hotel to her Instagram page, captioning one, “Swimming naked in my pool”.

Aside from the odd skinny dip, Helen spent some time catching up with her ‘spiritual reading’.

Posting a photo of the book ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by  M.Scott Peck on her Twitter page, Helen wrote, “Love spiritual reading and can not be parted from my @taylormorrisldn sunglasses.”

Helen split from her footballer boyfriend Scott Sinclair in June, but was recently spotted sneaking out of a hotel with him.

The couple ended their relationship after Sinclair was reportedly ‘sexting’ another woman.


China now the focus of many global travelers, UNWTO chief says

MALE - The profile of the global traveler is changing and Europe is no more the center of attraction, according to UN World Tourist Organization (UNWTO), Dr. Taleb Rifai.

China, he told reporters at a media briefing on the sidelines of the World Tourism Day official celebrations held last week in the Maldives, is now the focus of many receiving markets.

The UNWTO chief bestowed accolades on the attraction of the Maldives to foreign visitors, saying, “This place is simply magic. It is truly unparalleled on Earth.”

The Maldives was picked to host this year’s official World Tourism Day celebrations, which was held last year in the Canary Islands while next year it moves to Mexico.

“World Tourism Day this is the center of our celebrations which we hold in special places. Maldives is special and in particular because the topic of discussion is on the theme ‘tourism and water,’” he told the official opening ceremony on Friday, attending by Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed and Tourism, Arts & Culture Minister Admed Adeeb. The focus of this year’s celebration was also sustainable development of the tourism industry.

Dr. Rifai said the Maldives is a unique example of how tourism can do good, if well managed.

There are 100 resorts in the Maldives mostly catering to the up-market traveler, which are self-managing in terms of water production (through de-salinization) and sewage disposal among other initiatives.

Last year more than one billion travelers crossed borders with 1 of every 7 people in the world making an international trip. Dr. Rifai added, “We need to manage it well and turn this into one billion opportunities instead of one billion disasters.”

In his address, President Waheed described the Maldives as an archipelago that stretches across over 1,000 kilometers of mostly water and less land mass.

“We have been sailors, boat builders and fishermen until 40 years ago tourism became a reality. Our oceans are at risk, our islands are at risk. Climate change and global warming is more severe to the Maldives than most people think,” he noted.

He said out of the 191 inhabited islands, 113 are threatened by salt water intrusion and coastal erosion.

The event was also the occasion to launch the Maldives 4th Tourism Masterplan which focuses mostly on infrastructure development and increasing the number of Maldivians employed in the tourism sector, among other proposals.

The one-day conference that included a panel discussion on the theme of the meeting was held in the backdrop of opposition protests in the capital, Male, which is about 10-15 minutes away by speedboat from the Kurumba Maldives resort where the meeting was held.

Dr. Rifai, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the celebrations, said the UN body wanted to hold the meeting in the Maldives, despite the issues, at a time when the people of the Maldives are deciding their future.

Commenting on the crisis, he said travelers across the world are today acutely aware of political, social, and economic issues and that this is part of life.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is protesting against a Supreme Court ruling to suspend the second round presidential vote until a verdict is reached in a petition against the first round election. The opposition is also urging tourism workers to protest.

The second round poll was scheduled to have been held on Saturday, September 28.

Ahmed Adeeb, Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture told reporters at the same briefing with Dr. Rifai that they were concerned by Nasheed’s call.

“This will affect the entire industry. Politics should not be brought into tourism. Tourism workers I believe won’t abide by the call but if they do it will be a big backlash (in the industry),” he said. Maldivian resort owners also expressed concern over the call for protests. Tourism is the Maldives main foreign exchange earner.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Maldives is the extreme test case for climate change action

Under threat: Baa Atoll, Maldives.

Like rays of burning sunlight concentrated through a magnifying glass, almost all the world's environmental problems come into sharp focus in the Maldives. The 1,000km-long archipelago is the extreme test case.

The lowest lying country in the world is not even built on sand, but on the planet's most endangered ecosystem, coral reefs, the smashed fragments of which comprise every stunning white beach. And not only is the tide of sea level lapping at the shallow islands, but sea temperatures are rising as is the acidity of the ocean: both kill the corals.

The news from the world's climate scientists in their landmark report on Friday will be that the threat of global warming is worse and more imminent than in their 2007 analysis. But what is being done?

The beating sunlight in the Maldives should at least deliver plentiful solar power. But in a grim irony, the 400,000 islanders, whose overall contribution to planet-warming carbon emissions is negligible, are entirely hooked on diesel for the generators that keep their lights on. The nation, which is close to broke, spends over a quarter of its GDP on the fuel and pays colossal subsidies to keep energy bills affordable.

Solar power would be a just quarter of the cost on most islands, Mohamed Arjwad at the Maldives energy authority told me, making it a no-brainer - in theory. But there's no capital or expertise to deliver it, he says.

Instead international investors are piling into tourism, the mainstay of the economy. Despite the doubts about whether the Maldives will keep its head above water and the $1.5m per room cost of developing luxury resorts, the existing 110 resort islands are set to be joined by 50-60 more, each posing dangers to the fragile coral environment.

"That is too many if they are not implemented well, and they are not," says Armando Kraenzlin, regional vice-president for the Four Seasons resorts in the Maldives, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on marine scientists in an attempt to protect its own natural coral and sealife assets.

Stark contradictions also exist in the Maldives' second biggest industry, fishing. Traditional pole-and-line caught tuna is as sustainable as tuna fishing can be, yet the groupers and snappers which form a cornerstone of the coral ecosystem which underpin the islands are being fished out. Sea cucumbers, fat as marrows, are going the same way and the use of the lagoon-nurseries where sharks and rays breed their young for sea cucumber farms is growing, along with the risks of pollution.

"The Chinese pay a hell of a lot of money for these: that is good for us and also bad for us," Dr Shiham Adam, head of the Marine Research Centre, tells me. The tension is summed up by anecdotes of the increasingly numerous and rich Chinese tourists who are attracted by the extraordinary sea life and then eat it.

Add to all these challenges the vast and growing rubbish mountains - the only hills in the Maldives, locals joke – and the growing freshwater crisis and it's clear the Maldives is on the environmental front line.

Many of these problems could be solved. Many of the solutions, like solar power, are cheaper in the Maldives than the status quo, but incur an upfront cost. The inevitable tension between raising incomes in a relatively poor nation and over-exploiting the natural source of the wealth is creating a paradox in paradise.

But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is apathy. For most Maldivians, the problems are out of sight and out of mind. Travel in the vast archipelago is expensive and most Maldivians will see only two or three of the 1,200 islands. Many, especially women, cannot swim and so do not see the riches below the sea's turquoise surface, such as the orange and white clownfish snuggling into the waving mauve and green-tipped tentacles of their anemone homes.

Mohamed Aslam, a former environment minister, accepts the short term nature of politics and the focus of voters in the current presidential campaign on housing, health and welfare benefits. "There is a mismatch in timescale. Climate change is decade-long or more but political timescales are four to five years," he says. "But you need to survive to enjoy those benefits. Just because you are not dead now doesn't mean you are not dying."

With the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Friday, the threat to the Maldives will be clearer than ever. The solutions are also clear, both globally and locally, and the investments required are perfectly sound.

But if the extreme case of the Maldives is not being dealt with, and it is not, can the will and the ways really be found to tackle the global problem? The IPCC report will sound the alarm louder than ever, but will it be heard?

Mohamed Nasheed, whose advocacy as president put the Maldives on the climate change map, is uncertain. Asked for the odds of his grandchildren inheriting an inhabitable Maldives, he says: "50-50."


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chinese tourists, diplomats make a splash in the Maldives

Chinese tourists, diplomats make a splash in the Maldives

The travellers pouring off flight LV199 from Shanghai into the international airport of the Maldives, many dressed in designer labels, are an unmissable sign of China's interest in the far-flung archipelago.

Their arrival -- Chinese visitors are now the biggest group of tourists to the Indian Ocean islands -- has been accompanied by greater diplomatic engagement in the Maldives by Beijing, which is investing widely around South Asia.

Recently married Chen Hui and Fang Ye, 20-something business executives from near Shanghai, are returning for their second trip and heading to a resort by speed boat where over-the-water bungalows start at $500 a night.

"Most of our friends come here on their honeymoon," Fang told AFP, who said they were looking forward to doing some fishing and posing for photos on the sun-kissed white sands that draw nearly a million visitors a year.

The Maldives has been promoted as a destination in the Chinese media, she said, with the Islamic republic benefiting from its status as an "approved destination" by the Communist Party government.

Chinese now comprise nearly a quarter of all tourists annually, triggering a recruitment race for Mandarin-speaking hosts, waiters and diving instructors at five-star hotels.

Across the water from the airport island lies the cramped capital Male, where Chinese aid paid for the foreign ministry, a waterfront building built in the shape of sails that evoke the nation's sea-faring character.

In the Sultan Park neighbourhood stands the two-storey national museum, another gift from China that opened in 2010. It hit the headlines two years later when Islamist rioters broke in and smashed invaluable Buddhist artefacts.

Around the same time, Beijing opened an embassy, giving it a permanent diplomatic presence -- and better access to the frequent Chinese swimming casualties who underestimate the dangers of the country's turquoise waters.

"I think we will do our best to develop our friendship and cooperate in the economic field," Chinese ambassador in Male, Yu Hongyao, told AFP in an interview when asked about Beijing's vision for relations.

"Gradually we will give aid to Maldives," he added.

He said that bilateral trade volumes remain "very small" but that talks were on for future joint projects, including possible road construction and education schemes.

China's interest in the Maldives fits a pattern of investments around the Indian Ocean, referred to by some analysts as a "string of pearls" strategy to contain India's rise.

The Maldives consists of more than 1,100 islands scattered across the equator, which sit aside the world's most important shipping channel on which goods from the East travel to markets in the West.

Its strategic location was appreciated by former colonial master Britain, which ran a military base here until 1976, and China was once rumoured to be eyeing an uninhabited atoll as a submarine base.

Ambassador Yu laughs off what he calls alarmist reporting in the Indian media and stresses that the Maldives is an independent country with a diplomatic relationship with Beijing stretching back more than 40 years.

India continues to be by far the biggest foreign influence in the country, but its uncontested hegemony has waned recently -- as it has in other historically pro-India neighbours Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

Outgoing president Mohamed Waheed dispatched ministers to Beijing after taking power in 2012 and visited himself later in the year. Most significantly, he alienated New Delhi by ejecting Indian firm GMR, which was running the national airport.

The second round of presidential elections, due to be held on September 28, will therefore be critical for the future trajectory of the country and its eagerness to embrace Chinese aid.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted as president in February 2012 by mutinous police officers and replaced by Waheed, has overcome his sense of betrayal by New Delhi for failing to prevent his overthrow.

"Our foreign policy is 'find a friend, be good to that friend and don't play the friend off against any other'," he told reporters on September 5 shortly after visiting India, where he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

His opponent in the run-off, Abdullah Yameen, would be likely to take a balanced approach but has personal family reasons to be grateful to India.

His half-brother, long-time autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled until 2008, was saved from a coup by late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who dispatched paratroopers in 1988.

Out at the Anantara holiday resort where tourists Chen and Fang are beginning their holiday, such thoughts seem a world away as they are welcomed at the jetty by a traditional drummer and staff bearing cold face towels.

Employees such as spa attendant Huang Jing Fang are on hand 24 hours a day to cater for their every need.

"Maldives is like a dream place for Chinese people, and me also," Huang told AFP. "That's why I came to work here."


Monday, September 23, 2013

Maldives Supreme Court postpones presidential run-off for appeal

(Reuters) - The Maldives' Supreme Court on Monday postponed a presidential election run-off scheduled for September 28 to allow it to consider a challenge from a defeated first-round candidate, denting hopes of an end to months of political turmoil.

The candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, a tourism and media tycoon who was finance minister under long-time ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, came third with 24.07 percent of votes in the first round on September 7, just behind Gayoom's half-brother Abdulla Yameen, on 25.35 percent.

The first round was won by ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, whose removal from power 20 months ago ignited months of unrest in the Indian Ocean archipelago. He secured 45.45 percent in the first round, just short of the 50 percent needed for outright victory, and his party promptly announced mass protests against the postponement.

Gasim's Jumhoory Party (JP) had asked the court to annul the first round result, alleging vote rigging.

"The Supreme Court orders the Elections Commission and other state institutions ... to postpone the second round of Presidential elections scheduled for September 28 until the Supreme Court decides in the case before it," the court said in its ruling.

Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesman for Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said the MDP would appeal.

"This is unconstitutional and people will not accept it ... we have already challenged it and the party's National Council approved a protest," he said by phone from Male. "We appeal to security forces to ensure the safety of the protesters."

Nasheed, who served for three years as the Maldives' first democratically elected president, was forced from office in February 2012 when mutinying police and soldiers armed opposition demonstrators and gave him an ultimatum.

Protests by his supporters were met with a heavy police crackdown that tarnished the Maldives' image as a tranquil holiday paradise. Analysts and human rights defenders say the islands have been in political and economic limbo ever since.

Critical challenges facing the next president include a rise in Islamist ideology, human rights abuses and a lack of investor confidence after the government cancelled the Maldives' biggest foreign investment project with India's GMR Infrastructure.


World Tourism Day: UNWTO Focuses on the Importance of Water

2205F04.Ban-Ki-Moon.jpg - 2205F04.Ban-Ki-Moon.jpgPreparations are at fever pitch in the Maldives, the host of this year’s official celebrations of the World Tourism Day on Friday September 27. The theme of the event which will be celebrated in many other countries around the world is “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future”.

As the most important international observance day for tourism, WTD 2013 is a worldwide platform to underscore tourism´s responsibility and commitment in ensuring a sustainable water future.

In a special message on the occasion of WTD 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “This year’s World Tourism Day highlights the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage water. In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel.”

“World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide,” he added.

As part of the WTD celebrations in the Maldives, a high-level Think Tank on Tourism and Water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, leading experts on water preservation and media experts to debate key issues encompassing the global water challenge.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

The most important international observance day for tourism

As the most important international observance day for tourism, World Tourism Day (WTD )2013 is a worldwide platform to underscore tourism´s responsibility and commitment in ensuring a sustainable water future.The most important international observance day for tourism

With one week left until World Tourism Day on September 27, preparations are on the final stretch in the Maldives, the host of this year’s official celebrations, and in many countries around the world around the 2013 theme, “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future.”

In a special message on the occasion of WTD 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “This year’s World Tourism Day highlights the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage water. In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel.”

“World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide,” he added.

As part of the WTD celebrations in the Maldives, a high-level Think Tank on Tourism and Water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, leading experts on water preservation and media experts to debate key issues encompassing the global water challenge.

UNWTO invites all to participate and share their events and follow the official WTD celebrations online:


AFC Cup Preview: Al Kuwait v New Radiant

Al Kuwait head into the second leg of their AFC Cup quarter-final with New Radiant knowing they are on the cusp of reaching the last four.Rasmee Dhandu Stadium

Marin Ion's men cruised to a 7-2 victory in the first leg in the Maldives and securing their progress to the semi-finals on Tuesday should be a formality.

Tunisian striker Issam Jemaa was the key man in the first leg, the 29-year-old finding the net four times as the Kuwaiti champions picked apart the New Radiant defence.

That result should give the hosts supreme confidence going into the second leg, but they will be eager to guard against complacency.

Still, the defending champions will be heavy favourites for the game at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium, with the focus sure to be on Jemaa as he looks to add to his tally of 10 goals in this competition so far.

Both sides will have to make changes ahead of the game, with Mohamed Umair suspended for New Radiant, and Abudulhadi Khamis banned for Al Kuwait after both players were dismissed in the closing stages of the first leg.

New Radiant displayed great spirit in the second half of that contest, Ali Fasir and Ali Ashfaq pulling goals back after they had fallen 6-0 behind before the interval.

Chedi Hammami's late penalty all but ended their hopes but Velizar Popov's men should be keen to regain some respectability and avoid another dismal loss.

Popov will likely look to striker Ali Ashfaq - who has nine goals in the competition so far - to inspire them to victory.

The winner of the tie will face either East Bengal or Semen in the last four.


Friday, September 20, 2013

No evidence of any election fraud: Transparency Maldives

MALE: In the backdrop of election rigging allegations, voluntary watchdog Transparency Maldives said that it did not find "any evidence" supporting the claims of fraud in the first round of presidential polls.

Transparency Maldives was one of the observer group which kept a close watch on presidential elections held on September 7 with the help of its volunteers at over 470 ballot boxes.

"In view of the cases submitted and allegations made at the High Court and Supreme Court of the Maldives regarding systematic vote rigging, Transparency Maldives notes that it did not find any evidence that support allegations of systematic election day fraud during the nation-wide observation," the group said in a statement.

It appealed to "all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud."

India and other international agencies including the UN which were part of over 100 international observers have appealed to all parties to respect the will of people expressed through results.

India has asked all sides to respect the verdict and aspirations of the people of Maldives.

"We hope that the second round of Presidential elections will be held as scheduled on September 28, 2013 in a similar transparent, organised and peaceful manner," a spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry had said yesterday.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) whose candidate Gasim Ibrahim missed the second of polls round by a whisker has alleged irregularities in the voters' list and requested the apex court to annul first round of elections.

The appeal has support of Progressive Party of Maldives whose candidate Abdullah Yameen remained runner-up.

The allegations have been refuted by the Election Commission and Maldivian Democratic Party whose candidate former President Mohammed Nasheed won the first round with overwhelming 45 per cent of total votes.

He would face runner-up Abdullah Yameen in the second round on September 28 as none of the candidate could muster up support of over 50 per cent of the voters.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

From Maldives to Bangkok… Dubai Police help bust drug gangs

The General Directorate for Drug Control of Dubai Police received many letters of thanks for its contribution in helping foil at least five cases of cocaine smuggling.
The suspects were attempting to smuggle drugs from Latin America to South Africa, Maldives, Singapore and Thailand.
A total of about 13kgs of cocaine were seized from the five cases.
In the first operation a woman coming from Cape Town was caught. She was hiding at least 5kg drugs in several bags.
In the second case, the lead given by Dubai Police helped arrest a suspect at Durban airport, who possessed 400 grams of cocaine.
In the third operation, the suspect was arrested in Maldives and 3.2 kg cocaine was seized from the suitcase.
The fourth case was busted in Bangkok airport following information provided by Dubai Police. The suspect was caught with 1.4 kg of cocaine.
Two others from South Africa were also arrested.
The fifth operation led to the arrest of the suspect at Singapore airport.
The accused along with a woman was held with 3 kg of cocaine. They had hid the drugs in metal pipes.