Investigation: should we continue to boycott the Maldives in 2019?

08/07/2019

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    Since 2012, the hell hidden behind the picture perfect decoration of the Maldives has no longer been a secret to anyone. Their domestic policy caused a great wave of indignation to rise among the media and travel agencies around the world. As of a few years ago, the wind is changing for the Maldivians, a hope for this little republic in the Indian Ocean where 40% of the GDP is from the tourism in its atolls, commonly referred to as the « hotel islands ». An investigation into the political and ecological revolution that promises happier days to come…

    Aerial view on the Maldives hotel atolls

     

     

    The abolition of sharia, better waste management and a return to the rights of man is what the new president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, newly elected by universal suffrage at the end of 2018, is promising. This information didn’t slip by the Little Guest luxury hotel collection, who was closely following this situation in the archipelago after having heard about the call to boycott this dreamy destination. As the author of all these changes, will the head of the state be able to bring about the long awaited change to the island nation, the most sought after destination among wealthy tourists?

     

    > To know everything about this paradise destination and make your family holiday a success, don’t miss our Maldives Guide!

     

    THE ELECTION OF A PROGRESSIVE PRESIDENT

    Hope for a new democracy 

    On November 17, 2018, the Maldivians elected their new president with a 58% majority: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The 57 year old statesmen was a member of the opposition to the authoritarian regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the ex-dictator who drove the country into a wave of repression during 30 long years. Founder of the Democratic Party in 2003, the new president spoke after his election about his intentions to reform the legislative system, the justice system, and human rights by abolishing the repressive laws and giving civil society equal access to public goods. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also mentioned his desire to reintegrate the nation in the Commonwealth, an assembly of states that guaranties the respect and application of democracy and human rights.

     

    « The abolition of sharia, better waste management and a return to the rights of man is what the new president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. »

     

    A revolution for the nation where the political history is just as troubling as it is shocking. Between dictators, the violation of fundamental rights and sharia, the country started to concern more and more international organizations that have, since 2012, asked travel companies and agencies to boycott the paradisiac destination that is the most sought after by wealthy travelers.

     

    The end of an authoritarian Salafi regime

    Less than a year ago, under the previous president, Abdul Yameen’s regime, members of the opposition who spoke out publicly were imprisoned, justice was corrupt, sharia was reinstated in 2014 which imposed public floggings of women suspected of adultery or of having sexual relations outside of marriage, forced marriages for girls as young as 9 years old, as well as the death penalty for children as young as 7 years old, considering theft, the renunciation of religion and the consumption of alcohol to be serious enough offenses to warrant such a punishment…

    The tale of these horrifying events made its way through the international press and put hotel groups in the atolls on alert. Among them, the famous millionaire Sir Richard Branson, owner of numerous luxury family hotels around the world, threatened to pull Virgin Group’s business out of the island nation if child executions, condemned to capital punishment even though they were minors, continued.

     

    The European Council revokes its sanctions

    Since the transference of power, things have significantly improved on the Maldivian territory. Not only has the new president led investigations into the corruption and embezzlement of funds that took place under Yameen, as well as liberating the political prisoners and asking exiled political opposition to return to the country, without forgetting the democratic and peaceful elections that took place April 6th, 2019 in Malé.

    In light of these events, the European Council decided to revoke its restrictive sanctions put in place against the Maldives, established last summer. These sanctions sought to forbid entrance into the EU to « people or entities responsible for acts that violate the rule of law or acting as an obstacle to instating an inclusive political solution in the Maldives, as well as people and entities responsible for serious violations of the rights of man”1. One of many actions that has encouraged travelers who love paradisiac destinations to head back to Malé. The only damper on the nation’s bright future: the Maldives’ ecological catastrophe, a taboo that has been hidden from vacationers ever since the touristic boom…

     

     

    Aerial view on Male in Maldives

    The capital of the Maldives, Malé, is recorded as the most densely populated city in the world

     

     

    THE AWAKENING OF ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS

    Better waste management

    Waste management is a real conundrum in the Maldives. To this day, there is still no regulated, responsible and efficient sorting system in the republic. A conundrum made all the more complicated as it requires coordinating 1,190 islands and 22 atolls, reachable only by waterways and some still uninhabited, under one system. The easy solution put in place by the previous regimes in the Maldives that worries international ecological organizations has the nice, exotic name « Thilafushi ». Located 20 minutes by boat from the capital, what is now commonly referred to as « trash island » welcomes more than 300 tons of plastic, electronic and industrial waste every day. Government employees brunt a mountain of garbage there 24/7, releasing toxic fumes into the surrounding air and water. A disaster for the environment, considering how valuable it is in that part of the world …

    Luckily, the Maldivians recently became aware of the environmental emergency. From a young age, children living on the islands are invited to join local organizations whose goal is to preserve their land through recycling. School children collect garbage on the beaches of the capital every day, along with their teachers and volunteers.

     

    « From a young age, children living on the islands are invited to join local organizations whose goal is to preserve their land through recycling. »

     

     

    The responsibility of the island’s hotels

    The first country threatened by the rising water levels; the Maldives are home to hundreds of waterfront hotels located in the atolls’ lagoons. Wanting to also play a part in the change, hotel chains teach their guests about the preservation of the Maldivian ecosystems, starting with protecting endangered underwater species. Among them are the turtles and the coral, victims of overfishing and climate change respectively.

    More and more laboratories are opening their doors on the islands. Orchestrated by biologists from all around the world, they are actively working on grafting coral and carefully establishing « nurseries » underneath the stilts of the bungalows, protected from the currents. A justified and inevitable collaboration for the hotel islands who depend entirely on the survival of the reefs. If the coral disappears, the waves (without any obstacles to get in their way) will speed up erosion of the shores and, in turn, the submersion of the atolls.

     

     

    A marine turtle swims in the Inidan ocean

    Almost every species of sea turtle is threatened by extinction

     

     

    AND NOW?

    Little Guest’s advice by its founder and CEO, Jérôme Stefanski

    « In December of 2018, I learned of the election of the new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih while flipping through the pages of the weekly Courrier International. This surprise election was not publicized, even though it opens up a fantastic chance for the Maldives to reinstate a democratic system of government. As a part of the travel industry, I am overjoyed since the local population makes its living mainly off tourism, and during these last few years many of our clients have hesitated to visit this magnificent country because of everything they heard in the media. The political and ecological revolution has been set in motion in the Maldives and each of us must play our part! ». Brussels, 06/24/2019

     

    To help you make up your own mind, Little Guest invites you to discover this destination where fine sandy beaches bordered by coconut palms, crystal clear waters and coral reefs blend harmoniously to offer you a heavenly family stay.

    To do so, what could be better than a sumptuous 5-star hotel? Surrounded by turquoise waters and endless white sandy beaches, the Niyama Private Islands has all the makings of a paradise on earth. In addition to its dream setting for a lazy holiday in the sun, the hotel has understood the importance of combining peace and quiet with family well-being. Thus, the atoll is divided into two interconnected islands: the first one, focused on relaxation and calm, is ideal for a couple’s getaway; the second one, home to a kids-club, is dedicated to activities for children and families. This exceptional hotel therefore offers something for everyone, combining moments of relaxation and fun.

     

     

    Sources Consilium Europa (1), Le RoutardAmnesty InternationalLe Figaro

     

     

     

    Sarah, 27 years old, Italian food and travel addict, from Brussels

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