In an apparent swipe against the ‘mega demo’ on last Friday, the govt announced that its mulling plans to ban import of alcohol and pork. The govt’s spin doctors apparently advised the administration to put a bill through parliament to ban these products and let the MPs do the debates on the issue to point out the unworkable nature of the big-demo demands.
However the way the govt seems to approach these demands is growlingly seen as insincere and half thought-out, provoking interesting discussions across media.
The big demo’s list of demands were
- To forbid the sale of wine and pork and not to designate areas in inhibited islands as ‘UN-inhibited islands’ which is the only way now to be able to operate a bar in an inhibited island as the existing rules prohibit sale of liquor in inhabited islands
- To remove the controversial monuments in Addu after the SAARC summit.
- To apologize for Ms. Pilley’s remarks about religion
- To revoke the decision to allow Israeli airliner El Al to operate to Maldives.
- To close massage parlors in Male’ most of which are places for prostitution.
our analysis of the big-demo’s demands:
- Sale of wine is prohibited for Muslims and a Muslim administration cannot charge royalties, apply fees and issue license etc for forbidden goods. Therefore one workable solution to this problem would be to outsource licensing and regulating of these items to a competent non-Muslim entity. As for pork we understand that several resorts actually do not import this item at all and do not even have standard permits for import of this item. Resorts run by Villa, Jresorts, and Waheedudheen are all doing fine without this item. Import duty on this item can also be waived and import and regulation can also be outsourced.
- The monuments have done lots of political damage to MDP and also there is no denying the fact that issue has been politicized beyond repair. So it needs to go and the sooner its removed the better for everyone.
- Apologizing for Ms Pilley’s remarks by the administration or by the president is neither politically tenable nor beneficial since it wont change the facts. There is also some fact that most of what she has said, has been taken out of context and bloated for political reasons.
- The call to revoke decision to grant operating license to Israeli airliner El Al has merits on moral grounds as Israel continues to defy international opinion on working to establish peace in the region. This is nothing new and many countries and organizations do boycott of Israel in this line of thinking. In our situation we can afford to do this boycott because of our small size but most western countries cannot afford to confront this issue for historic reasons as well as the threat of being ostracized by the powerful pro-Zionist media .
- The big demo demand to ban massage parlors in inhabited islands was in fact a call to ban places of prostitution which goes by names such as massage parlors and beauty saloons etc. It definitely does not involve high end spas managed and run by resorts and its unfortunate that tourism ministry ordered to close spas at Paradise and Villa group’s resorts.
17th SAARC convention center at Addu
After months of preparation, Addu will today host the 17th SAARC summit with several world leaders from South East Asian countries. Talks on agenda include the usual India-Pakistan befriending talks, transportation agreements and the idea to use single currency throughout the region like EU. SAARC is generally perceived to be a talk shop for leaders from the region and there is talk (just as before!) of giving more teeth to SAARC secretariat to make SAARC more pragmatic.
An example of the disconnect between SAARC summit organizers and the people is the ongoing demonstrations in Addu in protest at the monuments erected for the summit which depicts engraves images and statutes which are offensive to local belief and customs.
Just as SAARC has an agenda of things to talk about, SAARC also does have a smaller list of things not to talk about. These include to be hush about human rights violations in the nearby Burma (the ruling military junta even changed the name of the country to Myanmar), not to mind the media restrictions freshly ordered in Sri Lanka and not to be too concerned about US violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting military operations without Pakistani consent.
When the fish processing plant workers in kuuddu were said to take week long leave every other week, with a half salary as a cost cutting measure, they had to strike to get the management to listen that they have also to share in the cost cutting measures. Each of the management person costs roughly 5 or 6 times the salary of an average line staff without their allowances and yet they did not feel like sacrificing a coin for others.
When the salary of the dhoni crews and captains failed to reach them at the end of the month, the staff had to resort to kidnapping themselves and their dhonis for the management of Dhoni Service to listen to them and grudgingly release their salaries.
In the recent Shangri la case, (which is comical in that its all about a playstation) the staff had to protest at dismissal of the four butlers which warranted in their own dismissal prompting further unrest but now the management is trying to distance itself from its earlier decisions. But one wonders, why does everything have to come to this bitter end? Why does even solvable simple problems become monster sized and waste so much of energy and money from each side? The answers probably lie in inaccurate judgment. Employers have to be more considerate about their staff and their welfare. Employees are also fellow human beings who have dependents on them for their earnings. We are all in this for a purpose. The purpose may not be the carefully concocted words of the “core values” of this company or that company. Those words mean nothing when the company has to defend itself from allegation of mistreatment to the workers etc. In such times of crisis, a higher set of morals take precedence over those core values which is all about Public Relations and damage limitations. Ultimately its all about lying their way out of the issue and failing to address the real cause of the problems in the first place.
the gamesters on strike
Sounds hilarious, but its true! The problem occurred when 4 butlers of the resort were found playing a game on a Playstation console they brought to a vacant room and the security personnel noticed it. The security personnel tried to do a military style investigation using military language like “no body moves…”, “stay where you are” and took photographs of the “crime scene” which irked the gamesters. Things got out of hand when the security chief tried to manhandle one staff when he exited the “Crime scene” which followed heated exchanges and the matter was taken up by the HR which hastily decided to dismiss all the 4 butlers. When staff protested at the unusually harsh measures, all 64 protesting staff were suspended from work which was understood by staff as summary dismissal. The end of the matter is still not in sight and the police have also been called by the resort to thwart imagined threats to property by playstation loving staff! Latest news from the island have it that the big shots from the head office has arrived and consultations with the protesters will be conducted tomorrow morning.
Now it clearly goes beyond the pale of human reasoning as to how a five star resort with a good reputation can become so incomprehensible dealing with youthful staff and the whole situation becomes a full blown strike for what? A playstation game?
Butlers by nature of their job are always supposed at the beck and call of the guests and if the resort does not provide adequate facilities for staff recreation such lax in standard might occur. However, given the harmless nature of their “Crime” and the chain of events that ultimately lead to these drastic measures, calls into question the attitude by the management to the staff. In average low key resorts, owned and managed by the local owner or entrepreneur such “crimes” are common and equally drastic measures against such “crimes” are much more common. However what is NOT common is for big brand names in tourism sector like Shangri La to fall in to childish mistakes and take a hit on their reputation.
destroyed for demanding rights
Even though all resorts have their own small rules-of-engagement books for staff, such rules shall not contravene the labour law of the country. The labour law is very clear in that it allows not summary dismissals unless on very serious issues such as dishonesty, threat to property or life.
Shangri la staff on strike: all because of a playstation!
Lets begin at the beginning.
His Excellency Mohamed Amin Didi was our first president and he is said to be the founder of the present “Republic” that Maldives is. Many important initiatives like formal education, creation of main roads in the islands are credited to him. However His Excellency’s rule was short lived and was brutally murdered by a mob. Despite his revolutionary and progressive governance, he does not associate himself with the common men and was elitist in appearance and style. It maybe one of his undoings of which clearly there were many. Mahatma Gandi was also educated but in Oxford and yet, to associate with the common populace, he wore clothes like a beggar. At that time Amin Didi was in power, few men in the ‘republic’ had the wherewithal to wear a shirt or anything to cover their bodies. Yet Amin Didi always wore either military uniforms or western attire…
Ibrahim Nasir was the second president after a brief spell of kingdom of Hassan Fareed. Ibrahim Nasir was a president brought to power by the elitist power brokers in Male’ and was not well loved or respected during his whole reign. Nor did he need love or popularity of the common people as he based his rule on fear and intimidation. Its said that he did not use bodyguards and walked the streets of Male’ alone and unattended yet it was common knowledge that His Excellency was not a person to be messed with. At the time his dictatorship only knew force, violence and torture to solve most of the cases. At the time political dissenters disappearances were not uncommon and prison inmates were routinely tortured sometimes to death. The most poignant example of Nasir’s notoriousness was shown on the occasion when he depopulated the island of Thinadhoo because Thinadhoo islanders allied themselves with the short-lived Suvadive government.
The current government’s effort to portray Nasir as a proper president making best of a rough situation, not as a dictator seems to be an effort to chip away the popularity of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Its commonly used tactic in politics to discredit an entity by presenting competing further entities which seems to be the case.
In the short lived Suvadive government (in Addu), the president was Afif Didi and he reigned in tumultuous times. During the short reign of Suvadiva, they were able to do pretty much everything a new country aught to do save perhaps the efforts to consolidate on what was achieved and to move forward. There were many reasons for their failure and on a personal level Afif Didi was more popular, loved and respected by his countrymen than any other. Most of the factors that lead to their ultimate defeat of the Suvadive Republic were possibly beyond their power. The involvement of the British and the Male’ government’s unwilling to let go of the souther three islands were certainly factors. The leadership of Afeef Didi on a personal level was impeccable but there were elements of aristocracy and elitism which would not have gone down well with the freedom loving masses.
Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom comes from an aristocratic family in Male’ and was pushed into presidential hot seat (it was much colder then…) by the favor of his predecessor Nasir. Under his rule lots of good and bad things happened and the list of his presidential mistakes were indeed long. Although a lot of propaganda goes both ways, the fact that he nurtured a personality cult and was a nepotist is true. Further mistakes would involve curbing freedom of expression, imprisonment and harassment of the Ulema. One of the most damning things for which Maumoon will be remembered is for his extravagant life style which is summed up in the gold decorated toilet in the Presidential Palace at Theemuge.
The incumbent president Mohamed Nasheed entered to the list of the presidents on popular vote after defeating his predecessor Maumoon in the first “real ballots” this country has seen (possibly) for the first time. Prior to coming power, he was a constant (and consistent) thorn for Maumoon’s government, forming a broad based popular opposition and basically twisting the Maumoon’s arm while he was still in power. After coming to power with a coalition of partners, Anni was lauded for his prudent economic policies which in his own words were in a state of jaahiliyya. It might be too early to state the full list of Anni’s presidential mistakes but there are indications that the once grass-roots president is loosing touch with the roots and bowing to pressure from the elitists in his party. The issues are social and religious which Anni used not to dictate in principle but at the insistence of the aristocracy and his inner circle of party members, the president is getting into uncertain waters. Adhaalth party which is the political partner of ruling MDP, consists of the most respected religious leaders of the country is increasing coming under pressure from the elitist camp in MDP which is basically trying to set the agenda on how Anni operates. It maybe Anni’s undoing for letting this vocal minority influence his relationship with Adhaalath Party which is in a position to make or break who will ask for votes come the next election.
enumerating the mistakes:
1) Signing agreements and pacts with Israel which by world’s consensus is the most roguish state currently in existence. This is the same country which uses the passports UK citizens to murder people in other countries despite the fact UK is the country which actually gave birth to Israel and is closest to them save the US.
2) Trying to legalize sale of wine in inhabited islands which was revoked by mass protests. The front for the issue was city hotel business but was actually done to placate the wishes of the MDP party backers who were linked with the Holiday Inn hotel in Male’.
3) Seeking help for Islamic sharia from Germany which is ironic as this country is still respected by world’s Muslims as one of the few surviving 100% Muslim countries in the world. The idea is not actually to seek help for sharia but perhaps some financial gains which was given cold shoulder by Germany, as Islam and Europe do not mix. Its currently not acceptable political language in Europe to talk about Islam to the chancellor.
4) Aligning with and giving his moral backing and support to a vocal minority of secular elitists from his party activists and others. Democratic principles is firmly on the side of majority and the majority of this country still has not signed up to secularism.
There is news coming from Addu that Shangri-la is ignoring Addu when it comes to recruitment and that they are considering petitioning the management of Shangri-la to reconsider the position. Historically the people of Addu worked hard to let the island of Villingili be build as a resort calling upon, cajoling, taunting and even threatening the government since perhaps the first days of tourism in Maldives. Addu is the second most populous atoll in Maldives and the biggest pool of resort related talent can be found in Addu. With the exception of perhaps a handful of resorts, all resorts in Maldives will have a majority of staff from Addu and the prospect of returning to Addu and getting a job closer to home (in Shangri-la or Herethere) is a dream of almost all of them.
Most big hotel and resort chains have good corporate social responsibility policies designed to help alleviate friction arising from issues just like this and Shangri-la is no exception. However the situation in Shangri-la in Addu is quite opposite from what is preached about Shangri-la CSR policies. It maybe an HR oversight to let unskilled workers be hired from contractors who sent expatriate workers to the resort on a case by case basis whilst the same category of workers can be recruited from Addu which would go a long way to help the cash, employment (or for that matter everything) strapped community of Addu.
After a long many years …at last the island of Villingili is finally open with Shangri la, a world famous brand. It has long been a wish of the people of Addu that the island of Villingili become a source of income for the people of Addu and yet for many years this wish was just not fulfilled. Addu is the second most populous atoll after Male’ despite which, has seen not sufficient benefit of tourism like the islands in Kaafu and Alif atolls. The easy way is to blame everything on the politics but the truth of the matter is Villingili is still counting on many things to go right in the future and at a time when the world economies are struggling with demons the size of swimming pools… (poetically said that is). Nor will Addu see substantial increase of wealth directly related to tourism as many things will still have to take place to do that…. BUT minister Sawad was optimistic in predicting an eventful 5 years ahead for tourism and we would like to believe him. At the moment we seem to be in the bottom of the pit and hopefully there will only be a way up..
Anyways Our best wishes and prayers for the success of Shangri la Villingili and prosperity for the good people of Addu.
some info about the island from http://www.hospitalitynet.org & etc
>over 6km of coastline & nearly 2km of beach.
>is 3km long island
>12 hectares of lush vegetation
>17,000 coconut trees
> 45 species of plants.
>comprise of 142 spacious stand-alone villas
>The villas will be a minimum of 133 square metres in size
> the two presidential villas will measure up to 957 square metres each
>16 luxury tree house villas, a first for the Maldives, perched on stilts offering a special three-metre high perspective of the island through tropical foliage. The tree house villas, with separate bedroom and living room, will measure 218 square metres, each with its own private pool.
>The inaugural ceremony held at the resort was attended by Tourism Minister Dr. Ahmed Ali Sawaadh , State Minister for Southern Province Mohamed Naseer , senior management of the resort and leading dignitaries of the atoll.
>President Anni is expected to visit the resort on 28 July.
Easa and Reethi Rah
This time the protest happened in Male’ and the protesters were raising the issue of discrimination against management. They were protesting outisde Ameeniyya School where a job fair organized by the Reethi resort was comming to end after 2 days starting from Friday. According to the protesters the job fair organized by the Reethi Rah management was only a front to employ staff with the exception of locals. Reethi Rah has been labeled as strongly anti- locals in the past and the situation in the island doesn’t seem to have improved. According to Mr. Ahmed Easa, the president of Tourism Employees Association of Mldives 3 such job fairs has been organized by the resort in the last 18 months and yet no locals were hired for the resort in the fair held in Thoddu and that only one person was hired from the fair held in Addu.
He also said that Reethi Rah is notorious for summary dismissals of local staff and that in 2006 sixty locals were summarily dismissed, and in 2007 fourteen were summarily dismissed and in this very year and in 2008 more than 13 locals were summarily dismissed.
He also said that there are currently 10 pending cases against Reethi Rah management in the Employment Tribunal and that Reethi Rah is the only employer to have been lodged most number of complaints in the Employment Tribunal.
Excepting the very few exceptions, most of the resorts in Maldives have a mix of staff from various countries in an easily categorized fashion depending on the functions of the staff.
For example: Most of the Bangladeshis on the average resort would be found in the labour workforce whilst the Sri Lankans will be the majority of the accountants and the locals dominate in as Room Boys, Waiters, Receptionists and the Nepalis are dependable for security. These are general stereotypes and should match the status in most of the resorts. There is no issue in this mix of nationalities and is a blessing in many forms. Having a team of different backgrounds and nationalities bring lots of skills and everybody benefits from multiculturalism.
The flip-side of this situations is the many occasions where simple misunderstandings of language translates to anything from bickering to fights to full-scale warfare resort style. There has indeed been instances where riot police had been called to islands to quell such violence with serious injuries to staff.
On the other hand, those resorts which seems to favor a particular nationality of staff over others have an easier job of maintaining governance being dictatorial. Examples of such resorts are The Universal Group, Bandos, Vabbinfaru, Sonevafushi etc. However it has to be noted that there are indeed reasons for a resort to have an abundance of staff from a particular country or some islands in Maldives. For the Universal Group the biggest reason is their extensive business links in Sri Lanka and the history of the company rather than anything else. For Bandos the apparent favoritism of Addu staff could be attributed to Mr. Deen’s personal attachment to Addu which is quite well known. Past experience and a desire to achieve the prestigious tourism award of “green leaf” could be the reason why nature loving resorts like Vabbinfaru choose locals as their favorites. Of-course none of these claims to favoritism would be found in official ink but the effect of the evident policies are found in the staff listings and there are reasons for that.
The ever so peaceful islanders of Hulhudhoo have decided to protest at Yacht Tours for mismanaging their resort Handhufushi and they are reported to have said to continue their protest until the resort is handed over to MTDC. The grievances of the islanders is mainly about financial wheelings and dealings of Yacht Tours which is proverbial in nature for their inconsistency and the seasoned people of Addu are no strangers to tourism.
For their part the Yatch Tours maintains that the protests are politically motivated and the monies owed by Yatch Tours to local business people will be paid very shortly.
local lawn sweeping girls
Tourism workers need not all be waiters and room boys or office boys. There are girls as well. There are others whose work goes sometimes unnoticed. Enter the humble sweepers… or path cleaners or named whatever.
Although most of the resorts in Maldives do employ their own little or big force of sweepers and island cleaners who for the most part would be categorized as maintenance workers, there are some resort islands who do employ locals from nearby islands which is very good for local economy. Most resort islands in Maldives although being prosperous in business once developed as a hotel, used to be the picnic island of the closest inhabited island nearby and most islanders would have fond memories of the island only a few years back. However as soon as the island becomes a resort the island becomes exclusive and the nearby island locals derive no benefit from proximity to prosperous business except in name.
In the interest of being good neigbourly, resorts needs to take into consideration such issues of relevance to their neighbors to foster trust and goodwill which is the ultimate guarantee of safety in a business. For example the recent incidents in Herethere Resort where break-ins and burglaries happened in the resort is directly linked with the unemployment situation in Addu atoll. Hence its important for resorts to give whatever benefit which can be given to their neighbors and foster good relations with the nearby islands.
Coming back to the sweepers they would mostly be local women who would welcome any opportunity to be productive whilst the resorts also would benefit from their experience and efficiency which is nothing to be compared to the multi skilled inefficient resort employees. The same can be said of local fishermen who would only be too happy to supply reef fishes and such sea food if the resorts would buy from them. Most of the time they would be prevented from such mutually beneficial business either because the supplies department might have prior agreements with importers thanks to insider dealings or other such forms of corruption which goes largely unnoticed by the all knowing managements.