Waves of intolerance sweeping across Europe


It started with head-scarves and like swine-flu, its spreading. Yesterday the Swiss voted to ban minarets and nobody knows what will be targeted next. This is abrupt unexplainable departure from liberal views of Europe and western countries for centuries and some are rightly questioning weather is this not going to be history which is repeating again. Europe was awash with intolerance and hatred in the middle ages and its correct that more blood was shed among Christians in differing sects than the later religious wars. Maybe Europe and western countries in general are becoming victims of their own success.

Here in Maldives we shall be concerned about these issues simply because of our dependence on tourism which is actually more likely to be affected by mood swings of Europe in the short term than global warming or antarctic ice meltdown which is more hype than reality. The way to address the issue is through activism and engaging racism at each and every avenue and not lying down hoping the storm will pass over our heads. The issue is about human forgetfulness and its a failing that can be addressed by reminding. Those who argue against Islamic symbols shall be reminded that they claim to be champions of democracy and personal freedom. Europe became what it is by being free and fair and respectful of other cultures or at-least being seen to be so. However these values are slowly being slowly eroded by newer evils and the pace is getting quicker. Not only is Islam under the knife. Every belief system and values system is being slowly tested and its true that Muslim values are taking the brunt of the attack.

Coming back to the the minaret issue, those who argued in favour of the ban said the minaret looks like missiles and they are against the symbolism of the minarets. It should have been more helpful if they targeted real missiles which their country exports to other countries rather than harmless useless structures adjacent to places of prayer and worship.

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The contractors

contractor
Invariably, the first resort workers in any resort workers will be the contractors and professionals (and the non-skilled) who are associated with the various construction and infrastructure works in a resort. The life of a regular resort worker is easy compared to a contractor. In the construction industry they work hard, live and die hard and earn more. Generally for the outdoor kinds of folks its an ideal job if not for the nature of business which is highly irregular and unorganized. Most contracted workers are just temporary workers and they would have gotten their job or works from some other contractor who would have subcontracted to them their works. This chain of subcontracting sometime would go as high as five or 6 steps to reach the very top which would be some top established brand in Male’ and their only responsibility from a perspective would be nothing more than signing some obscure papers. The real works are done by lowest of the subcontracting ladder and the real fun is also there.
From initial ground works in a typical uninhabited island to the last final touches to a full five star deluxe resort, the work goes at break-neck speed and as the deadlines looms for the eventual opening the more enjoyable the work is. Often at last stages of the construction of the resort, the works would be continuous 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The only break a contracted worker would get is when they ran out of supplies, or awaiting demolition orders for some structure which gets modification, or when they had to await for concrete to dry up a little bit etc. Also the unstructured nature of employment as contracted worker means they can take off days arbitrarily. After the resort is finally opened up and handed over to the operators, some of the contracted workers would have a tougher job in Male’ finding their bosses and getting their pay which is not very fun after toiling hard for often a year or half in a hard job. Its quite frequent to find contracted employees in and out of courts pursuing their ‘group bosses’ or the contractor who subcontracted to them etc.
The problem lies in our construction industry which is still at an early date of development overwhelmed by an unregulated workforce both foreign and local and lacking guidelines, codes as well as knowledge and know required of modern construction works.

Marriage tourism

To add to a slowly growing list of “tourisms” in our country, “marriage tourism” is another welcome addition to the industry. Recently our media reported the president on the defensive after being alleged of all sorts of views on the issue of freedom of worship and the jury is still out on the issue. According to the press secretary of the president, they are confronted with :

  1. Tour operators asking if wedding tourism would be considered a religious ceremony?
  2. And that the president’s office has received comments from foreigners who say they have canceled their holidays after learning of women being flogged and the public’s attitude towards corporal punishment.

On the question of wedding tourism, from what we see in resorts, most of the guests who renew their vows are already married and reliving their happy moments. There is no question of faith involved. Even guests who do not retie their knots sometimes bring their wedding gear to take home pics of themselves on the beach in their wedding dresses. Its becoming a fairly common sight in resorts nowadays. However if a guest truly needs a real McCoy wedding of a particular set of belief than they might have to bring in a lot more than a hastily packed wedding dress and coat and tie…

 

On the issue of some potential would be guests commenting to the president their displeasure on public thinking on capital punishment, this is a wholly local folly where an unpatriotic writer of DO publicized an already known and much known issue for the world’s media to see and to criticize. Their contention was with Islam as a belief but they ended up hurting our economy in a full-scale recession. So much for their patriotism.

 

How about a dictatorship now… for a brief spell of time?


Democracy means listening to everyone and when everyone talks its more difficult to arrive at conclusions. So we need a dictatorship for the moment.. for a brief spell of time and for achieving very specific goals which could never be attained in current circumstances. The things to achieve in such a situation would be:

  • To abolish the Majlis… cos Majlis does not represent the people anymore. The Majlis represents two parties with their differing views not us the majority of the people. Of the 2 parties in the Majlis 1 party is simply there to put forward the agenda of the former president and his family. The other party is out there to take revenge on what they have suffered under the regime of the former. Extremely qualified and suitable people were disqualified from entrance to the Majlis in favor of taxi driver class members simply because of the party ticket.
  • To redistribute resorts in a fairer more transparent bidding process. Currently only handful of former government cronies hold most of the real estates in our tourism which stifles growth and business diversification. Most of these lucky persons knows not how to run or operate resorts and thats the main reason they are selling of management contracts to big hotel chains worldwide and become sleeping partners.
  • To abolish all the political parties and start the process all over again cos there is very little legitimacy in most of these political parties which were created by a fictitious signatures over lists of Identity Card information database which was made available to those who wanted to created a party at that time. Despite the known illegitimacy of these parties most of which does not engage in politics at any level, the government has to payout millions every year. A notorious wastage of public money in crunch time.
  • Discard the constitution and write it a new. Cos the latest version of our constitution was specifically designed to suit the failure or success of the former government and this is amply evident in the clauses pertaining to the power transition period. The days when the last chapters were debated were especially bleak and dark days of our country’s history where we saw members of the then ruling party disrupting the debate on the minutest of difference to their view… We need not reward the enemies of democracy by adopting their literature but we need to make a fresh new one untouched by greed and party politics..
  • To start another capital city island like Male’ somewhere else possibly in Laam atoll which is the center of the country. Male’ is too crowded a place for healthy or safe living and Male’ was deliberately congested to provide easy income for native Male’ people. There is great social inequity here and this could be well addressed by having another capital. Male’ does not have to be devalued but just another island has to be given the title of economic capital island and developed as such.

Training resort anytime soon?

extra curricular activities...

The recent announcement by a Malaysian university to give assistance in training to tourism related studies is welcome news the industry needs much. It is our sincere hope that the much hyped training resort will one day come to reality in a near future.

Now..
Various apprentice programs run by some employers are almost akin to human exploitation and there indeed good reasons to have to legislate on this. There is also a good demand for apprentice programs as more and more people seek various ways to find jobs however difficult the circumstances might be. During a typical apprentice program, the employee is technically a student but is expected to work twice as much as a regular employee with no salary as such. And for the whole duration of the program, the apprentice would have to go without any protection of standard worker rights.

One of the reason young people join these ‘scams’ apart from desperation about being unemployed is that they seek training and skills. Currently whatever is available to fulfill these needs is woefully inadequate. For example the Hotel School at Sosunge offers many courses to aspiring resort workers throughout the year and yet as soon as courses are announced all seats are taken meaning their capacity is low. This is on top of the fact the rate of study in Hotel School is at snail’s speed where courses seems to be designed for mentally challenged people! So basically enrolling at Hotel School is a notorious time waster but a necessary hurdle to come over if a job is difficult to come by.

The solution to the skills problem we seem to have in the industry could be these.

  • Legislate on apprentice programs to prevent such programs from being used to exploit labor. Dhiraagu (the world’s worst telephone company in some literature) is said to engage in such behavior.
  • Fast track hotel industry trainings and instructions. The current hotel school syllabus was a product of yesteryears thinking which needless to say is obsolete now. We need faster and trimmer instructions suited to the industry not necessarily the philosophies, histories and etymologies of arcane terms to impress the poor students.

Introducing liquor licenses to city hotels

winebear
The government is drawing fire from all sides on the issue of introducing wine and liquor license to hotels in inhabited islands and there are merits and demerits in the debate wherever looked at. And it seems the government is registering public concerns as a date to issue these licenses has been backtracked.

The issue is not a new issue and there is nothing the current government can do which the former government has not done in this issue. For example the former government has given licensees to parties to sell wine and liquor both in inhabited as well as uninhabited islands. The only difference is that public has more say in issues now that before. However now that the former government is in the opposition they are politicizing this issue which needs not be an issue at all. Both former and current government are adamant that market for the drinks in this 100% Muslim country is not for its citizens but for expatriates and guests in the country.

Everyone acknowledges there is a direct link to abundant supplies of intoxicants and lawlessness which is a milder name for terrorism of gang warfare in Male’. The police acknowledges this as well as the incumbent government.

And we have a culture and a religion which is firmly against allowing wheeling and dealing with liquor and wines and there are reasons to respect that. On culture we must not forget that affluent western societies go to great lengths to protect their culture and ways of living such as banning Islamic values and symbols (eg. Minarets, hijab, headscarf, beard etc) to protect their ‘Christian values’. The swiss are out in force against having Muslims erect minarets in the few mosques they have, which is not even a requirement of sharia, which is only a symbol which harms nobody. And the entire world it seems is up and against Muslim women wearing hijab which is akin to what the Christian nuns wear in-terms of the surface area that is covered. So we see an imbalance in the way we take the issues of culture and religion. It might be argued that economically we in Maldives are not able to afford this kind of individualism but its just one point to ponder. Tourism is not the only product this country can develop or offer to the world. There are many avenues to pursue and making a quick and fast buck is only a short-term desperate measure the government is ill advised to seek.

The government is trying to portray this as if this licensing will be a once and only lifetime issue but it will be not be a one and only issue. For now they are seeking ways to placate the requests of the new Holiday Inn Hotel in Male’ and once they get the permit every other hotel and motel will demand the licenses which will be ultimate given and a few more years hence bars will spring up in all islands besides cafe’s and mosques. In theory the existing black-market for wine and liquor and home distilling will be solved by granting these licensees to city hotels but the theory is overly simplistic. Just because a crime is rampant does not mean it has be decriminalized. So in a sense the authorities seems to arriving at the problem from an improper angle.

Sometimes its ironic how societies deals with some issues knowing full well the various aspects of it. For example if smoking and drinking (wine liquor etc) are compared, its common knowledge that the later is more damaging than the former. But because of the ‘wine and dine culture’ even those who advocate smoke bans would not dare say ban the wines because there was history behind such banes and nobody wants to be touched by the stigma of that history. So achieving for carbon neutrality and cigarette neutrality as well as wine neutrality are all good mighty and lofty ideals for a small country like ours. But forsaking some neutralities in favor of other neutralities is again one more ill advised move for the government. Should rhyme with “…all animals are equal BUT some are more equal than others…”

I am a Front Desk Clerk …

receptionist
receptionist

“I am a Front Desk Agent”

I have advanced degrees in Accounting, Public Relations, Marketing, Business, Computer Science, Civil Engineering, and Dhivehi. I can also read minds.

Of course I have the reservation that you booked six years ago even though you don’t have the confirmation number and you think it was made under a name that starts with “S”.

It is completely my fault that the blizzard shut down the airport and you have to sleep in a warm king-size bed while 5000 of your co-travellers are sleeping in benches at the airport. I am sorry.

It is not a problem for me to give you seven connecting, non-smoking, poolside suites with two king beds in each, four rollaways, 3 cribs, and yes, I can install a wet bar. I know it is my fault that we do not have a helicopter landing pad.

I am a Front Desk Agent. I am expected to speak all languages fluently. It is obvious to me that when you booked your reservation for Friday on the weekend we’re sold out that you really meant Saturday. My company has entrusted me with all financial information and decisions, and yes, I am lying to you when I say we have no more rooms available. It is not a problem for me to quickly construct several more guest rooms. THIS time I will not forget the helicopter landing pad. And it is my fault that everyone wanted to stay here. I should have known you were coming in, even though you had no reservation. After all, you stay at our brand of hotel all the time, 300 nights a year, and this is only the first time you’ve ever been to our city.

I am a front desk agent. I am quite capable of checking three people in, two people out, taking five reservations, answering fifteen incoming calls, delivering six bath towels to room 625, plunging the toilet in room 101, and restocking the supply of pool towels, all at the same time. Yes, I will be glad to call the van driver and tell him to drive over all the cars stuck in traffic because you’ve been waiting at the airport for 15 minutes and you’ve got jet lag.

I am a front desk agent, an operator, a bellhop, houseman, guest service representative, housekeeper, sales coordinator, information specialist, entertainment critic, restauranteur, stock broker, referee, janitor, computer technician, plumber, ice-breaker, postman, babysitter, dispatcher, laundry cleaner, lifeguard, electrician, ambassador, personal fitness trainer, fax expert, human jukebox, domestic abuse counselor, and verbal punching bag. Yes, I know room 112 is not answering their phone. And of course I have their travel itinerary so I know exactly where they went when they left here 9 hours ago, and what their cell phone number is.

I always know where to find the best vegetarian-kosher-Mongolian-barbecue restaurants. I know exactly what to see and do in this city in fifteen minutes without spending any money and without getting caught in traffic. I take personal blame for airline food, traffic jams, rental car flat tires, and the nation’s economy.

I realize that you meant to book your reservation here. People often confuse us with the Galaxy Delight Motel, Antarctica. Of course I can “fit you in” and yes, you may have the special $1 rate because you are affiliated with the Hoboken Accounting and Bagel Club.

I am expected to smile, empathize, sympathize, console, condole, upsell, downsell (and know when to do which), perform, sing, dance, fix the printer, and tell your friends that you’re here. And I know exactly where 613 Possum Trot Lane is in the Way Out There subdivision that they just built last week.

After all, I AM a Front Desk Agent!

with a slight modification.. from http://community.livejournal.com/hotel_workers/3628709.html

Treating the housemaids well

house_maid

According to BBC
“A human rights group wants the Lebanese government to investigate the deaths of eight foreign maids last month, six of whom fell or jumped from high places. ..According Last year, HRW reported that at least one foreign maid was dying every week. ”

Here in Maldives we also have a large number of housemaids working mostly in Male’ from neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka and India and just like as in Lebanon the labor laws seems to have evaded them and their welfare. Their freedom of movement is frequently restricted and the sense of working hours simply does not seems to exist in the mentality of the people who hire them.

Just like us resort workers, housemaids are also industrial workers and they deserve rights like everyone else. They have also left families and loved ones behind in their countries and are toiling in a foreign country to earn a living for family back home. From what is apparent in Male’ what is at fault seems to be the public awareness to such facts and that measures have to be taken to raise awareness on these issues. However it would be difficult to turn around a few generations of people raised in “rights ignorance” and it would take time. The quicker solution wold be to legislate and enforce the laws which is also tricky business because our legislature comprises of the people who have the same mindset…