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…”