Post mortem of the wedding saga headline

vilureef map

Throughout this Vilu Reef wedding saga we have maintained that Minivan was excessive in its exposé’ of the situation for the sole purpose of gaining more publicity. Now that the story is taken up by all the world’s media, big and small, there is enough material out there to back our assertion. Although there is no love lost between Minivan News and us (the resortworkers) officially, we have strong reservations at the use of words in the news article which broke the story of this wedding to the world. Lets now analyse and compare the headings of the original Minivan News story and that of the same story taken up by The Independent.

The minivan headline reads: “Foreign couple mocked as “infidels” and “swine” throughout resort’s ‘wedding ceremony’

”. The words infidel and swine are particularly hurtful and are NOT even the actual meanings of the words as understood by Maldivians. Translating languages from one another is tricky because frequently there arises valid ground for serious disagreement because of the context of the item in translation. In the case of the word “infidel” the supposed dhivehi word was “kaafarun” which does not adequately fit in with what is understood to be infidel in English language. The work “kaafaru” in dhivehi has one general meaning which pertains to the belief of others apart from the belief of the inhabitants of the country. Another meaning of the same word is much more common place among the worker-classes. That second meaning is sexy or being sexy or pertaining to issues around the context. So if one is said to be a “kaafaru” it could mean like “your are sexy” or “you are horny” etc. Being sexy and horny are very different concepts in English but the differences are subtle in dhivehi language. The word infidel is frequently associated the religious concept when it comes to issues in the middle east and marital warfare in everyday English elsewhere. Where used in describing or associated with sanctified rituals like marriage the word is effective in getting attention, which we believe was the theory of using that word in the minivan headline.

Another word “balhu” translated as swine is also a little bit off the mark where dhivehi language is concerned. For example the word “Balhu” is used with various qualifiers such as “rath” (meaning red), “nagoo”( meaning tail?) are frequently used in Universal Resorts management as if they are management slang. Translating this word to swine is stretching the translation a little bit far.

However adamant we maintain that Minivan went excessive spicing up the story and the situation, we understand that the ultimate goal of every publication is to reach maximum audience. So we congratulate minivan on the veritable journalistic Coup_d’état that has tarnished the reputation of the country.

Now lets look at the headline of the same story at the independent.

“Paradise wedding that was lost in translation”

The Independent has omitted the words swine and infidel in the headline. They are more resourceful than Minivan and have editors and writers as well but they chose a less offensive headline to report the same story. Of course we are aware there are styles of writing and reporting and that being tabloid-like and wiki-like and forbes-like are all different ways to dispense with news. But considering the damage that’s already being caused to the country, we believe Minivan is highly irresponsible and have rightly shot our collective feet. To back our belief, we have even the likes of Sim of MATATO (not tomato!) who is no friend of resort workers by any stretch of imagination.

Our take on the bungled Vilu Reef wedding ceremony

The video that went viral in Utube of a Swiss couple who had their weddings renewed in the Vilu Reef resort, who got taunted insulted unwittingly at the ceremony as the ceremony was conducted in dhivehi (the local language), is generating quite big waves in otherwise a sleepy tourism industry in Maldives. The language used in the video is inexcusable is undeniable but there are more factors that needs to be explored. There indeed is more to the story than is acknowledged. Before we analysed the issue in detail, our heartfelt sincere apologies for wronged couple on behalf of all the workers of tourism industry. Our country also took hit on reputation by the foolish actions of a few fellow workers and we hope that this event will make everyone including the government work more to help the industry encounter the shortcomings and failings in the future. Resort workers are the most neglected bunch of workers in the country who are seldom cared, thanked or even entertained. In the vast majority of resort islands, the staff live below substandard pay, accommodation as well as food and other services. Resort workers are also human beings who have families and friends yet they sacrifice almost all their entire life on these tiny beautiful paradise islands which serves as their second home just as convicts who serve their time in isolation. Now lets analyse the story surrounding the incident.

1. The story first appeared in Minivan News from where its gone truly global now. The story is now taken up by,Montreal Gazette,, etcHowever anyone who have really seen the article in Minivan News would agree that the article is excessive in its detail for a purpose. The article itself is a tiring long detailed tirade of ‘insults’ for the purpose of creating maximum shock value. Considering that the victim in this instance is not only the couple in the video (the whole country is also victim because this incident identifies with the country), the excessive details is just doing more harm to all the parties involved; the wedded couple, the country, the resort, the staff etc. The only party who benefits from this story is Minivan.

2.The story when it appears in global media got another twist and a make-over. Now it is about “Couple victim of hate video” -which is the headline at The said video was shot by a staff at the scene and was anything but. However when global media takes an issue every blemish is magnified multiple folds for a good reason. To reach maximum ratings and generate as much shock value. The amateur wedding video now termed a hate video interlaced with religious themes (which is useful vitriol) as if the video originated from Tora Bora. To make the matters worse some readers of Haveeru has indicated that they will put English subtitles to the video which will add insult to the injury.

3.Modern media is both a blessing and a curse. Media like everything else is controlled by people and people have different agendas. For some its a way of earning recognition and fame at the expense of others, be it against their own family or country. In the case of Minivan News, the paper had a non too a humble beginning, became at one point a full blown printed paper and then went into decline. Currently Minivan is said to be run at a desk inside the office of the president by people who are close to him. However the genie that just escaped from this journalistic bottle inside the President’s office is likely to give the president a few headaches for a few days possibly till the furore dies down.

4.The money argument which is also mentioned in the straitstimes article is a non-starter. The fact of the matter is that almost every service, in a typical resort has a price tag attached. However, events like weddings do not have standard procedures in most resorts, so staff do with improvisations that go along with the experience they get from events like these. A staff who worked in Vilu Reef as far back as 2003 confirmed that what he has seen in the video is no more sinister than what he has witnessed in the island when he worked there. The meaning is that the staff did not intend the slang and improper wording they used as an insult to the guest, but for them its a kind of joke. The difference this time is that the media caught them off-guard. Its a little bit like the philosophical question of weather the tree has fallen in the far off jungle if there was no body to witness it.

5.Knowing full well the implications of this journalistic Coup_d’état, we have tried to do damage limitation on Minivan News and will be doing in other sites as well. This is not about not-acknowledging a wrong to the Swiss couple in question or being insensitive to their unwitting ordeal, but this is about redressing the wrong and trying to help the workers and the industry. We urge all our readers and fellow workers to do the same and help encourage constructive dialogue. Feeling ashamed of being a resort worker or a Maldivian will hardly do the job.


the livable wage

Despite our country swiftly becoming a recognized brand name in leisure tourism around the world, there is a lot we have to catch up with other countries in terms of how they treat their very own kind. Resorts or islands are not a new phenomenon. Some other countries also have white sands and small islands where tourists come. However ours and theirs difference seems to be how ‘they’ treat their own people. The employees who do all the hard work need a fairer deal then what they get now. In most other countries they have moved beyond the minimum wage, tackled the liveable-wage whilst we are still stuck at the minimum wage. There was one piece of small legislation timidly sent to Citizens’ Majlis which tried to figure out what the minimum wage should be for Maldives, which was duly killed by a Majlis member for apparently no reason (other than the fact that these concepts simply doesn’t register in their hollow shells…{forgive sentiment, we workers are entitled to be a little bit angry when our issues are trampled most unceremoniously by these MPs}). What is absurd about this situation is that our employers not at risk of imminent danger to their business by being mandated to follow or do better than a minimum wage. Nor is there a healthy business lobby in Majlis to kill workers interest except from MATI which is kind of a think-tank for the business folks. Even the situation being as it is, and the country enjoying a healthy unemployment rate, nobody seems to be worried about this. And there are reasons for their short-sightedness.
1.The govt. is too fond of playing PR for the whole world, their theme is environmental protectionism. The current government as well as the former government did the same. They all are good for PR and environmental protectionism is easy to play act. Confronting real life issues is tough and thankless and they are aware of it.
2.The parliament recently (about 2 years ago) got the freedom to set their own wages and leaves and other perks, so from then on its like the boy who got locked in a sweet shop! Why should they care when they are so much relieved from reality of life?
3.The civil service is too polarized and undecided as to where their ultimate faith shall be. For the past 30 years, they played poodles to a dictatorial regime doing only its bidding like faithful robots. They have yet to realize that they are also workers and are not any better than the rest of the crowd.

Great nations of the world arose to prominence by being generous to their own kind. In the words of Henry Ford (1863-1947, Founder of Ford Motor Company) ‎”One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers… Paying high wages is behind the prosperity of this country.”

So we need to set a minimum wage to workers. The average pay of workers in resorts is still around 3000rf per month. Which is barely survivable if the worker has his family in the islands. However lack of medical and educational facilities in the islands forces the workers to emigrate to Male’ which wipes out 50 to 80% of the average income of the family for rent.

a resort worker’s fatal journey home.

­Haveeru reports the sad death of a fellow resort worker in the island of Dhonakulhi in extremely difficult circumstances. According to the source, the worker wanted to visit his family in Utheemu to take his wife to hospital in Kulhuduffushi. Despite its historic significance, the island of Utheemu does not have proper berthing facility and workers and tourists alike brave strong currents and waves to come to the island. In this situation, the worker Dauood 48, is reported to have asked the speed boat which was travelling from Dhonakulhi to Hanimaadhoo airport, to take him near the island where he jumped aboard and swam towards the island. However he was not able to make the journey safely and was later discovered dead about 100feet away where he jumped where his is one leg was trapped in the reef.

The question weather the employer Dhonakulhi was negligent in this situation is an important question to be asked. It calls to clarify how resort’s respond to valid emergency situations where workers have to return to their islands to attend to family matters. Resorts have to have proper procedures to attend to situations like these and not just drop staff overboard near their islands en-route to airport.

Dhonakulhi, Island Hideaway

links: manadhoolive

Home away from home for the super-rich

Its not uncommon for the super-duper rich to want to own their own little villa in Maldives. In fact some rich guests sometimes do ask if its possible to buy an island only for themselves. That maybe not possible for the moment in Maldives but a new development in the tourism sector will just allow clients to ‘own’ their own villa in the country in the Luxury Villa Resorts a few of which are in the works at various stages of development (mostly in theoretical realm at the moment)

The beautiful island of Lundhufushi in Raa Atoll is to be built as such a unique type of resort in that the rooms to be built in the resort could be actually ‘owned’ by the super-rich. However the ‘owners’ of the island are expected to be restricted to spend a total of 6 week per year in the island. The remainder of the year, the owners rent out their property to other guests just like normal resorts does. The ‘owners’ of the individual villas and the hotel managing company are expected to share in the sale of this rent arrangement. This arrangement is a new concept in the country and it remains to be seen how the operation goes.
According to Haveeru the development of the island will cost 62m$ for 40 rooms out of which 33 will be built over water and the rest on land. Its also reported that the actual construction of the island is to start in earnest in February 2011. The resort is expected to be open somewhere in 2012.


Vakarufalhi: the squandered island

Excerpts from an old article reads:
“The Maldives government has undersold state asset Vakarufalhi Tourist Resort in South Ari Atoll, underlining another example of continued abuse of power and misappropriation of state resources. The sale of the resort leased to the State Trading Organization was announced at a press conference in Male’ on 15 May 2007. STO officials said that the ten year lease of Vakarufalhi Tourist Resort had been sold to Athamaa Travel and Trade Private Limited, a company owned by relatives of President Gayoom, for US$ 3.6 million. This breaks down to US$ 3640 per bed per annum for the 100 bed resort.” Read the rest of the article at

Now the STO which owned the island before wants to buy another resort to generate some foreign currency for their operation. Why they sold the island in the first place is one question. The second question is why does the state has to involve in business at all? Does not the government and state has enough to do on hand already?

Follow the story in Haveeru here..

Nobody strikes.. Its illegal!

“Citizens in Maldives have recently won important rights. The 2008 constitution guarantees fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and association. The constitution also guarantees the right to strike, which is an extremely important right for workers. Without the right to strike workers are left powerless. In dictatorships like Saudi Arabia or Burma, the denial of the right to strike is a key weapon in suppressing democracy.”

Please read the rest of the article here at Minivan News