Robbed!


The island of Kihaadhuffaru was robbed by armed robbers who made off with a safe-box in the office after tying and gagging the receptionist on duty.
Here is the story @ Minivan
The police appears to maintain that the resorts are safe despite these daring robberies which is statistically true as very few of these robberies have taken place in the past. However its an alarming situation and its time the authorities and resorts adopt are more informed attitude on safety issues relating to gusts, staff and the resort in general.

Here is the same story in MaldivesToday website:

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The silly duty rosters!

Its an obsession of the unimaginative managements. A duty roster for all staff. The idea (in theory) is to arrange for the daily grind of workers and to plan it before and be ready. Another good reason might be to have written record of who might have worked where on a particular day, if the rosters are filed for future reference. But is a duty roster really relevant in our small beautiful island resorts? The islands being surrounded from water from all sides, and the staff firmly arraigned in the staff quarters?

The origin of the word duty roster shall ring a bell with those who are so obsessed with a duty roster. According to oxforddictionaries.com, the origin of the word goes back to 18th century and was used originally denoting a list of duties and leave for military personnel. So what is the same concept doing in the 21st century in the deluxe top brand resorts in Maldives?

The answers are always easily summed up by the saying that the least common of all things is the common sense. It does indeed make very little sense to stick to hard immovable duty rosters when this is being applied to the staff who have forsaken so much to provide service to the resort. Most local employees have their families in Male, or sometimes bring their families to Male’ and sometimes would have wanted an unscheduled break to be with the family which sometimes get rejected by these rosters for no other reason than that it only specified so. Most of the staff when requesting such a day swap on the roster would have had made arrangements for their responsibilities to be taken over by friendly colleagues and yet the “Roster” sometimes does not budge from its position. Small easily rectifiable grievances like these sometimes brew so much anger and helplessness amongst suffering staff that workers are sometimes left with no choice but to take ‘French-leaves’ or better still petition or organize strikes to get their voices heard. The story doesn’t even end there. The collective soul of a strike or a petition has a tendency to grow and by the time the staff would have the attention of the senior management, the focus would have shifted so much that the real cause of the commotion would have eluded them all.

Here are a few guidelines for resort life without duty rosters: (as everybody hates duty rosters!)

  • the first criteria is that nobody takes more leaves than is due. This could account for the public holidays and weekends etc.
  • the second is that a day swap on a schedule could not hamper the running of the resort or put undue pressure on the remaining colleagues who will work on that particular day.

As long as these few basic guidelines are allowed and nobody actually takes advantage of such liberties, resort life can become a little bit bearable for the workers.

avoidable unneccesary tragedies

Sun island Nalaguraidhoo

Guests drowning off the resort lagoons is becoming an alarming situation throughout the country. Its becoming more common now and almost every month we hear about a fatality of a guest or a few guests. However there doesn’t seem to be a realization of this problem in the tourism industry as something which can be acted or prevented upon. Just as any resort is perpetually concerned about the comfort, privacy or personal preferences of the guest, so shall a resort be concerned about the safety of the guest. In fact safety shall come first.

In all resorts, guests are free to swim anywhere around the island and whenever they want. However the snorkelling or diving gear is sometimes exclusively sold or rented by the dive shop which may or may not be operated by the resort. The majority of the dive shops in resorts are operated by third parties so its likely that the responsibility for the guests’ care and safety falls in between and no party really wants to take responsibility for this. However what is known as a fact is that diving and snorkelling gear is always rather a little bit expensive so sometimes guests bring their own snorkelling gear. Some travel websites and forums advice guest about this fact which doesn’t seem to have registered with resorts yet. Rates for hiring a snorkelling guide are per hour and not cheap because dive-shops and resorts all make an effort to run the operations with a streamlined workforce and bloated profit margins!

To overcome this tragic situation, resorts could in theory do implement a few of these following measures:

  • Employ full time life guards in the resorts. The guards shall be trained and equipped with rescue gear vessels etc.
  • Implement stubborn safety rules such as making it mandatory to wear buoyant safety vests on journeys to and from resort, airport, Male’ etc
  • Make sure that the guests are fully competent in swimming before lending them snorkelling gear and making a point of knowing if the guest needs additional help and providing them such help free of charge.
  • Have an arrangement or an understanding with dive-shops to lower the rates of basic snorkelling gear for novice guests or to provide a discount so as to encourage more guests to use appropriate gear and help of water sports folks.

Successful businesses count on being headstrong and stubborn! No amount of theorizing, preaching or advising will work on resorts. Employers or managements seldom need or read advices or recommendations. Its just the reality of running a resort which is tough, complicated and demanding work. Nobody really has the energy to do anything else after a hard day’s of work. So the only thing that can get the resorts attention seems to be legislation by law makers or purposeful action by the tourism ministry.

Pampering the CEO at the expense of guests.


In theory this is very wrong. Pampering CEO, MD or any such party over, or at the expense of guests is the ‘wrongest’ one can get in resort/hotel business. Nevertheless, theories are like laws which are made to break, sometimes to follow. Lets examine why a resort worker may need to break this theory in the first place.

The situation: The ideal situation where a customer is NOT the most important in the business premises (imagine, Gandhi is said to have uttered such nonsense!) is when the CEO or the MD visits a resort for his or her R&R at one of his or her resorts. Of course the resort will be duly notified in advance so the resort can allocate the favourite room for the boss, arrange the insides of the room according to the known preferences of the VIP etc. Things start moving from there. Every piece of furniture or equipment in the selected room is checked, re-checked, vetted and inspected many times over to the satisfaction of a number of managers and supervisors until as much as humanly possible is done to whatever it was.

However running and maintaining a 5 star resort in the middle of Indian ocean in sprint condition is an arduous task those who know about it know. Major items on supply lists might disappear without a reason through the ordering process. Bulky, expensive hardware items imported from abroad may found out to be defective upon arrival, sometimes with little recourse to compensation. For reasons like these, sometimes it may just be difficult to keep a guest room in top-notch position, but who in his sane mind would want to share this knowledge with the CEO? A basic and much overused requirement in hotel industry is the ‘can-do thing’. You have to have that approach even if its impossible or even if it requires deception. So even if something is impossible there is no telling of that fact to the boss. Everything is can-do, if not it will be seen as a lacking on the person who admitted it. These lines bring us closer to the theory above. For example:

Q: A ceiling fan in the room where the CEO is arriving is dead but there are good fans in other guest rooms. Now what to do?
A: Remove it from the nearest guest room and fix it at the CEO’s room. Explain to guests (with a broad sheepish smile!) that the fan is broken and a new one is being ordered.

Guests in general are not very fussy, they are good natured and unlikely to notice things like this. However a CEO will and once a blemish in his service or accommodation is found out, the time to explain it would have expired. So being a lowly worker or a middle manager, we are all here to make a living. We can only serve guests by being employed. So to be in the employ of a resort sometimes the guest has to be inconvenienced to appease the CEO.

Runaway processes

We have quite a number of alarming runaway process in the country . Mostly this is about politicians finding themselves in a situation like where the little boy was locked in the sweetshop. The only difference here is that our politicians are not little boys, nor are they locked in a sweet shop. We are talking about public accountability, honesty, integrity, qualities which they talk about so much but the reality does not match.

  1. The most alarming of such a processes is the People’s Majlis setting the salaries of everyone. It’s quite accepted that most of our People’s Majlis are not capable of rational discourse on technical matters such as fiddling with pay structures, but they are doing it anyhow either for greed or to make life tough for the ruling party.
  2. There is a trend in the government to sell off (not exactly but long term lease) islands across the country for developing tourism etc. as a means of fund-raising for their pet projects. Some of these projects are for like raising money for building flats for fellow countrymen or as an escape route to appease the islanders from the previous government’s promises. Such situations include airports at Thaa and Foa Mulaku atoll which perhaps were not the brightest ideas of the former administration, but anyhow they were promised to the people and the new politician’s are doing all they can to appear that they actually worked to fulfil the dreams of the people. Dream or no dream, the intention has to be honest; that if something or some project is unworthy or unrealistic it shall be explained to the people.
  3. Another and equally damaging process is the Majlis members passing and enacting laws which will not benefit the majority of the people of this country. One prime example of this fact was in the passing of the copy rights bill which stipulates unrealistically high punishments for software piracy etc. The point here is not the legitimacy but the realization of the situation of the country. This is a country like many in the world, where almost every computer runs Microsoft and the OS is likely to be a pirated copy of Windows. The funniest part is that bill was pushed through Majlis because of perceived threats to ‘Mollywood’ the equivalent of Holywood in US or Bollywood in India, which creates a bunch of ‘films’ every year which somehow all seems to have been created, directed, watched and played by the same people…

There are indeed are many such runaway processes in the country that needs to be checked. If we really cared about our country, we have to be more honest and upfront about our good intentions.

The wov moment


All industries and endeavours starts modestly, runs a gradually till it meets a defining moment in its history (the ‘wov’ moment) and from there on, the industry gets transformed. It’s like growing up after long and seemingly inexhaustibly years of youth. In a small and developing (really?) country like Maldives, its still possible to see these defining moments in history at various walks of life.

One example of such a defining moment in the modern history of Maldives is the dhoni album of Zero Degree. Prior to which almost all songs and music were copycats from India or elsewhere. The lyrics were mostly about love, nationalism and good values. Dhoni album was a big change from its contemporaries at the time. The music was original, the lyrics was about historically themed dhivehi country gnere or something similar. From that moment onward our little music industry just transformed. Its now like artisitic suicide to sing or even hum a hindhi tune or to put dhivehi lyrics to a hindhi song.

Another example of a defining moment can be the struggle for multi party democracy in the country. Although a lot has happened, and every party or politician will want to claim a share of the history, the fact is that a lot of people did a lot to dismantle the one party state we had and looking back over the years, its difficult to pin-point the the equivalent day in our politics when the Berlin Wall came down. It could have been the secret signing up of members to MDP, or it could have been the first date when Sandhaanu, Hukuru or even Sangu was printed. It could even have been the day when Dr. Hassan Saeed chanced upon the then constitution of Maldives and discovered  that multi-parties were actually allowed under the constitution. Whatever the occasion or the many occasions, Maldives was a very different country from what it was then and its unlikely that there will be any going back to the past.

The same has not yet happened to other more areas of the country which hopefully will not be the case for a long time. For example, our media although it has come a long way from singing praise of the dear leader all the time is still in the clutches of both sides of political process. The opposition is doing all it can to legitimize its hold on the media through the parliament and the ruling party is doing all it can to hold it in their camp. Media ideally shall be too powerful for parties and governments to meddle with, it shall also be independent, able to doom and condemn politician’s career  where it crosses lines with media. Control of the media shall not be vested in any political party and it shall be just and balanced and be useful to the people. Those who work in the media shall also receive more training and be able to question hard-talk like to people who claim to bring Utopia to the country.

The moon has not been visited by humans for a long time now since the early heyday of space explorations. They found out its a dusty inhospitable place so they stopped sending astronauts there. Nor has much happened in the tourism industry of Maldives  since the first batch of Italian tourists came back in the seventies looking for fun. Apart from a few international brand names setting up camp in a few resorts, nothing has happened. There is no minimum wage for the worker, there is complete opacity as to his or her benefits or job security in the job as was the case in the past. The only glimmer of hope for the worker which materialized in the form of a worker’s rights bill at the parliament was diluted so much to the whims and wishes of the resort owners in the Majlis that it would be better to draft the same thing anew (which the HR ministry seems to be doing).

Our little law and order problem


Velezini, the reformist voice in Judicial Services Commission was stabbed in broad day light, in one of the busiest streets in the country and yet the attackers fled the scene never to be found again. Just last night there came another report of a stabbing, this time a police officer was stabbed by some gang near IGMH. Of course the attackers are unlikely to be found or even if found unlikely to receive any punishment for their violence. Male’ being so tiny as it is one wonders how can these daring crimes happen in broad day light and where the responsibility lies for preventing these crimes or making Male’ a safe place for common people live.

Of course it is easy to point at somebody and blame him/or her or for this shameful failing. But are we not all to blame for this? Do we all not have a stake in making Male’ and our other islands a safe place for fellow human beings?

  • Commenting on this story and similar stories in the past many commented rightfully that this is not the first such incident. Indeed people had been killed in broad daylight in the streets of Male’ by gangs. What the authorities had done to make Male’ or our other islands safe clearly doesn’t seem to work.
  • Whilst other advanced countries were debating putting on cameras on the streets, or subjecting the population to use id cards or the use of electric stun guns, our law enforcement agencies have been using these instruments freely and yet we do not seem to be able to control this criminality in our less than 3 sq km island city. This is not to say that there were modest improvements over a period of time, but the general public’s patience for tolerating these crimes have dropped to zero. What remains is only despair and helplessness.
  • The popular ignorant view that these ‘small crimes’ were done by boys… is another factor. These are not small crimes, these are big crimes committed by criminals. Its not boys or girls playing here. If they are playing then they are playing with peoples lives, people who have families, who are loved and cared by their families and those who loved them. The proof of this wrong assumption is well summed up in Velezini’s facebook update which she updates from her bed reading “The boys who committed the attack are simply tools of those who fear the truth and its’ consequences to them…” Nor is Velezini the only one who uses this false assumption. Our president Anni regularly uses this term ‘boys’ to refer to these criminals objects. This is one basic thing which has to change if we really want to confront this criminality.

When Maldives was offline!


The recent hack on Dhiraagu which happened on the busiest days of the year certainly delivered a message for the country. Tourists from all resorts in the country would have experienced this as they would have tried in vain to connect back to their families to say “happy new year” via social media, VoIP etc. and IT folks would generally be trying to convince the guests that a whole country’s internet could somehow be sabotaged by some unknown saboteurs! Those who did the DDOS on the network now seems to have been apprehended and their reason for engaging in this behaviour according to them seems to be to give Dhiraagu (the sole local isp) a new year message basically saying “ You are over priced”, and “You are too slow.. we need more speed!” These messages are basically truthful but the way in which the message was delivered was clearly not bright. A whole country (the economy involved) does not have to suffer just because one has a message to be delivered.

That Dhiraagu is big and bad is acknowledged. It has always been that way almost from the start. Dhiraagu became a big unfeeling ugly giant monopoly (too many adjectives tha ?) thanks to the former regime which wanted to favour the then long standing foreign minister who was chairman of the board of that company for as long as people can remember. The company grew and grew (like the giant turnip ..!) till Wataniyya inevitably appeared after much calls by the people and international bodies that the services Dhiraagu is providing as the sole monopoly are very high. Even then Wataniyya faced uphill battle as it is squeezed in from all sides by Dhiraagu (much like what Microsoft did to other smaller fish around it!) and today Dhiraagu is still the only real isp in the country. The other one called Focus does not have a wired network like Dhiraagu so they use the cable TV networks which is not the same thing. Dhiraagu is now the isp over wired the network as well as wireless network all over the country. Wataniyya is only authorized to give limited isp service on mobile internet but even with which it is doing a splendid job.

A government’s role in business would be to ensure fair-play in business. Restriction one sector or service to one company over the whole of a country would create a situation like what we have in the country now. Just like the trade ministry okay’s any new retail shop permit anywhere, so shall the Telecom ministry. It should be up to the entrepreneur to take risks on a business of his choice.