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.
In an evolving political dispute heating up between the ruling MDP and the opposition coalition, the latest victims seems to be Villa Group of hotels and their own airline Flyme. Apparently responding to calls to close down prostitution centres in the big demonstration held on Friday, the administration responded by sending police and tourism officials to Paradise island to check on the spas in the island. Embroiling in an increasingly political battle, the tourism ministry sent orders to close the spa operation in Villa’s 5 resorts which the resort politely declined citing legal inconsistencies. Villa’s own Flyme airline which ferries tourists and locals to the area around Maamigili island airport has also been grounded yesterday by order from civil aviation authority citing safety concerns. This is in contrast to the fact that other local airlines have never been similarly grounded following major incidents.
Its unfortunate that political scores are being settled against critical infrastructure and tourism facilities which are the mainstay of economy of the country. It is in the interest of the country to keep tourism industry in firm stable footing and to insulate the industry from political infighting as tourism industry is critical for the economy.
It cannot be the greatest sign of wisdom, but we as a country seem forever locked in a battle with ourselves to undermine and work against our own interests, and its paying dividends!
Here is how.
Historically we had the same kind of opportunity as Singapore to benefit from association with the British when they operated a military base in Gan during the second world war period. However our elitist politicians at the time were too busy undermining own interests to get any real benefit from the friendship of a great nation. Even at that time, the executive office in Male’ was obsessed with creating the personal cult of the great dear leader type of drama which benefited none except the dear leader of the time himself. That was during our second president’s time and he is erroneously reported to have brought independence to our country! The fact was that our independence was not lost during that time and only that we had an agreement with the British that we would consult with them on international diplomatic relations which is only fair when Britain had committed to protect the country from any occupying power. Had we done any better instead of putting up a drama with the UK (for domestic audience) we would have been able to get more development to the country.
Our first 3 president’s terms were definitely wasted creating personality cults and into the 1st period of the 4th (current) president, we are witnessing another drama, this time with the limits of freedom, unbridled democracy and experimenting with media power. In the last eventful 4 years we have successfully started the divisive dialogue of religion (to our detriment), started to build the welfare state paid for by an introduction of taxes (to our credit), and generally started a major overhaul of the whole system the country is working on. We have even given a free-reign to media which is understandable as media played a very important role in demolishing the personality cult hyperbole created by former leaders.
This is all good but racing at top speed to reach the all important party manifesto goals in 2013 could be counter productive in the long term. We should slow down and take a more cautious approach because what took us forever to build cannot be rebuild from scratch again in 5 years time.
China could have done the same to Hong Kong when the mainland got Hong Kong from British but chose not to meddle with a good working economy the British left and they are reaping benefits from their decision, keeping everything stable and cautiously asserting their authority.
The effects of our race against time to do everything the democratic and modern-day values way is evident from the bad press and negative perception we are getting everyday thanks to our runaway media and populist politics. Even today in the high tourism season we have travel advisory caution against us by UK which no doubt will be followed by other countries.
Finally.. to cut the long story short:
we shall stop the circus about free media and take a more realistic view of news and readership. Media can make or break us so we shall check it if it undermines out top product which is tourism
We shall be able to stop the gang warfare, daylight robbery, mugging in the 2sq kilo meter island Male’ and stop playing democracy and indecisiveness to criminality.
the statues of birds and beasts which has been erected in Addu for the SAARC summit are a first for the country and are already causing much controversy. Prior to this, Maldives has been free of statues like this in accordance with the conservative religious norms of the country.
It maybe a creative idea gone wrong on the part of SAARC organizers to come up with the idea of statues which is scorned by everyone across the board. But like everything else it has a money trail in the millions which probably is the reason why they are hastily fixed there without any public consultation or regard to peoples sensibilities . Street news have it that the bird statue in Feydhoo alone cost more than a million ruffiyaas to create it although news sources set the figure at 600000 rufiyaas. Whatever the amount is, the cost of producing the scorned objects in the first place, maintaining 24 hour military security around the statues is clearly ludicrous as our country is still barely making ends meet and there are recommendations, advice and even threats by leading world bodies like IMF and worldbank to trim the already wasteful state expenditure or else!
The statues are even politically not tenable because it has infuriated a sizable percentage population which surely will cost the ruling MDP much votes and possibly the executive office if a strong contender emerges for the president.
Statues, fine arts, exotic drinks are fine for developed countries which has money to spare after doing everything they can think of doing but here in Maldives where we are on par with Ethiopia in corruption scale and where we fare even less than sub saharan african countries in terms of higher education enrollment, this is an unforgivable mistake.