On Saturday, readers of Minivan News were greeted with the headline: “Indonesia joins Maldives in withdrawing from New7Wonders competition”.
Now, a good headline is an essential component of good journalism, but headlines don’t always reflect the complexity of a story. An alternative title for the article could have been, “Komodo Island remains in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, as do the Islands of the Maldives”. Here’s why.
On August 11, the new Official Supporting Committee (OSC) for Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign was announced in Jakarta, Indonesia.
P2Komodo is led by Ms Emmy Hafild, the leading independent Indonesian environmentalist, recognised by Time magazine and the UN for her successful environmental campaigning in the past against the Suharto dictatorship. P2Komodo is an alliance of positive and forward looking members of Indonesian civil society, who are keen to ensure that Komodo Island has a fair chance of participating in the New7Wonders of Nature.
Four days later, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) of Indonesia organised a somewhat surreal press conference in Jakarta to announce the MCT’s “withdrawal of Komodo Island” from the New7Wonders of Nature.
But the MCT had no authority in this matter as it ceased to be the legitimate New7Wonders representative in Indonesia in February, so the announcement was absurd. Naturally, New7Wonders of Nature has no issue with the Indonesian MCT’s right not to be involved in the Komodo Island campaign, in the same way that we have no issue with the MMPRC agency resigning as the OSC for the islands of the Maldives in May.
By the way, the 41 Official Supporting Committees from 37 countries representing the 28 Finalists in the New7Wonders of Nature were invited, all expenses paid (including flights and accommodation) by the Indonesian MCT, to attend the press conference. Only one accepted the generous offer, Mr Simon Hawkins, the British head of the MMPRC agency. Does this mean that Maldives tourism policy is now being influenced by the money of another country? We do not know. However, the MMPRC agency shares with the Indonesian MCT the dubious distinction of both being former OSCs in the New7Wonders of Nature.
Despite a series of malicious attacks on New7Wonders by the MCT, the public and media opinion consensus in Indonesia is that the MCT should not interfere in the democratic right of the Indonesian people to vote for Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature. Voting for Komodo Island itself has increased dramatically since the events of the past few days, showing quite clearly how the people of Indonesia are viewing this matter. As Emmy Hafild has said, “Indonesia is a democratic country, so the government must not prevent the Indonesian people from voting for Komodo and making it one of the New7Wonders successfully”.
We believe the same democratic rights should be extended to the people of the Maldives. Three months have passed since we accepted the resignation of the MMPRC agency, and since then we have received reports of many Maldivian people and organisations that are willing to form a new OSC, but who feel threatened and unable to exercise their civil right of freedom of expression and organisation. That’s why we recently wrote to the government of the Republic of the Maldives, requesting the assurance that it will not interfere with or threaten the formation of such a new OSC for the Islands of the Maldives, and respecting the democratic principles that now guide the nation of the Maldives. We are pleased to say that the government of the Republic of the Maldives has agreed to our request, and we received this assurance in writing on August 20.
Because we believe the time has come for everyone to move on constructively we will not comment again on the many misleading statements that have been made about New7Wonders by the MMPRC agency. Instead, we urge the positive and forward thinking members of Maldivian society to exercise their democratic right to actively support the Islands of the Maldives in the New7Wonders of Nature, like the enlightened majority members of Indonesian civil society are now doing for Komodo Island.
So, here’s the story in a headline: “Komodo Island remains in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, as do the islands of the Maldives”.
Eamonn Fitzgerald is Head of Communication at New7Wonders
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