The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has maintained its December 13 travel advisory for the Maldives, cautioning tourists to be wary of spontaneous gatherings and warning of indiscriminate attacks in public areas.
Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) spokesperson Abdul Raheem did not believe there was cause for concern.
“We don’t think there is any security problem at the moment so far as MNDF is concerned, for tourists, guests or Maldivians,” he said.
Raheem added that it was unusual for a travel advisory to be issued against the Maldives, and said that the UK’s advisory was the first one, to his knowledge.
Police officials were similarly dismissive of the matter.
The advisory was issued with particular reference to the protests held on December 23 in defense of Islam.
“Maldives has been going through a period of political transition. Social unrest is possible and some past demonstrations on the capital, Male’, and other islands have resulted in violence. You should avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings,” reads the office’s travel summary.
“There is a general threat from terrorism and attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates, foreign travelers including tourists.”
The advisory was published on December 13 in anticipation of the December 23 protests. It is categorised as mild, and there are no travel restrictions.
Religious party Adhaalath today released a statement by party chief spokesperson Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed claiming that protest coverage by state media may have had a negative impact on Maldives tourism.
“It shows that the persons that determine the national foreign policy do not have good foresight because they are trying to show that Maldivians are extremists,” reads the statement.
Coverage of the events was censored by MNDF, which requested all television stations not to broadcast content that could disrupt national security and “encourage the toppling of the lawfully-formed government.”
Meanwhile privately-owned media outlets, DhiTV and Villa TV broadcast live coverage of the eight-hour long protest organised by a coalition of NGOs and seven opposition parties.
“Adhaalath Party calls on the international community to visit Maldives without any fear, assures that there is no terrorism in the Maldives, and that it will never give space to terrorism in this country.”
The statement further assures the international community that Maldivians are capable of protecting tourists.
A rumor on Friday claimed that resorts had been asked to halt all trips to Male’, in anticipation of the protests’ outcome. Security and tourism officials have denied the rumor, and resorts report no serious concerns among staff and guests over the situation on Male’.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said that foreign governments are concerned, and that the recent protests were not “good publicity for the country.”
However, the peaceful execution of both protests had reassured many, he said.
The Commonwealth website notes the 2007 Sultan Park bombing as the only other instance of unrest in which foreigners were injured.
On September 29, 2007, 12 tourists from China, Britain and Japan were injured by a bomb triggered using a mobile phone and washing machine motor attached to a gas cylinder.
The incident received widespread publicity around the globe, damaging the country’s tourism industry.
Authorities were meanwhile prompted to declare a state of high alert and police arrested 12 suspects within 48 hours.
Terrorism charges were filed against 16 suspects, including ten who had fled the country.
Suspect Mohamed Ameen was apprehended in Sri Lanka in October of this year for his alleged involvement in the bomb plot.
Meanwhile, the National Security Committee continues to debate whether allowing Israel’s El Al Airlines would raise the domestic threat level.