Maldives Looks to Calm Tourists as Boat Blast Taints Paradiseby
Vice president impeached over explosion on president's boat
Political unrest unlikely to extend to atolls with resorts
The Maldives is seeking to assure tourists that the island nation is safe to visit after the fallout from an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat prompted him to declare a state of emergency.
Yameen issued the emergency order on Nov. 4, a day before parliament voted to impeach Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over his suspected role in the blast. It injured three people, including the president’s wife. Adeeb has denied wrongdoing.
“While we do have an extremist threat, there’s never been any targeting or attacks on tourists, or any kind of increased threat for tourists," Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon said in a phone interview on Monday. “Every Maldivian knows that this is really our lifeblood, the basis of our economy, and perhaps that has also helped in deterring any possible incidents."
The political sparring is starting to impact tourism, which accounts for about a third of the nation’s $3 billion economy. Arrivals have slumped recently after hitting a record last year, prompting the Asian Development Bank to cut its growth forecast in September to 5.9 percent from 6.3 percent.
Maumoon said the island saw “some impact" on tourism after the emergency decree, though that has been “largely mitigated" through government efforts to reassure visitors on safety. She didn’t provide a forecast for arrivals this year.
Most tourists head to the hundreds of coral outcrops scattered in the Indian Ocean, ignoring the capital Male, which houses about a quarter of its 345,000 citizens. The airport and resorts -- many of which are on atolls with less than 1,000 inhabitants -- aren’t expected to be impacted, the U.S. Embassy said on Nov. 4.
The state of emergency was necessary because some weapons were taken from the armory, Maumoon said. She rebutted criticism from the U.S. and other governments that the detention and prosecution of officials including former President Mohamed Nasheed were politically motivated.
“We have been telling the rest of the world to be patient and bear with us," Maumoon said. “While we want to hear from them regarding their viewpoints, we also ask not to be judged so quickly."
Maumoon said charges have yet to be leveled against Adeeb and the government doesn’t know who is behind the attack on the president’s boat. The FBI, asked to investigate, didn’t find any evidence that the explosion was caused by a bomb.
Terrorism is also a concern. As many as 100 people from the Muslim-majority country have reportedly left to join the jihad, and an unidentified Islamic group in August threatened to attack the president in a Youtube video.
“Islam as Maldivians have traditionally practiced it has been very liberal, compassionate and peaceful," Maumoon said. “The government is committed to ensuring that our young people learn Islam in that way."