Maldives' top diplomat admits 'major effort' to arrest tourism slide
Maldives foreign minister Dr Mohamed Asim on Friday admitted that the government was putting in a 'major effort' to convince foreign tourists that the crisis-hit tropical island nation was safe to visit.
The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.
The tourism industry severely hit with declining occupancy over the state of emergency.
In addition to China, several countries including India, US, Europe, UK have issued varying degrees of travel advisories to their citizens following the turmoil in the luxury tropical island destination.
The industry had warned that the state of emergency could cost the country millions.
Speaking during a program on state television, the minister admitted that the situation was severely affecting tourism in the Maldives.
"The current situation would have a major impact on our tourism. Even today the tourism ministry told me the effect this situation was having on tourism. So to inform and convince the world that Maldives was safe and peaceful has become the primary focus of our work," minister explained.
The minister also assured that all the relevant authorities were working together to improve the image of the country.
However, despite the obvious damage to the linchpin of the island nation's economy, president Yameen president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.
President Yameen is facing mounting pressure even within the security forces after exploiting the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.
Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.
The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother's government.
The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.
In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.
Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.