European Union Pushes for Travel Advisory on Maldives
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In the Maldives, power politics and problems have found paradise. May began with the European Parliament asking all of its members to issue travel warnings on the Maldives regarding the violation of human rights in the island nation. In 2012, the military overthrew the country’s first democratically elected government led by former President Mohamed Nasheed. In April, Nasheed and his Defense Minister Colonel Mohamed Nazim were condemned to sentences of 13 and 11 years respectively on terrorism charges. Subsequent demonstrations in the capital, Malé, led to the arrests of 192 protestors.
The Maldives is an extremely divided nation, which makes it difficult to fairly judge the situation, but the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights characterized Nasheed’s trial as “vastly unfair and his conviction was arbitrary and disproportionate.” It was the illegitimacy of the trial that led to the EU Parliament’s action.
The U.S. State Department has not issued either a Travel Alert or a Travel Warning, but its information page on the Maldives warns Americans that travelers “should not engage in political activity in Maldives. Visitors should exercise caution, particularly at night, and should steer clear of demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings. Those who encounter demonstrations or large crowds should avoid confrontation, remain calm, and depart the area quickly.”
Nasheed was elected president in 2008 in the country’s first real election. In February 2012, some 50 gunmen went into his office and evicted him from the presidency. Elections were held again in 2013, which Nasheed won, but his victory was annulled and Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictator who ruled the Maldives for some three decades, was declared the winner.
Nasheed made his name as a crusading journalist, taking on the Yameen regime at home and climate change internationally, actions which led to some 20 arrests. The current president, Abdulla Yameen has tried to rally the Maldivian people against foreigners meddling in the internal affairs of the Maldives.
Amnesty International sent a fact-finding mission to the Maldives in April that found that human rights in the country were deteriorating. The regime claimed Amnesty International had joined with Nasheed in giving the Maldives a bad reputation.
As far as traveler safety is concerned, most political action takes place on the island of Malé. Few tourists ever even see Malé, which is just one of some 1,190 islands scattered among 26 different Indian Ocean atolls. Almost every resort in the Maldives occupies its own island. The air gateway is Hulhule Island, where the international airport is located.
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