The ousted leader of the Maldives has called for tourists to boycott the country’s idyllic beaches.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Nasheed said: “I’d say to anyone who has booked a holiday to the Maldives: cancel it. And to anyone who is thinking of booking one: please don’t bankroll an illegitimate government”.
Mr Nasheed – head of the Maldivian Democratic Party – was elected president in 2008 in the Island nations’ first democratic vote after a decade long pro-democracy movement.
He was lauded around the world for drawing attention to the threats faced by his country due to climate change and rising sea levels.
Earlier this year however, Mr Nasheed – the first democratically elected president of a 100% Muslim country – was forced to resign following a coup by army and police forces loyal to former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Mr Nasheed had refused to call for a boycott after his overthrow but told the FT that he feared for the country’s constitution, which was passed in 2008 after 30 years of rule by Gayoom.
Meanwhile, ‘Friends of Maldives, a UK-based pro-democracy group established in 2003 during the Gayoom’s autocratic rule, came out against a blanket boycott – even though it rejects the legitimacy of the current government.
“A boycott is a last resort and I don’t think it has reached that stage,” David Hardingham, the group’s founder told The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s easy for people like us to tell tourists not to visit, but it is the people of the Maldives who will suffer – and they are the ones who must decide whether it’s worth it. Any campaign for a boycott needs to be a grass-roots one.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised those visiting the country to steer clear of the capital Male which has seen protests and counter protests since Mr Nasheed’s ouster.
Tourism contributes more than a third of the Maldives’ GDP and is the main source of employment.