In the Indian media, the Maldives can be a rage when Indian celebrities post their vacation, honeymoon or shooting pictures. This time, it is Katrina Kaif – one of India’s leading actresses – who is making the Maldives trend in India.
The 33-year-old star is here for a photo shoot by Harper’s Bazaar Brides India. and a selfie posted by her designer friend Manish Malhotra on Instagram is being shared widely.
A photo posted by Manish Malhotra (@manishmalhotra05) on
Did you spot seaplanes in the background?
The picturesque Maldives has always been one of the top destinations to capture in camera for the Mumbai-based Bollywood industry.
Taking cue from Bollywood’s interest in the country, in 2010, the then tourism minister Toyyid Mohammad proposed turning one of the nation’s islands into shooting studios.
“We have already proposed that one of the islands could be turned into a studio to shoot movies,” Toyyid was quoted as saying in an Indian newspaper in 2010. Though, the plan never took off but Bollywood continued to shoot movies in the Maldives.
Here are five movies shot in exotic locations of the Maldives
Ek Villain was shot at Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island where the entire beach looks like starry night sky due to a natural phenomenon known as “bioluminescence”.
This Hritik Roshan starred movie was shot at the Sultan of Blues yatch.
Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya
Salman Khan who has a huge fan base in the Maldives as well shot his home-production Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya with Katrina Kaif at Coco Palm Resort. Sea Plane again!
Fight Club- Members Only
A song from the movie Fight Club – Members Only was shot at the Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa in Meemu Atoll
This 1986 release starring Sunny Deol and Poonam Dhillon was shot at the Bandos Island Resort & Spa now known as Bandos Island.
The love between Bollywood and the Maldives is not one sided. While in mainstream media, the narrative begins and ends with sharing pictures of stars and movies being shot here, the love for Hindi movies, songs and even TV soaps among the Maldivians is fascinating.
Sometimes, this love also translates into a tool to protest against the alleged dictatorship in the country. Last year, some of the MPs played a song ‘Ye Andha Kanoon Hai’ (The law is blind) from 1983 drama starring legendary Amitabh Bachchan to protest against the state-controlled judiciary in the People’s Majlis.
Maldivians are also hooked to radio stations playing Hindi songs.
Even Maldivian Idol – an adaptation of popular British show Pop Idol which became a hit in its maiden season – also witnessed the love for Bollywood when the top three contestants sang a Hindi song with a popular Indian singer Abhijeet.
One can also spot Maldivians dancing on popular Hindi songs. In this video, Suneetha Ali is seen performing the iconic steps of Bollywood heartthrob Madhuri Dixit’s ‘Ek Do Teen’ at a function organised by Raajje TV.
According to a report, not only Indian movies, the ‘saas-bahu’ sagas made by Ekta Kapoor are also popular among Maldivians, especially women.
Mohamed Salih Hassan, General Manager Operations and Project/Director for Adaaran luxury resorts said as quoted in the report, “Local people really like to watch Hindi movies and serials. Stars like Shahrukh, Aamir, Salman and Aishwarya are quite popular among them, including kids.”
The government-owned Olympus Cinema used to screen Hindi movies along with Dhivehi films even it had just a projector and a DVD player. Now, state broadcast network Television Maldives (TVM) screens Hindi movies to entertainment-hungry Maldivians. With home entertainment and cable TV, the love for Bollywood rose in the Maldives.
The third edition of Maldives Investment Forum was all praise of President Abdulla Yameen by his cabinet ministers – Vice President Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed – as they tried to garner the interest of investors in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.
The annual forum to tap the potential of the Maldives’ tourism and infrastructure sector in the international market was started under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen in 2014 in Singapore followed by Beijing in 2015.
Here are top 5 mentions of President Abdulla Yameen at the high-profile investment forum:
GDP has grown with double digit under the leadership of President Yameen in last three years
We have seen the trust for President Yameen’s economic policies. We are seeing the results of our efforts
Far-sighted policies of President Yameen has narrowed down fiscal deficit in the country
President Yameen has eased monetary policies leading to increased credit availability for the private sector and have lowered inflation
President Yameen’s government promotes a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and believes in strong, predictable and transparent commercial regime is critical for private sector led growth
“President Yameen is a respected economist…,” this is how Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed introduced his president at Maldives Investment Forum in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.
“President Abdulla Yameen is a respected economist under whose governance GDP and per capita income have improved, ” he went on to add while facing uncomfortable questions from reporters on the sidelines of the event.
However, the qualifications of Yameen – infamous as an increasingly autocratic President – are bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Public Policy, not exactly good enough to hail him as an economist!
And off late, Yameen has been accused of large-scale money-laundering and muzzling political voices with his strong arm tactics and misuse of the local courts.
But Saeed insisted that “he (Yameen) is a well-informed leader who is focused on bringing social harmony through development and job creation” while avoiding pointed questions on eroded international image of his country.
The interaction with the reporters in New Delhi during the Maldives Investment forum came across as another embarrassment as ministers in the Yameen’s cabinet jump from one faux pax to another.
While asked about the corruption charges facing President Yameen, Saeed’s response came from a scripted note, which had no relation to the questions being asked to the minister.
Speaking on similar lines as his boss Yameen, Saeed also expressed the government’s collective desire to make the Maldives the next Singapore (interestingly something that Yameen’s half-brother and mentor Maumoon Gayoom does not approve!)
“We are not comparing the Maldives to Singapore… but it does translate into the desire to look up to Singapore,” Saeed said while he pitched for greater investment in the Maldivian tourism and infrastructure.
Contrary to the reports of World Bank that the Maldivian economy had slowed down in 2015 and figures on fiscal deficits and public debt were sobering, Saeed claimed that in Yameen’s three-year tenure there was a steady growth in GDP and public debt has been fixed.
The shocking victory of real-estate mogul Donald Trump becoming the 45th President-elect of the United State of America is partly being attributed to that FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of a new investigation against rival Hillary Clinton two weeks before polling day. But Clinton’s campaign was disrupted the maximum by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks which continues to publish the emails of her campaign chair John Podesta, a major Washington insider.
The whistleblowing website has published close to 56,000 emails from Podesta’s private account since October 7, sometimes more than once a day, revealing the internal communications of Clinton’s campaign staff.
And one of them is linked to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. John Podesta also owns Washington-based lobbyist firm Podesta Group run by his brother Tony. The firm signed a lucrative deal with the Maldives last September to counsel Abdulla Yameen-led government amid threat of sanctions and was paid USD 50,000 by a company implicated in country’s biggest corruption scandal.
And whether or not Trump will act against Clinton, who, he had said during a debate would “be in jail” if he became the president, Podesta can actually be investigated over its links with a money-laundering regime in Maldives.
Podesta, the “superlobbyist” has been accused for “whitewashing” Yameen and his cronies’ crimes, as alleged by opposition and received its fee from state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Podesta was hired by Abdulla Yameen-led government to provide strategic counsel to the government.
The contract with the government published by Podesta Group on the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) office’s website read, “(Podesta will) provide strategic counsel on strengthening ties (of Maldives) to the US government.”
The deal was cracked at whopping USD 300,000 for a period of six months between September 8, 2015 and March 7, 2016.
Government initially denied reports of hiring Podesta but e-mails containing details of cost negotiations with the firm — sent by Jeffrey Salim Waheed, the deputy permanent representative in New York — were leaked. The then Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon were also marked in the mails.
Adeeb, who brokered may such PR deals for his boss, was in direct communication with Foreign Ministry officials over hiring Podesta. Adeeb was also informed that Podesta wanted its fee to be paid in monthly instalments of USD 50,000.
Even though the deal was called off in October after Adeeb’s arrest on the charges of plotting to assassinate Yameen in boat blast on September 30, Podesta received one-month fee for its services from state tourism promotion company MMPRC.
Documents filed by Podesta at the US Department of Justice disclosed that the firm was paid USD 50,000 from MMPRC.
Later, MMPRC’s former head Abdulla Ziyath was found guilty in money embezzlement USD 80 million from state coffers along with Adeeb.
Podesta, however, was not the only firm to be paid a lucrative fee for polishing the Maldives’ deteriorating image by MMPRC. Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategy was also paid more than £200,000 for consultancy on “democratic consolidation” to Yameen by the state tourism promotion company.
The main-opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) alleged that the government was spending obscene amounts of public money for image-building.
“Government officials are clearly rattled at the prospect of facing targeted sanctions. But rather than doing the right thing and freeing the political prisoners, they are spending obscene amounts of public money on foreign lobbyists, who will try to whitewash their crimes,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, the party’s international spokesman was quoted as saying by Maldives Independent.
In September this year, an investigative documentary by Al-Jazeera exposed embezzlement of money from state coffers to private accounts by illegally leasing islands. The documentary claimed that President Yameen and his associates
The secretly filmed interviews describe how men on mopeds carried millions in cash to the President and his aides with some funds amounting to as large as $1.5 billion.
The rift in ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives is now translating into act of rebellion as the MPs apparently belonging to the faction led by former President Maumoon Gayoom said they will put national interest before President Abdulla Yameen’s diktat.
The development came after court stripped PPM’s President Maumoon Gayoom of all his powers and handed the full control to President Yameen.
In a press conference on Thursday, eight MPs announced that the decision of President Yameen has done irreparable damage and they will bring a number of changes in the Parliamentary work adding that they will no longer abide by the whip line set by Yameen.
The faction criticised lack of transparency, increasing authoritarianism and allegations of corruption by the government and vowed to work with the opposition to restore democracy in the country.
Meanwhile, MDP welcomed the decision of the MPs and said that the party looks forward to working with the MPs to bring about any necessary legislative changes to uphold the Constitution, protect fundamental freedoms, and to restore democracy in the country.
“In light of the immense difficulties that the people of the Maldives are to face, it is encouraging that 8 Government party MPs have pledged their intention to work with the opposition. We ask other Government MPs to do same, to work towards reform. This is now leading to President Yameen losing his majority in the Parliament. With this, President Yameen has lost any remaining legitimacy he may have had,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed.
On Sunday, Chief Judge Abdulla Didi ruled in favour of President Yameen citing extrordinary circumstances due to Maummon’s refusal to convene the party’s governing council and sacking of his deputy, Maldives Independent reported.
The court made President Yameen, who was the advisor of the party, as the head of PPM.
Maumoon’s Gayoom, meanwhile said that he will take the case to Supreme Court.
The rift between Gayoom brothers goes back to June when President Yameen led government introduced the Tourism Bill to which Maumoon strongly opposed. The rift got wider when Maumoon refused to endorse Yameen as the party’s
Presidential candidate for the next election followed by sacking of Faris Gayoom in reaction.
Maumoon who is in loggerheads with his half-brother Yameen has time and again criticised him for his decisions to implement death penalty and leave the commonwealth.
Maumoon daughter and former Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon and his loyal and former Home Minsiter Umar Naseer had quit Yameen-led government citing differences.
As a series of corruption allegations loom over President Abdulla Yameen, he apologised for failing to check the country’s biggest corruption scam in which over USD 80 million was transferred from state coffers to private accounts by the state-owned tourism firm – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
President Yameen, who was also implicated in the scam as one the beneficiaries, did not take responsibility for it and shifted the blame on former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
During the inauguration of USD 15million water and sanitation project in southern city of Fuvahmulah, Yameen said:
Even tonight, I want to apologise that the MMPRC corruption occurred during my presidency. For that I ask forgiveness from the people… But no matter how vigilant we are, criminals will continue to commit crimes. The only means to deter crime is harsher penalties.
He said he was not aware of the fact that adeeb was stealing money from the state contrary to the claims of the former auditor general who had alleged that President Yameen refused to take action when he was informer about the corruption in MMPRC in 2014.
Even though President Yameen apologised for the scam, opposition did not seem convinced and said that it was not enough on his part.
Maldives United Opposition Leader (MUO) Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said that an apology cannot compensate for “robbery” of a billion Rufiyaa and demanded an independent probe seeking his resignation.
Rayyithunge baithul maalun kuri biliyan rufiyaage vakkamah thin akuruge ma aaf akun badhal nudhevwyne.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had a contact saved in his now infamous gold iPhone as ‘Lord P’. The same gold iPhone that exposed how Adeeb and his mentor-tuned-boss turned-antagonist President Abdulla Yameen were not only involved in high-level corruption but also in wiping off anyone and everyone who did not fall in line — media, politicians, activists and even its own ministers; now has another story to tell: How the two cracked a deal with ‘Lord P’ to shroud the autocratic nature of the government with a well-crafted image of the Maldives’ economic development.
But it was not the first time when Yameen agreed to spend a fortune to negate the banana republic impression. Last summer, Yameen signed a lucrative deal with Cherie Blair- wife of former Prime Minister and Labour Party chief Tony Blair- after she was rejected by the first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed who had Amal Clooney by his side.
Cherie who was earlier ready to represent Nasheed calling his trial ‘an extraordinary farce’, then agreed to revive Yameen’s image for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,128,292).
Back In 2012 too, right after the coup that toppled Nasheed’s government, another Labour Party member, former Labour Cabinet Minister and former attorney general Baroness Scotland took £ 75,000 (MVR 1,457,366) to advise the then government on avoiding action by Commonwealth in a two-week work contract.
On August 12, 2015, a few days before Yameen got Cherie on board, Adeeb broke a deal ‘Lord P’, who is a professional lobbyist and political adviser, to revamp the image of Yameen’s regime.
‘Lord P’ is no one else but the man who has not only been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hartlepool for Labour Party but also held a number of Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers Tony Blair.
The man who rebuilt the Labour Party as New Labour before its subsequent victory in the 1997 election.
‘Lord P’ is Peter Mandelson – The Prince of Darkness.
A report by Daily Mail says that 62-year-old Mandelson held meetings with Adeeb and Yameen to counsel the government on how to “rebuild its public image”.
The British Daily quoting a four-page memo says that Mandelson’s strategic advisory firm Global Counsel suggested the government to deal with the PR crisis by projecting “your vision for the country’s future”.
The memo was dated August 18, four days after the meeting took place between Adeeb and Mandelson at the resort of Gili Lankanfushi.
Headlined as ‘Next Steps’, the memo asking to set up a strategic communication to fix the international image of the Maldives as quoted by Daily Mail read:
The taskforce will benefit from start-up training and development from an external source. This is something we could guide you on as part of our current work with international investors in the Maldives
It also offered to lobby United Nations General Assembly and Commonwealth by “telling an effective story about the Maldives to international audiences”. The advisory firm also said that it would get confidence of the international investors “everywhere from New York and London to Berlin, Paris and Beijing”.
The Memo By Global Counsel
The discussion in Gili Lankanfushi was very useful in scoping out the next steps. What follows in this note assumes that the situation regarding Nasheed can be resolved amicably from the perspective of all relevant stakeholders. The Maldives is a young democracy and recognises it has further to go in order to create the institutions and space to enable democracy to flourish… Reforms to the penal code and judicial system, as well as strengthening the rule of law, are prerequisites to a healthy democracy, and the government is in the process of designing and implementing reforms in these areas that will deliver immediate benefits as well as building the foundations for a stronger democracy in the longer term.
The firm suggested that government can rebuild its image by giving an ‘accurate account’ of the government’s ‘accomplishments’ in the fields of economic stewardship, social reform and environmental protection.
It is unclear if the two went ahead with the big revival plan as Adeeb – in less than two months – was jailed for plotting to assassinate his boss Yameen.
On October 13, when Ying Staton, Global Counsel’s ‘Asia Director’ wrote to Adeeb to figure out when Mandelson and Yameen could speak on phone, he was already in middle of speed boat blast allegations and days ahead only led to his impeachment, arrest and sentencing.
Flamboyant Adeeb, one of the richest politicians, also seen as Yameen’s loyal, also got implicated in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandal with Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
An audit report of MMPRC revealed that money as huge as USD 80 million received from leasing islands and resorts meant for the state was siphoned off to private accounts which benefited Adeeb, Yameen, his wife and other politicians.
And it also benefitted Cherie Blair. Omnia had billed Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the MMPRC for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,081,265) – the half amount of total fee charged by the firm for a six-month contract.
According to Maldives Independent, government also spent USD 19,293 (MVR 297,510) on visits of Omnia’s barrister Toby Cadman, between June and September.
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai – Yameen
Omnia, on the allegation of receiving the money from a company implicated in corruption, said that it terminated six-month contract early due to unpredictable domestic events and is no longer instructed by either the government or the MMPRC.
The whistleblower, Bank of Maldives former manager Gasim Abdul Kareem, who leaked the account details of Score of Flairs (S.O.F) Private Limited which facilitated the transaction between MMPRC and Omnia is now in jail on the charges of unauthorised disclosure customer information.
Adeeb was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing USD 5,000,000 (MVR 76,850,000) from state coffers besides 15 year jail term for plotting to assassinate Yameen.
Government also hired Washington based lobbyist firm, Podesta Group in September for a sum of USD 300,000 (MVR 4,611,000) and London-based PR firm BTP Advisers in November.
Even after massive PR exercise Yameen is now isolated by his party men. Though, he is often witnessed talking about economic development and policies as ambitious as making the Maldives the next Singapore and Dubai. At an event in May this year, Yameen said:
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai
Battered by its international image, Yameen-led government even launched a programme ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016’ to promote tourism and also enhanced their budget but soon abandoned the ambitious 1.5 million tourist target this year alleging opposition of tarnishing the image of the country.
The government functioning on PR machinery of the west in a bid to revive the image of the country often blames opposition and its leader Nasheed for destroying country’s economy, ironically, calling them the agents of the west. Meanwhile, Nasheed continue to enjoy the support of international rights’ group, journalists and rival of the Labour Party, Conservative Party’s former leader and former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Even as tourist arrival in the Maldives has not been too good this year, but 2017 looks pretty good as 20 new resorts are set to be launched in the first leg of ambitious “50 resorts in five years” plan.
Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer said that the government is working to open 50 resorts in five years
Four resorts opened in 2016 so far, 9 more to come up soon
Past two years have not been very good with development of resorts in the country
Completing pending 200 unfinished islands for resort development is on priority
Speaking during the largest conference on tourism promotion, Zameer said,
… the target [of opening 50 new resorts] can be achieved by mid-2018. We expect to do even better than that
The sentencing of Bank of Maldives former manager Gasim Abdul Kareem, who has been charged with unauthorised disclosure customer information, has been postponed amid the constant call from watchdog Transparency Maldives for his acquittal for whistle-blowing the one of the biggest corruption in the country where the money meant for state was siphoned off to private accounts.
The hearing was canceled as the presiding judge was on leave.
Police had arrested Gasim on the charges of allegedly disclosing the bank account details of Score of Flairs (S.O.F) Private Limited – a company involved in the country’s biggest corruption scandal with Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to Omnia Strategy- a company founded and chaired by Cherie Blair.
Gasim, who is under house arrest since the beginning of trial, has got unprecedented support of Transparency Maldives which dub him as a whistle-blower and is carrying out a campaign in his defense.
Gasim’s lawayer Nazim Sattar had also put forward his case as an act of whistle-blowing to expose the corruption.
Nazim told FocusMaldives.com,
What he did was whistleblowing which is not a crime but the state is saying that he did a criminal offence which is punishable up to six-months
Gasim was found “unbailable” by six criminal court judges in 11 remand hearings for “potential interference with witnesses and evidence” and danger of absconding”.
Here’s everything you need to know about the case
Gasim was arrested on February 18 and has been incarcerated in Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre for more than three months.
He was under detention for more than three months.
According to an expose by The Daily Mail, Mohamed Allam Latheef, the owner of SOF Pvt Ltd facilitated transfer of funds from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to Omnia Strategy- founded and chaired by Cherie Blair.
An amount of £210,000 was transferred from MMPRC’s funds to HSBC account in London, apparently belonging to Omnia.
The amount was half of the total amount charged by Omnia strategy for providing six months consultancy service -in a yearlong contract- to the government on “democratic consolidation”.
Latheef acted as a middleman in ensuring that there is a smooth transaction between the two.
MMPRC, which allegedly misappropriated US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion agency also siphoned off US$70 million into SOF’s bank account.
Latheef is also a close associate of Adeeb and among the five suspects wanted in connection with the boat blast.
Interpol had issued red notice against him.
Gasim, who is pleading whistleblowing, has not been not been formally charged for any offence but his detention notice says he is accused under Penal Code Section 231, 232 and 233 for unlawful surveillance, acquisition and disclosure of information.
Penal Code Section 232 (b) provides an exception in the cases where an unauthorised acquisition of information is intended to expose wrongdoing.