The Maldives government has lifted a nationwide ban on spas and massage parlours, revoking a circular sent by the tourism ministry last week which ordered spas to cease operations.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon during a press conference held at Kurumba Maldives resort - the country’s first resort, which began operations in 1972 - the president said the government has requested the Supreme Court to advise whether spas are legal under the Maldives constitution.
President Mohammed Nasheed said he has ordered the authorities to lift the ban on spas with immediate effect, while the country awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict.
Nasheed said he was confident all the institutions of state will realise the importance of placing national development first and will not act in a way that would damage the tourism industry.
The president reasserted his view that the vast majority of Maldivians reject religious extremism and want to continue the moderate form of Islam the Maldives has followed for the past 800 years.
The government’s actions over the past few days follow an opposition rally in Male’ on December 23rd aimed at “defending Islam”.
During that rally, all the major opposition parties in the country attacked the government’s religious credentials; many speakers went further, calling for the creation of an ‘Islamic state’ with the strict imposition of Sharia.
Following the rally, the government ordered the country’s spas closed.
Since the government’s ban on spas, the opposition parties - most of which are headed or heavily influenced by resort owners - quickly changed their positions and stated they do not support a ban on spas nor wish to damage the tourism industry.
“We wanted to impress upon everyone where the opposition’s demands were ultimately going to end,” the president explained on Wednesday.
He added the government’s ultimatum “woke the nation from its slumber and sparked a healthy national debate about the future direction of the country”.
“The extremist demonstration on December 23rd attracted a sizeable crowd.
“But their radical demands awoke the silent majority who categorically reject extremism,” the president concluded.