Maldives: the hypocrites’ paradise

raveMore than half of the Maldivian population is under the age of 25 and, with over a third of the population aged between 18-35, the Maldives has one of the most youthful populations in the world. This weekend around 200 of them assembled on the desert island of Anbaraa for an overnight music festival.

All elements that any reasonable person expects at a modern event of the sort were present—great DJs, young people up for a good time and, unsurprisingly, party drugs. On Friday night, when most revelers were at the peak of their enjoyment, a Maldives Police Service (MPS) team in riot gear raided the island. Apparently they were in possession of an arrest warrant, issued by one of many farcical courts that comprise the so-called judiciary.

The MPS asked no one’s permission to get on the island, respected no laws, followed no due procedure. Police statements have made it clear they were aware of the plans for the music festival, and also that it would take the form of a rave. They made no move to stop it from going ahead. When they raided the island on Friday night, they were fully aware of what they would find — a bunch of young people in a highly vulnerable state — and proceeded to assert their supremacy on them as aggressively as possible.

The MPS could not have acted more triumphantly if they had managed to bust the world’s biggest drug cartel. According to eye-witness accounts, they threw smoke grenades onto the unsuspecting revelers, barged into their tents without permission, searched their personal possessions without their knowledge, and handcuffed everyone deemed ‘guilty’ before holding them in custody for 14 hours without the right to counsel. Once they had been humiliated, and by some accounts several beaten up in custody, it was time to turn the whole affair into a media circus. Pictures of various partygoers were splashed across computer and television ‘news’ screens as if they were members of a newly busted paedophile gang deserving the most forceful of today’s naming and shaming techniques.

The worst of the humiliation was reserved for the women, as can be expected of the misogynistic society the Maldives has become today. First came the reports across the entire media spectrum—from the mainstream to the most obscure—that several of the women had been found ‘naked’, ‘nude’, ‘everything bared’, etc. Pictures of laughing policewomen in headscarves marching the young female partygoers in handcuffs and sarongs appeared on all print and online newspapers. As it turned out, all reports the women were naked were total lies, engineered to belittle and humiliate ‘the weaker sex’ as much as possible. The women were made to wear sarongs to court — not to cover their nudity, but to cover up the lie that none of them were naked. Wearing shorts, apparently, is now tantamount to being naked in the tropical island ‘paradise’.

The treatment of these young people is a supreme example of the hypocrisy that defines modern Maldives. It is one of the worst kept secrets of Maldivian politics that most of the Maldivian cabinet, and a substantial number of parliamentarians in the Majlis all drink alcohol and/or take recreational drugs. Several government Ministers not only drink but also facilitate parties and raves for young people they know. On the more sleazy side of things, several do so with the goal of getting sexual favours from young people in exchange for the illegal substances provided.

Quite apart from the disgusting hypocrisy of those in power, and separate from the widespread heroin addiction that has afflicted an entire generation of Maldivian youth since the 1990s, it is also a fact that social drinking and indulging in recreational drugs are common among young Maldivians, especially in the capital Male’. In recent years the use of party drugs such as Ecstasy, and even more recently LSD too, have increased as it has in most cities across the world.

Meanwhile, in a country where alcohol is only meant to be available to tourists who holiday in the exclusive resort islands, it is commonplace for copious amounts of alcohol to be sold and bought in and around Male’ every weekend. Government officials—and police—are fully aware of this. Many, in fact, have a share in the profits, which are invariably huge. Young people who want a drink are forced to pool their resources and shell out as much as MVR2000 approximately  (USD 130) for a bottle of alcohol, regardless of its make, size or contents. Where else do the bottles come from except tourism industry tycoons with a license to import them? Today several of these tycoons are also running the government and the country. To pretend they are unaware of how much their profits are pumped up from selling alcohol to young Maldivians is a sham that any thinking person can see right through. Yet they keep up the façade so that a) they can keep making profits, and b) continue claiming that such things do not happen in a ‘100 percent Muslim country’ like the Maldives.

Fact of the matter is, Muslim or not, drinking alcohol and taking recreational drugs are as normal among a large section of the Maldivian population as it is in any other 21st Century society in the world.  To believe that what happens in the rest of the globalised world does not happen in the Maldives is the height of idiocy. Being such a small country with deliberately weakened cultural and historical roots has made us more, rather than less, vulnerable to global influences than most other countries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the number of Maldivian youth who have found themselves bending to the radical Islamist winds that have swept across the globe since the beginning of the century. If we are to be honest, we have to admit that the big black burugas that so many Maldivian women have come to wear in the past decade have as little affinity with our culture and religious practises as the hot pants the women at the rave were wearing – yet the former is not just embraced but almost forced upon everyone as ‘the right thing’ while the other is criticised as ‘alien’ and even criminal.

Yes, the use of drugs are against the law. But since man began to live in societies, there has been no place on earth where youth have not bent the law for their fun and enjoyment. Their infringements—if they cause no harm to society as a whole—need to be dealt with concern and understanding, not handcuffs, brutality and long sentences. Drug laws are meant to punish traffickers and dealers and to stop dangerous substances from becoming a menace to users and society. Young people at a rave on a desert island, whether tripping or not, poses no threat to society whatsoever. To treat the Anbaraa revelers as criminals, to set out to publicly shame them, and to punish them with imprisonment demonstrate nothing but intolerance and ignorance. And the hypocrisy of those meting out such punishment, while happily indulging in worse behavious themselves, boggles the mind perhaps even more than some of the substances said to have been available at Anbaraa could have.

    20 comments

    1. Bo

      “Yes, the use of drugs are against the law. But since man began to live in societies, there has been no place on earth where youth have not bent the law for their fun and enjoyment. Their infringements—if they cause no harm to society as a whole—need to be dealt with concern and understanding, not handcuffs, brutality and long sentences.”

      If a large number of the youth start taking drugs/alcohol, then it is causing harm to society as a whole because they will be the future leaders who in the future will also have a bad rep due to their past ‘infringements’..

      • ads

        So it’s bad because it’s illegal not because it’s actually bad? People throughout history have taken any number of drugs and will continue to until we are no longer alive. Governments and police should protect people from other people not themselves.

        • Bo

          @ads That quote is from the article. I’m saying that taking drugs is bad because it is bad (and in the end it will affect society as a whole) – however the writer of the article seems to suggest taking drugs is bad because it’s illegal. Please read properly and think before you write.
          Also the government and police should be protecting people from others as well as protecting people against the people themselves – a.k.a drug offences should be taken really seriously… which Maldives are really bad at proactively lowering this statistic.

          • Ahmed Manik

            The use of drugs in the Maldives is because the government and big business want to keep the young population in control and the people who benefits from this are the people who are seeking jobs in the Maldives .and they are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Srilankan. and affliction with the business leaders in the Maldives who says that they are 100% Muslim. who do not want to be seen drinking alcohol in their resorts ,because we are a small community. they employ people from the countries mentioned .so these people are making sure that these jobs are maintained by supplying the drugs to the youth of the Maldives. who unfortunately have any rehabilitation. provided. because the government, is so corrupt. and have no idea to deal with the problem. and most of the officials are involved in this

    2. Mohamed

      More about this ‘beatings in custody’ please? And it wasn’t the police who took pictures of them and splashed them all over news websites. High and almost nude young people canoodling and raving at a deserted island? Who wouldn’t like a juicy story. And like anywhere else in the world (you seem to have a fondness for this point) tabloids do love a juicy story don’t they?

      Police had a search warrant. Of course they were going to go through their personal belongings. What did you think they would do? And barging into tents without warning? Really? As though it was the dead of the night and they were soundly sleeping inside their tents when it happened.

      Alcohol and drugs are not nearly as ubiquitous in Male’ as you make it out to be. This whole article seems to be tailored for a specific, narrow group namely the western individualism embracing youth- exactly the type who are high on drugs. The article is filled with specious information and misleading half truths.

      And as a point to be noted, wasn’t many of the guys and girls arrested sons and daughters of prominent figures? Hardly evidence of corruption and selective justice within the judiciary and police.

      Agree with your point about the treatment of the arrested girls.

    3. oddjob

      Lucky they weren’t shot dead.
      Police did what it had to do. Illigal shit was going down so whats ur issue. If u want get drunk ask ya momma to help. If not shutup n sit tight. And yes Ali White Jagi Hameed bt its a different story. So chill

    4. Visney

      Mohamed, is it always about a juicy story? I don’t think that most people are thirsting for a story just so that they can get the satisfaction out of someone else’s loss. Be a little more open minded. As much as I like to agree that it was ok to raid the party I find it even worse that the police didn’t follow the certain procedure to do to so. We all know there is always a political hand in this filth. The rich do the crime while we do the time. And there is literally no proof showing that a son or daughter of a prominent figure was present there at the island.

      • Mohamed

        Well the articles identified some of those brought to court as children of prominent people.

        Care to highlight the procedure that the police should have followed and the mistakes they made?

        Where is your proof for the accusation that there is a political hand in this? I personally think what people do is their own business and state should not interfere. But the law is the law and drugs are illegal.

      • Mohamed

        My problem with the article is that it is trying to paint a picture different from reality. The baseless accusations about beatings under custody? Baised rendering of the events. Accusations of a dirty political hand in this? Making out Male’ to be a drug infested city full of young generation on drugs? I am a teenager myself and I resent the articles postulatation that we are all addicts out to have a ‘good time’ and that that is the ‘natural state of affairs’

    5. don don

      Seriously its about time u accepted tat u were defeated in a fair election & the country is going well with the guidance of a great leader. So grow up & act like a responsible political party like in the great democracies.
      Stop spreading such misleading information.
      If we look at what happened on the night in question, yes a group of youth went to an island to have fun and enjoy. The police raided the party because they got intelligence that drugs was being sold. They acted as soon as they got the intelligence, with the necessary court warrants. So many different types of drugs were found at the scene and more rufiyya worth more than 5000 USD. It is also believed that most of them were kids of rich business people and prominent figures since the ticket for the event was around 100 USD which an average Maldivian cannot afford. Nevertheless, there was no evidence of selective justice, since everyone was searched and only the people who tested positive to drugs were arrested.
      Drugs is a serious crime every where in the world. And Maldives with such a small population of 0.3 million cannot afford to just sit back and watch when a huge population of youth gets wasted in drugs.
      Also courts are honored world wide, so the police asked the girls who were wearing mini shorts to wear a sarong above them before they entered the court. It was the tabloids who took these photos and blasted all over the media and wrote articles implying so many lies just like this article.
      The truth is this article is just an attempt by a political party to create chaos in the country since they are loosing the people’s votes over and over again. And these attempts are not working at all.

    6. jojo

      Apparently the one who wrote this has no idea why the wore sarongs.any y they were arrested. My friend Lsd is illegal everywhere cannabis is illegal crack is illegal. Ppl need decent cloth to enter court house.

    7. Congenial

      Police drugs kids blah , yageen yameen anni qasim blah..
      Politics mdp ppm blah..
      Only thing u can do is what u do nor the party or the government focus on your work.. Blah

    8. Egghead

      haha…. research = 0.33, objective writing = atrocious, hypocrisy = 100%… where did u get ur phd again?!

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    12. Ismail Azmee

      IT WAS NOT A MUSIC FESTIVAL!! It was an orgy with very expensive drug dealers. Please get your facts right before you write such a long article with nonsense.

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