Published on Thursday, January 5, 2012
A ban on spas in the Maldives was lifted yesterday afternoon by the government while it waits for a court to decide whether they are legal under the country's constitution.
Speaking at a press conference held at Kurumba Maldives resort - the first to open in the archipelago in 1972 - the President said spas could continue to operate until the Supreme Court comes to a decision.
The President ordered all spas to close following a rally on December 23 by opposition parties, during which extreme Islamists had claimed the islands' massage and liquor parlours were a front for prostitution.
In an attempt to call their bluff, the President impose a ban which included hotel spas, some of which are owned by leaders of the opposition. The move threatened to damage the Maldives' £1bn a year tourism industry.
During the press conference, the President said he was confident all the institutions of state would realise the importance of placing national development first and would 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," said a statement from the Maldives government.
Since the government’s ban on spas, the opposition parties stated they did 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 said on Wednesday.
The government’s ultimatum "woke the nation from its slumber and sparked a healthy national debate about the future direction of the country", he said.
“The extremist demonstration on 23 December attracted a sizeable crowd. But their radical demands awoke the silent majority who categorically reject extremism.”
Most resorts continued to operate spas during the ban.
By Linsey McNeill
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