Male, March 8 (AVAS): The Maldives’ flag carrier ‘Maldivian’ on Thursday denied media reports indicating that the airline had canceled all scheduled flights to China due to lack of passengers coming from the country due to the State of Emergency in Maldives. The flights were cut down due to a routine fall in business following the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, a spokesman of the Island Aviation Services ,Ali Nashath said.
“The downturn always comes after the end of the Chinese new year. Every year there are two seasons when we experience such a downturn. So we always cut-down on flights during this time,” Nashath said
With the imposition of State of Emergency in the Maldives, several countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens from traveling to Maldives, most notably Maldives current government’s closest ally China has advised their citizens from postponing travel to the Maldives till the political unrest is over.
However, Island Aviation Services Limited which operates the airline insisted that the media reports were completely unfounded but admitted that there has been a downturn in arrivals from China.
“The downturn always comes after the end of the Chinese new year. Every year there are two seasons when we experience such a downturn. So we always cut-down on flights during this time,” Nashath explained.
Maldivian currently flies to five Chinese cities and is responsible for bringing in around 900 Chinese tourists to the archipelago per week.
The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.
Following the emergency state China, Maldives’ closest ally had asked Chinese tourists against visiting the Maldives until the political situation in the tropical island destination stabilizes.
In addition to China, several countries including India, US, Europe, UK have issued varying degrees of travel advisories to their citizens following the turmoil in the luxury tropical island destination.
The industry had warned that the state of emergency could cost the country millions.
However, despite the obvious damage to the linchpin of the island nation’s economy, president Yameen president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.
President Yameen is facing mounting pressure even within the security forces after exploiting the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.
Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.
The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother’s government.
The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.
In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom’s lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.
Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb’s uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.