Maldives apologises to couple over ‘hate’ wedding ceremony

COLOMBO (AFP) – The Maldivian Government has apologised to a European couple abused as “swine” and “infidels” during what was supposed to be a romantic renewal of wedding vows in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The Maldivian ambassador in Geneva conveyed to the couple the government’s “profound and heartfelt apologies,” the government said.
“Ambassador Iruthisham Adam from the Maldives embassy in Geneva personally telephoned the couple, who asked to remain anonymous, on Friday to extend the government’s profound and heartfelt apologies,” a statement said.

A video of the ceremony said to have taken place on October 11, during which the hapless couple were taunted and subjected to insulting and religious-tinged abuse, was posted on YouTube two weeks later. The video has sparked fears for the country’s tourism-dependent economy.
The Vilu Reef hotel initially identified the victims as Swiss, but a senior tourism source in the Maldives told AFP they were French. Maldivian authorities declined to confirm their nationality.
However, Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said soon after the video was posted on YouTube that he was expressing his “intense regret” to European authorities.
The Foreign Ministry will also be writing to its counterparts in Europe “to offer our intense regret,” Shaheed said in a statement.

“I informed the couple the entire country is deeply shocked and saddened by what has happened,” the president’s office quoted the Maldivian ambassador in Geneva as saying.
“The Maldives is renowned for its warm hospitality and this incident has brought great shame upon our tourism industry and our country.”

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed also said he was sorry over the incident and called for new measures to regulate wedding ceremonies in the upmarket tourist destination.
Maldivian police have arrested the hotel employee who conducted the ceremony and used profanities throughout the renewal of wedding vows by the couple, who paid USD 1,300 for the event.
“We have started investigations and are treating this as a very serious matter,” police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.

He said the two men were taken before a magistrate who ordered them detained for five days. Both are being held at a Male police station, he added.
British comic Russell Brand and US pop star Katy Perry are the latest celebrities to head to the Indian Ocean nation for a honeymoon after tying the knot in India last weekend.
“All tourist hotels without exception will be required to follow the new guidelines which will be issued shortly,” the president’s office said.

The Vilu Reef hotel said it was “unforgivable” that a staff member had read out the sexual and religious slurs in the Dhivehi language, and apologised for his conduct.
“You are swine,” the couple was told. “The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine.
“Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel and, we have reason to believe, an atheist.”

The wife, wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet, and her husband smile shyly through the ceremony. In front of a table decorated with incense sticks, the English-speaking couple bows their heads in prayer through the torrent of accusations, curses and swearing.
The Islamic Republic of the Maldives, a nation of palm-fringed islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s most exclusive honeymoon destinations and its economy relies heavily on tourism.