Politics Tourism

Maldives speaker says sorry over arrest of bikini-wearing British tourist

The Maldives’ speaker of parliament on Monday apologised to a British tourist after footage of her arrest by several policemen triggered a social media storm.

Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise in the Indian Ocean popular with honeymooners and celebrities.

Police said the bikini-clad woman, who was walking on a major road, was “inappropriately” dressed, unruly and drunk when she was detained after refusing to comply with requests to cover up on Thursday.

The Maldives previously confined tourists to resort islets separate from the local Muslim population, but in recent years has allowed foreigners to stay on inhabited islands.

Tourists can wear swimwear such as bikinis in the resorts but are subject to local dress codes elsewhere.

Videos shared on social media showed three men trying to detain the traveller, while a fourth person tried to cover her with a towel.

The woman was heard shouting “you’re sexually assaulting me” during the incident.

The speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, told parliament he was extending an apology to the woman over the incident, in which she was detained by police for two hours.

She has since left the nation of 340,000, but Mr Nasheed said he hoped tourism authorities would invite her to return to the luxury holiday spot.

Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said on Twitter after the footage was shared online that the incident “seems to be badly handled”.

“I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that. This matter is being investigated.”

A police statement on Friday called on tourists to respect “cultural sensitivities and local regulations”.

The video of the incident also sparked anger among Maldivians. Some took to social media to criticise the tourist’s behaviour after other videos showed her grabbing the sunglasses of a police officer.

Former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon criticised both the tourist and the police.

“She should have respected the religious and cultural norms of the country in terms of modest attire in a residential area,” Ms Maumoon said on Twitter.

“Condemn the man-handling by the Maldivian police. It could have been handled better and more professionally.”

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