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Police apologises for 'badly handled' arrest of female tourist at Maafushi

Shahudha Mohamed
07 February 2020, MVT 14:24
Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/ MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
07 February 2020, MVT 14:24

Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed, on Thursday night, apologised for Maldives Police Service's actions in the arrest of a foreign female in Maafushi, Kaafu Atoll.

Amidst roaring criticism from the public over the incident, the commissioner tweeted that the challenge he has taken up is to "professionalise the police service", adding that work was underway.

"This matter is being investigated", he confirmed.

Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed's tweet regarding the incident. PHOTO: TWITTER

The video of the arrest, which is in circulation across social media platforms since Thursday night, depicts three male officers attempting to cover and handcuff a tourist with disproportionate force on the roads of Maafushi, the leading island in Maldivian local tourism.

Certain men present at the scene can be heard cheering on the authorities to handcuff her, while the woman struggled against them to free herself, even yelling out "you are sexually assaulting me" at one point.

Some drew parallels between former arrests made by the police, especially the recent arrest of three men accused of sexually abusing a 21-month old. PHOTO: TWITTER

Another video that surfaced a day later, depicts the woman expressly refusing to obey the police instructions, stating "Anyone gets to my personal space they gonna have a problem”. She also initiated physical contact by removing an officer's sunglasses and expressly insulted the locals.

While certain folks compared the situation to how minority races get treated to the west, many continued to agree that the authorities could have managed the situation better. PHOTO: TWITTER

Police revealed that local authorities had intercepted around 1748hrs on Thursday evening after receiving multiple complaints of an inebriated tourist that was violating public dress code on the streets.

They added that she was taken into custody because it was believed she was intoxicated, adding that she was later released around 1910hrs on the same day.

While consumption, possession and sale of alcohol or alcoholic substances are illegal on local islands, liquor licenses are granted to resorts, liveaboards and the airport hotel. There have been previous instances where tourists have procured alcohol on the black market with no knowledge of local law and customs.

The dissemination of the video gave rise to arguments put forth from the public, heavily critical of the local police. Many stated that while Maldivian culture should be respected, such situations must be handled by female officers and that women must never be inappropriately manhandled even an arrest is necessary.

The public posed various questions to Police over how they handled the incident. PHOTO: TWITTER

Police noted that despite large numbers of incoming travellers to Maafushi, no female officers are currently stationed on the island. They also stated their belief that the service could have handled the situation more professionally, adding that a team of the Police Professional Standards Command was dispatched to Maafushi to investigate the matter.

In a statement released on Friday, Police declared that the institution "sincerely apologises to the tourist and the public for the regretful manner in which this incident took place".

Moreover, Police stated that "a full inquiry has been initiated to ensure that disproportionate measures are not implemented in such situations and assures the public and family that action will be taken against any violations following the findings of the inquiry".

Maafushi is the first island in Maldives that adopted the local tourism model and launched guesthouse businesses, thereby gaining large popularity amongst visitors. Maafushi, with the largest guesthouse bed capacity, is known to have a massive market presence, thereby attracting more tourists than any other local island.

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