November 6, 2015 / 4:33 PM / 2 years ago

Maldives minister says tourists are safe despite emergency

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The Maldives’ new tourism minister said on Friday that the events that led President Abdulla Yameen to declare a state of emergency would not affect the safety of visitors to the islands.

Yameen announced a 30-day emergency on Wednesday, citing threats to national security after officials said an explosive device was discovered near his residence in Male, as well as stashes of weapons.

The Maldives’ pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters attracted 1.2 million tourists last year. With visitors willing to spend as much as $1,000 a night at hideaway resorts, tourism accounted for 29 percent of the Indian Ocean nation’s GDP.

“I want to give an assurance that tourists will be safe and what has happened in the recent past has no bearing on their safety,” the minister, Moosa Zameer, told Reuters in a telephone interview from Male.

“The security forces in Maldives will ensure their safety ... The government has declared this state of emergency to ensure investigations are carried out and quickly restore confidence to the public and the visitors traveling ... to ensure they’re in no danger from any arms and explosives.”

Zameer’s predecessor, Ahmed Adeeb, also the vice president, was impeached on Thursday after being detained on suspicion of involvement in a blast on Sept. 28 in a boat carrying Yameen.

The government first said the blast could have been caused by a mechanical failure, but later said it had been an attempt to assassinate the president.

However, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, asked to examine the boat, said it had found “no conclusive evidence” that a bomb had exploded there.

“Someone has tried to kill the president to get into power,” Zameer said.

“There will be some uncertainty. We’ve been working with all stakeholders including tour operators and international airlines. We have been trying to assess the situation and trying to minimize any impact for the tourism sector.”

Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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