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Maldives Attack

By Val Ellis last modified May 24, 2010 09:24 AM

Published: 2010-05-24 09:24:37
Topics: Piracy Reports 2009

DHANGETHI, ARI ATOLL. 03:36.44N, 072:57.16E

August 2009

Whilst we met lots of friendly locals during our four months, there are enough unsavoury elements in Maldivian society to justify basic prudent measures to keep your property and yourself safe.

We had one especially unpleasant experience whilst anchored in the lagoon to the west of Dhangethi island, Ari Atoll (03:36.44N, 072:57.16E). See below for an overview of the attack.

We remain very upset about this incident for two reasons:

  1. That it happened at all. There exists a strong and prevalent belief amongst many local Maldivians that foreigners visiting the Maldives have no rights and that Maldivians may treat them as they wish with no threat of repercussion. Unfortunately this experience has been reinforced due to the ongoing lack of constructive action from the Maldivian authorities during the ten months since this attack against us.
  2. That our complaint to the Police, Maldivian High Commission in London, Ministry of Tourism and the Presidents office were not taken seriously. Despite immediate promises that police action would be taken and a meeting with the Minister of Tourism would be set up, no resolution has been proposed.

Ten months after the attack, we remain absolutely astounded that this criminal matter has not yet been resolved because I have provided to the above mentioned parties the following detailed information:
1. A detailed chronological report of the incidents.
2. Clear photos of the criminals involved.
3. The mobile phone number of the "ring leader" criminal.
4. The mobile phone number of the "ring leader" criminal’s cousin.
5. The name of the dive safari boat where some of the criminals work.

Clearly, there is no motivation for the authorities to address concerns of foreign visitors - a very concerning position for a country that relies so highly on tourism.

A brief summary of the attack:

We dined in the local Marida Beach café, where they run a tourist scam charging exorbitant prices for ordinary Maldivian food such as fried chicken, tuna curry and rice. Conveniently, they don’t have menus or written prices. This was the first such scam we encountered, having avoided the tourist zones. I refused to pay and agreed with the café manager to meet at the Island / Tourism office the following day to agree on a solution.

We returned to our boat at anchor a couple of hundred meters in front of the cafe in the lagoon. At about 10pm as we were watching a DVD with the kids before bed, a small fibreglass dinghy (from the diving safari boat “Princess Dhonkamana”, anchored nearby) banged into the back of our boat, and three or four young men scramble on board uninvited. Some men remained in the dinghy- there were a total of 8 aggressive men.

I bound up the steps and meet then in the cockpit before they can enter the cabin. They were acting aggressive and angry. I immediately feared for the safety of my family and myself. I am not sure whether they are under the influence of drugs. I asked them to get off my boat and tell them that I will talk to them if they get back on their boat.

Two men in particular became very aggressive again, jumping from their dinghy back onto our boat. They were swinging their fists and threatening physical violence. I explained that we already agreed that we will meet the following morning at the Island / Tourism Office. They refused to reason, insisting on payment immediately. Fearing for our physical safety, I agreed to pay them the amount of the overpriced meal if they leave.

With money in hand, they left. We planned to leave the anchorage as early as the tide allows the following morning.

At 6am the following morning, I was awoken by the sound of someone onboard searching through cupboards and boxes. I was astounded to find that one of the criminals from the previous night’s attack had swum to our boat (he is still wet), and had not only got on our boat uninvited, but had also entered the cabin and he was looking through the cupboards and boxes around the chart table. Beside him was a collection of our belongings which I believe he was planning on taking - mobile phones, digital cameras, and a pair of binoculars. (We also discovered later that he brought several empty plastic bags with him, suggesting he intended to take things from the boat and the bags were to keep them dry).

I confronted him and asked him what he thinks he is doing. He immediately became aggressive - I was blocking his exit from the boat. It was very clear that he was heavily under the influence of drugs - he was slurring, and his eyes were very, very blood shot.

He was very aggressive and angry when I took a photo of him (that I later submitted with my police complaint) so that my wife pretended to delete the image to calm him down.

The man told me that “This is Maldives. This is my country. I can come on your boat if I want”. He tells me “You can complain to the police, but the police chief is my best friend and will look after me”. It is clear that there is no reasoning with him, he is rambling non-stop. Again, I feared for the safety of my family and I, and just want him to leave the boat. He finally agreed to leave if I give him more money. He agreed, then attempts to extort a few more hundred dollars.

He tells me “how lucky we are”, and that it would have been very easy for him and his thugs to have returned during the night to hurt us, destroy our boat and property. He made particular reference to stealing or destroying our dinghy and outboard (worth US$6,000- the second most expensive boat I’ve ever bought!).

He told us we must leave Dhangethi immediately. He also told us as soon as we reach Male we must leave Maldives completely and never return (no problem there!). He even insisted we turn the engine on (which we do) to prove to him we will leave immediately. He says he won’t leave unless we do as he tells us. After half an hour, as the sun is rising, we persuade him to leave. I drove him to the Dhagethi jetty in my dinghy.

We watched him casually walk along the jetty and beach, and get into a small rowing boat. He rowed to the diving safari boat “Princess Dhonkamana” and gets on board. We discretely take more photos with the zoom lens.

We left Dhangethi as soon as we have enough tide to get us over the shallow reef entrance, and leave the Maldives a few days later.

Helen and Bryan Watt
SY “Aroha”