Maldives honeymooners abused

2010-10-31 16:28

Colombo - The president of the Maldives said on Sunday that a loving couple who were subjected to verbal abuse in the local language during a supposedly idyllic beach ceremony had asked him to protect their privacy.

The pair, who are known to be from Europe but whose nationality is uncertain, were called "swine" and "infidels" during a tirade of foul invective read out by hotel staff who were supposed to be conducting a renewal of marriage vows.

President Mohamed Nasheed spoke to the couple by telephone on Saturday to apologise on behalf of the Maldives, and said they told him the subtitled internet video had caused them "considerable distress and embarrassment".

Nasheed said in a statement that they had asked him to appeal for the media to respect their privacy.

The Maldivian ambassador in Geneva had earlier expressed the government's "profound and heartfelt apologies" to the couple, but it was not confirmed that they were from Switzerland. One official source told AFP they were French.

Prayed through curses

After the video surfaced on YouTube, the Vilu Reef resort said it was unforgivable that a staff member had solemnly read out a series of extreme sexual and religious slurs in the Dhivehi language.

The wife, wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet and husband, smiling shyly throughout the ceremony, obeyed orders from the "minister" regarding when to sit down, stand up and hold hands.

In front of a table decorated with incense sticks, the English-speaking couple bowed their heads in prayer throughout the torrent of bizarre accusations, curses and swearing.

Maldivian police have arrested two hotel employees in connection with the ceremony, for which the couple paid $1 300.

"We have started investigations and are treating this as a very serious matter," police spokesperson Ahmed Shiyam told AFP by telephone from the capital island, Male.

The 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.