Tourists taunted during Maldives ‘wedding ceremony’


(WARNING: Contains strong and abusive language.)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Maldives expressed “shock and disgust” yesterday after a video surfaced of a Swiss couple being mocked and insulted by a celebrant during their marriage ceremony at a luxury hotel.

In the video, posted on YouTube several days ago, a couple can be seen seated opposite the celebrant as they renew their wedding vows at the Vilu Reef hotel, which charges 400 dollars a night for the use of its honeymoon suite.

Speaking in the local Dhivehi language, the celebrant calls the couple “swine” amid a host of other insults during a hateful profanity-laced tirade littered with often bizarre personal and religious-tinged taunts.

Muslim-majority Maldives, a nation of 1192 tiny coral islets scattered some 880 kilometres across the equator, is one of South Asia’s most expensive holiday destinations and is popular among Western honeymooners.

Celebrity couple Katy Perry and Russell Brand are currently honeymooning there.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said he was “horrified” to see the video.

“I was shocked and horrified,” Shaheed told AFP when contacted in the capital of the atoll nation, Male.

“I could not see the entire video because my children were around and I didn’t want them to hear the bad language that was used.

“This is a rip-off of the couple who in good faith went to this resort to renew their vows. This incident will damage the reputation we have built over the years for professional quality service.

“I expect the hotel to refund the money and make a full apology.”

Vilu Reef general manager Mohamed Rasheed said the hotel had apologised to the couple who had the ceremony on October 11 and had taken disciplinary action against those involved.

The disgraced celebrant has been suspended and the hotel company, Sun Hotels and Resorts, said in a brief statement it had asked the police to investigate.

“We have apologised to the couple as well as to the general public,” Rasheed told AFP when contacted by telephone.

“The man had used filthy language. Otherwise the ceremony was OK.”

He said the resort, a typical Malidivian island fringed by turquoise water and white sand beaches, has been conducting marriage ceremonies for a decade.

The hotel offers ceremonies to renew wedding vows on its website, saying couples can “seal your everlasting love” as “the Maldivian sunset transforms the sky into a kaleidoscope of romantic hues”

Guests pay US$1300 (NZ$1744) for the ceremony with the services of a celebrant thrown in.

The local Minivan newspaper said the man conducting the ceremony was pretending to read traditional marriage vows off a piece of paper, but was instead holding an employment contract for employees at the hotel.

“Various types of insults about the woman and the man, their clothing and demeanour, are being spoken throughout in the form of a running commentary in a sports video,” the Minivan News website said.

Reaction to the video has been swift. Contributors to a German-language forum about weddings in the Maldives expressed shock, with one person commenting: “Who knows how many other couples have had similar ‘ceremonies’? Dreadful…”

Another poster said the incident was “unbelievable” and several expressed sympathy for the couple involved.

(WARNING: Contains strong and abusive language.)

– AFP, NZ HERALD STAFF

By Amal Jayasinghe

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