Last Monday, your intrepid reporter — that’s me — arrived on the ground at Male Airport at just past 9am local time.
By 10am, my Private Mobile Network — 20,000 pounds worth of technology and telecommunications brilliance, loaned to me by the nice people at Teleware — had been impounded by the rather blank-looked but nice people at the Customs table at Male Airport.
They didn’t know what it was. I explained. They weren’t buying my explanation — or, since I didn’t have the right paperwork (i.e. ANY paperwork) from the hotel, they impounded the device. I got a receipt.
Elvis, the PR Manager at the Conrad Rangali Island, the hotel I’ve chosen for the Desert Island Feature, has done a huge amount of cajoling and persuading. They’re not having it at the Customs Authority though. Oh no.
They now need to go and speak to the Ministry of Information and Communications to get advice.
And that takes a week.
Seven days, they’ve advised Elvis.
That isn’t good enough.
I don’t believe that it takes the Maldives Government 168 hours to do anything. Surely with one man in control, they can make decisions quicker than this?
The moment any right-minded chappie looks at the letter I wrote explaining what the Private Mobile Network does and that I am only aiming to test it will say ‘yeah, fine’ in a second.
That’s what I reckoned.
So I picked up my phone. I’ve been very good. I haven’t phoned anyone so far. I’ve been minding my Vodafone 10 pounds per minute (that’s a friendly dig) rates.
But today, I vented forth.
I knocked up ‘Maldives Government Press Office’ into Google. Ah hah. There’s a website about the long serving President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Astonishingly there’s a section about the press office there with no contact details.
Eventually I found the Maldives Customs Service phone number.
“Press Office, please?” I asked.
Nada. Eventually I was put through to a lady who spoke English. I explained my issue.
“Everybody’s gone home,” she told me. (I’m paraphrasing)
“Everyone in management.”
I looked at the clock here. 3.59pm.
“What about the Chief Executive, can you put me through to him?” I asked, hopefully. I just need to speak to a can-do-chap or lady, I thought.
“No, he’s in Belgium.”
“This is urgent, what’s the mobile number of one of these managers?”
:: fumbling ::
I got the number. I called. It rang… and rang… and rang… no answer.
Next. I started think about chatting to the Organ Grinder. Let’s go to the top.
Hold on though, ‘the top’ is at home. Every single agency I called didn’t answer. The phone rang and rang and rang. Sleepy Maldives, eh?
I know. Who’s always available to take your calls? The public relations specialists.
Enter Hill & Knowlton. You know them, right? H&K. One of the world’s heavy hitter Public Relations agencies who took quite a bit of stick when they announced they were going to represent the Maldives a while back. Protests. There were protests outside their lush office in Soho Square. More details on the protests at Sourcewatch.
I phoned Gaylene who runs Digital at H&K.
“I’m calling from the Maldives,” I said, “I’ve, er, got a problem with Customs.”
Not your average PR enquiry, I know. She promised to connect me to the person who manages the Maldives reputation. Quickly please.
I can feel the inner MacLeod burning with annoyance. I’m feeling minutes away from running a DONT BRING ANYTHING TO THE MALDIVES EXCEPT YOUR SWIMSUIT AND BUCKETLOADS OF CASH campaign. Remote working the Maldives? Don’t bother Desert Island Challenge? You bet it’s a challenge, and so on.
I’m annoyed I’ve waited more than a week for the Maldives Customs to do anything. The Private Mobile Network is exactly as it says on the tin. How are you meant to be able to remote work in tourist-heaven Maldives when you risk the blank-but-nice Customs Officials impounding your equipment?
I’m mostly annoyed that it seems after 4pm, everyone is asleep. Or in Belgium.
Seriously, I’ve tried all the key important telephone numbers of the Maldives State and no one’s answering…
If you’re reading, your excellency, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, my number is +44 7769 658 104.