Customers of local telco Dhiraagu are switching en masse to its competitor after the company’s chairman sparked outrage with a Facebook comment wishing former President Mohamed Nasheed’s plane to Colombo would “land in the middle of the ocean.”
When the jailed opposition leader departed Monday night to seek medical treatment in the UK, Mohamed Ashmalee posted a comment on Facebook saying he hoped Nasheed would not come back.
Ashmalee, also state minister of finance and senior member of the ruling party, called Nasheed a convicted terrorist, and described the drama around Nasheed’s departure as a “media stunt.”
The comments went viral on social media. Calls for boycotting Dhiraagu unless the company issues a formal apology or dismisses Ashmalee have also been growing.
Several high-profile public figures, including main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MPs Eva Abdulla and Rozaina Adam, Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq, and religious scholar Dr Abdulla Shiham have announced their switch from Dhiraagu to Ooredoo.
Hussain Niyaz, Ooredoo’s head of sales, told The Maldives Independent that the company has been receiving hundreds of new requests for SIM card activation from new prepaid and postpaid customers.
“There has been a significant and extraordinary surge in the number of activations since yesterday from all parts of the country,” he said.
He added that exact figures of the new customers will be available after collecting the information from all outlets across the country.
The Maldivian government owns 41.8 percent of Dhiraagu shares. The Bahrain Telecommunication is the majority shareholder with a 52 percent stake.
The telco said in a brief statement yesterday that “comments expressed in public by Independent/Non-Executive Directors do not in any way reflect the views of Dhiraagu,” and expressed regret that Ashmalee’s comments were being linked with the company.
Sources from Dhiraagu said the company’s received a barrage of complaints from customers over the past two days with more than 100 calls.
Dhiraagu marketing officials were unavailable for comment.
Ashmalee told The Maldives Independent yesterday that that he was being unfairly targeted by opposition supporters, claiming his comments were “taken out of context.”
Ashmalee has since deactivated his Facebook account.
Ooredoo has meanwhile been posting photos of new customers with the hashtag #TimeToSwitch.
Former President Nasheed’s brother, Nazim Abdul Sattar, tweeted this morning: “Mum has changed to Ooredoo because you abused her son.”
Several other family members of Nasheed have also switched to Ooredoo.
“I do not want to be affiliated with a company chaired by such an inhumane individual who speaks in such an inhumane manner,” wrote Dr Shiham on Facebook.
“This is the first time I have ever changed my mobile number.”
The Maldives Independent spoke to several individuals who switched from Dhiraagu to Ooredoo in protest against Ashmalee’s comments.
Ahmed Faizal, 25, a resort worker, said: “What Ashmalee said is unacceptable! I know this may not bring a huge slump to Dhiraagu’s profits but I am doing this in protest.”
— Ooredoo Maldives (@OoredooMaldives) January 19, 2016
— Ahmed Mahloof (@AhmedMahloof) January 19, 2016
Strongly condemn the statement by Chairman of Batelco subsidiary DHIRAAGU wishing for the crash of Sri Lankan… https://t.co/hALzjz1Wqb
— Abdulla Sodiq(Sobe’) (@SobeAbdulla) January 20, 2016
— Shamau Shareef (@schamau) January 20, 2016
— Usay #FreePNasheed (@usaymat) January 20, 2016
— MDP Addu Feydhu (@MDPAdduFeydhu) January 20, 2016
— Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee) January 20, 2016
— Usay #FreePNasheed (@usaymat) January 18, 2016
— Free PN Now (@Ibreyy) January 19, 2016
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) January 19, 2016