A Maldives’ attempt to reassure the industry and media of the country’s stability following the abrupt replacement of the government last month attracted demonstrators in London yesterday.

Friends Of Maldives handed out leaflets at a press conference last night addressed by minister of tourism Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor.

The leaflets described the change of government on February 7 as a coup d’etat. They argued: “Maldives is no longer a paradise for those who live there. The three years of democracy is over and the autocratic rule of the 30 years of Gayoom dictatorship is well and truly back.”

The demonstrators claimed opponents of the new regime were being treated with “brutality”. The leaflets listed hotels and businesses they said UK holidaymakers should avoid because these have links to the current regime.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor refused to accept or deny there had been a coup, but asked for time while an investigation into the change of power takes place.

He argued the Maldives is a democratic country and said: “The fact there are leaflets being handed to you outside shows how open we are. There is nothing to hide but we would like people not to jump to conclusions.

“We are happy to arrange for anyone to come to visit and ask questions of the local people to find out for themselves.”

The minister said the Maldives was on target to receive one million visitors for the first time this year and said he was looking to bring more charter flights into the country.