A Bangladeshi construction worker who died suddenly on January 26 has become the center of a legal battle over the burial of expatriates in the Maldives.
The man, identified as ‘Muneer’, died on January 26 and was buried on February 22, almost a month later. Islamic custom requires that a body be buried as soon as possible after death.
A police spokesperson told Minivan News that police procedure was to wait for permission from the relevant embassy or the Maldivian Foreign Ministry before burying an expatriate.
Police would not comment on how Muneer had died, or whether it was a natural death, stating only that the Health Ministry was preparing a report.
Permission was eventually given by the Foreign Ministry.
The construction company that employed Muneer, Maala High Rising Construction, originally took the matter to the Civil Court claiming that it had paid Rf 31,200 (US$3642) in mortuary costs for Muneer while authorities dithered.
The company’s lawyer, Shaheem Ahmed, said in court that the Bangladeshi High Commission had requested US$1500, then US$3000, and later US$4000, telling the company that a relative of Muneer’s was going to marry.
High Commissioner Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal explained to Minivan News that there had been a delay while Muneer’s family was contacted to determine if they wished the employer to repatriate his body, or for him to be buried locally.
“They are a poor family and requested US$3000 in exchange for permission from the next of kin [for authorities ]to perform a local burial [of Muneer],” Rear Admiral Awal said, explaining that this request was relayed to the Maldives Foreign Ministry.
As Muneer was legally employed by the construction company, they had a legal and a moral responsibility for him, he said.
“We have had two cases where people who have [left their] employer, who are illegal immigrants, and when they have died the original employers still provided support and money, not because they had any legal obligation to do so, but because they were good employers and good Muslims.”
“This is an example of an employer shying away from their responsibility.”
Haveeru contacted coworkers of Muneer on the site of the new State Trading Organisation (STO) building on Eydhafushi in Baa Atoll.
Muneer had been in dispute with members of his family for failing to send money to Bangladesh, they told the local newspaper, adding that Muneer’s brother had called him the day he died and “said they had been living with no food.”
“Most probably he died because of a sudden shock that was caused because of the worry he had about his family,” suggested one.
Muneer had been seeking money to return to his home country, the coworkers told Haveeru.
The Planning Department of the Maldives has meanwhile announced that it will surveying expatriate workers in the Maldives to assess their income, expenditure and standard of living.
The Department will be visiting workers’ residences to collect information following the launch of the survey of February 18.