Party Island: Sun Island resort employees allege purge of MDP staff

Employees at Sun Island Resort and Spa have accused its management of firing a large number of staff based solely on their political affiliation and suspected support for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Sources from the resort allege that over 30 staff members have been fired following the announcement of the results of the first round of the presidential elections, held on September 7.

Sun Island is owned by resort tycoon and Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, who contested in the first round, finishing third with 24.07 percent of the vote. Gasim subsequently submitted a case to the Supreme Court alleging fraudulent voting, which eventually resulted in the decision to annul the first round on October 7.

According to the results of the ballot box placed on Sun Island in first round, the JP received 206 votes and the MDP 60 votes. Meanwhile, the Progressive Party of Maldives got a total of eight votes while independently contesting incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed did not receive any votes.

Staff at Irufushi Beach and Spa resort have also recently expressed concern over a “firing spree” affecting staff members professing to support the MDP.

Yellow T-shirt leads to multiple dismissals

Eighteen year old Zamin Abdul Raheem told Minivan News of the circumstances under which he was dismissed without notice from his post at Sun Island, after almost a year of service.

“We were doing some community cleaning work in the staff area after my duty hours, and I happened to be wearing a yellow T-shirt on the day. While a supervisor and I were having a chat, the general manager (GM) walked up and angrily asked me why I was wearing a T-shirt of this colour and said very angrily and accusingly ‘finally your political views and the candidate you voted for are being revealed’,” Zamin explained.

“I replied, saying the colour of my attire reveals nothing, that I wear various colours. I said I had cast a secret vote, as is in the law, which made the GM angrier. He retorted ‘we’ll see about that’ and stormed off. By 6:00pm that day I got a call from the Human Resources Department (HR) asking me not to report to duty. Three hours later, they called again and informed me that I’d been fired, though they couldn’t specify a reason for it,” he said.

According to multiple sources at the resort, the supervisor was also fired on the same day, after management questioned him as to why he had been “standing so care-freely with a man who dared to wear yellow”.

Two other staff members claimed that they were fired for going to the jetty to see off the dismissed staff, with whom they had worked closely.

“The constitution of the Maldives clearly guarantees us the right to support any political party we prefer. I told the management too that I will not be enslaved by anyone, just because Gasim gave us a job he thinks he is entitled to have the management force us to vote for him and go to his rallies. I’ve seen what he is like. By running for presidency, he is trying to enslave the citizens of this country,” Zamin said.

“Thirty fired, thirty to go”: firing spree worries staff

Mohamed Ali, a cashier who was fired on September 27, says he received a call from HR informing him of his dismissal and ordering him to leave the resort premises on the first available transfer.

“They said it was a staff cut-down as an official reason. I asked them why then they couldn’t follow procedure, and give me due notice, to which the reply was that they ‘Didn’t know, it’s orders from the management’.”

“Another colleague was also fired at the same time, and obviously the whole team from our department got frustrated. We went together to the HR to ask questions, and this resulted in the immediate dismissal of the five others who accompanied us there to raise concerns,” Ali said.

“Although they said we’d be given air transfer as is the norm, at the last minute they tried to pile us into a small supply boat, which would take seven hours to reach Male’. We refused, and ended up having to pay our own airfares.

“We were so afraid of losing our jobs that we had to just agree with whatever political opinions the management voiced. They forced us to do political things to the point where even someone who might have initially supported Gasim would change his mind.”

“The GM himself said the 60 staff members who voted for MDP will be thrown out. They just dismiss whomever they suspect. One guy who worked on the resort’s fishing vessel was among the first dismissed as he is from Kulhudhuhfushi which had lots of support for MDP. Even the official reason they gave was ridiculous: that the guy had refused to cut his hair on time,” Ali alleged.

“The resort has previously taken action against staff who refused to re-register to vote in the resort, and those who refused to vote for Gasim.”

Ahmed Ikram, another dismissed staff member, claimed that workers were forced to sign up for JP, to register to vote in the resort, and that people who complained had action taken against them.

“I wouldn’t call it a tourist resort anymore. It’s nothing but a campaign hub,” Ikram said.

Ahmed Naushad, among the cashiers fired, claimed that between dismissal and transfer out of the resort, the management sent security guards, claiming they were to “watch over the dismissed staff as [they] might damage resort property. Naushad said it was similar to “adding salt to a wound” after they had loyally served the resort for long periods of time.

Naushad further said that they were asked by their employers to attend all JP rallies, adding that some staff had even been given some form of payment in return for attending the large rally held in capital city Male’ on August 16.

Fired for going to the jetty to see off his fired friends, Ahmed Sammahu expressed concerns about how there was no line between what was expected from a person’s job and what the management wanted them to do in the owner’s political interests.

“I’ll be frank. Politically, I support MDP. However, when at Sun Island, they forced me and others to display support to Gasim. We even have to participate in all his campaign activities, or else risk termination. I’ve done all that. And yet, they can’t digest the vote I cast.”

Political threat to the company

Ahmed Sirhan stated that he had handed in his resignation after many of his colleagues working in the same department had been terminated “unfairly and under discrimination based on political views”.

“I resigned as a termination was inevitable, and I wasn’t going to stay around and let them do as they pleased. Do you know the management’s tactics when votes near? We had awesome meals in the staff quarters for exactly three days ahead of elections. There were foods like biryani, sausages and corn flakes – things we’ve never been given in the staff kitchen before.”

“We were even treated to free coffee from the staff coffee shop during these three days. And right after voting day, the food quality went way below even what we were used to before,” said Sirhan, whose allegations were repeated by many of his colleagues.

“I’d liken the management’s actions to having patted us on the back as the vote approached, and then trying to strangle us once the votes had been cast,” Mohamed Ali said.

Another staff member who had submitted his resignation was asked to stop coming to work before the period of notice he had given was up. He was informed that unless he left immediately it would be recorded as a dismissal and not a voluntary resignation.

“When asked for a reason, the management said that there is a difference in political ideologies and that I may prove to be a threat to the company. While my monthly salary of MVR 4000 (US$259) was due, they deducted MVR 3000 (US$195) and claimed it was because I had chosen to resign instead of waiting for dismissal,” he claimed.

Trepidation in the resort

A staff member still employed at the resort – who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity – shared the general feeling amongst other MDP supporting staff members remaining in the resort.

“It’s not easy to find jobs in this sector. Everyone’s scared, not sure which one of us will get fired first. There’s about 30 still left and the GM has said to various colleagues that he will fire all 60 who voted for MDP.”

“No one complains about anything, regardless of how unfair it is. For example, we aren’t even allowed to watch Raajje TV in this resort. And all these dismissals are against the Employment Act, not to mention the individual civic rights guaranteed in the constitution,” he said.

Article 4 of the Employment Act prohibits discrimination against any employee based on their political beliefs or affiliation with any political party.

Article 21(b) of the same Act states that political affiliation is not a reasonable cause for dismissal of an employee.

“No knowledge of such incidents”: HR

Minivan News was unable to get in touch with Sun Island Resort and Spa General Manager Mohamed Saeed.

The front office stated that they are not allowed to share the GM’s number or his assistant’s number, or even pass the call to his extension.

When asked if there was any other staff at the resort who could respond to media queries, the Front Desk Officer replied “I suppose it is only the GM who can respond to those queries, but we aren’t allowed to share his number or pass any calls to him”.

A Human Resources official from the resort – who declined to identify himself – refused to comment on the matter besides saying that he was unaware of politically motivated dismissals, saying he has “no knowledge of such incidents”.

JP leader and Sun Island owner Gasim Ibrahim was not responding to calls at the time of press.

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10 thoughts on “Party Island: Sun Island resort employees allege purge of MDP staff”

  1. As folklore would have it, despite the Portuguese pouring wine down the throats of these islanders, they were unable to convert the brown skinned people to their ways.

    Morale of the story is that you cannot erase ideology by intimidation, torture or even death.

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  2. Just rate all Gasim's Resorts with the lowest grade on booking.com, tripadvisor, Holiday check, etc. etc. on all possible Hotel rating pages.
    At least the People's voice will be heard on those pages.

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  3. Ahoi, that's an even better idea than firebombing the place. 😀

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  4. Also why staffs need to like an political activists in the work place ?

    If people start to use the work place as thier political campaign ground, then they must be reminded to remain silent and go out of the work place to do thier campaigning.

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  5. It is very unfortunate that Maldivian Resorts such as Sun Island is still being led by unprofessional General Managers such as Mohamed Saeed.

    Mohamed Saeed has forgotten his grass root. He was a local by from an island in the North who was accomodated by Maizaan Alibe family in Male' so that he could get proper education at EPS school.

    He was lucky enough to enroll in a GHS course from FHTS and then enroll in a Villa resort soon after. He was also lucky enough to bow for Qasim Ibrahim and then getting closer to him which resulted in him getting multiple promotions within the Villa group hotels.

    Sorry to say that this guy does not have any experience nor the quallities of a General Manager. He never receives/welcomes guests, never habdles guest issues, never interacts with guests, never attends guest cocktail parties, never involves with guests in public areas etc. He and his group of managers will have a mobile phone in their ears whenever they pass through the reception to go for a coffee at the coffee shop.

    Its a pity that such uneducated guys ar given the chance to run a resort such as Sun Island??

    Mohamed Saeed should learn from other Senior Maldivians in many branded international resorts in the Maldives. his past colleagues are now seen having Managerial positions in the International hotels in the Maldives while this guy gets stuck with Gasim for MONEY MONEY YES SIR!!

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  6. How can such narrow minded man govern a country. If he gets angry he may starve us to death. Stay away from this spoilt richman.

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  7. There are three issues that I feel are important in this case.

    1. Firstly, workers at industrial islands and resorts should stop falling for this trap where the Elections Commission places ballot boxes solely for them on those locations. This means that the owners/employers will know if the vote went against them because there would only be slightly more than 100 to the ballot box. This undermines the secrecy of the vote.

    2. Due to a lack of moral values and honor Maldivian employers think its a-ok to demand staff support for their political ambitions.

    3. Due to a lack of moral values and honor Maldivian employees think its a-ok for them to engage in lengthy and boisterous discussions of politics at work.

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  8. I was told that most of the MDP supporters working on Sun Island now a days wears yellow underwear, as the management harass them when they wear yellow T-shirts, Shirts or pants.
    Furthermore the staff kitchen has been informed to colour the dhall curries with beetroot till it become bright red.

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  9. This boy is from Island but I am proud that he is today a GM of one of the largest resort in Maldives.

    I am even more proud that the owner of this Resort is even from an Island and not first class Maldivian from " Male Beyfulhun".

    This is why first class beyfulhaa from Male' is s racist on Islanders and Nasheed is amount the superior human being from the Capital of Maldives , the Male'.

    Believe or not, Nasheed and his like minded people from Male' still do not want any islander to be their leader and they expect all islanders to be thier slaves .

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  10. Its the same case in all other resorts. Staff are required to be in the party for job security. And they must attend all functions. They are thanked with small salaries, tough work and living conditions and a service charge that no one knows how it is calculated. No regulations in place. An the management dont even glance at their competition to see the diference

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