Several employees have accused three state-owned companies of firing opposition supporters for participating in anti-government protests.
Since March 1, at least four employees of State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) and one from Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MSWC) were dismissed, and at least five were suspended from Maldives Ports Limited (MPL).
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) on February 27 held a 10,000-strong protest march calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation. Since then, the MDP continued daily protests over the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The opposition leader was convicted of terrorism on March 13 and jailed for 13 years.
Speaking to Minivan News, Ahmed ‘Andha’ Saleem, 37, said he was dismissed from STELCO on March 12 despite 17 years of service because of his political views.
Saleem said his colleagues first told him to stop posting anti-government comments on social media or sharing photos of opposition protests. He complied, but was later told to resign when he was seen at an MDP protest on March 6.
At the time, STELCO offered him a MVR 300,000 (US$19,455) retirement package, but he declined the offer. Soon afterwards, he received a letter informing him of his dismissal, he said.
“I received a double promotion just three months back. This is an injustice. I will appeal this case at the Employment Tribunal,” he said.
Ali Farhad, dismissed from STELCO on March 10, claimed the President’s Office was directly responsible for his dismissal.
Several employees who attended the March 6 protests were asked to write apology letters to First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim or Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, the 43-year old claimed. He was dismissed when he refused to write the letter.
“I love STELCO. I have worked there for 30 years. Even though I’ve been dismissed and my fundamental rights violated, I will continue to participate in protests,” he said.
STELCO’s Assistant Director Abdulla Nazir dismissed claims of forced resignation and said the four employees were retired voluntarily and afforded full retirement benefits.
“The dismissals went according to company procedures,” he said.
Condemning the dismissals, MDP Spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the party would assist employees in contesting any unfair dismissal, suspension or incidents of harassment at the Employment Tribunal.
“The government is ordering civil servants and state company employees to attend pro-government rallies, I have seen the texts, the letters ordering their attendance. Opposition supporters are getting sacked for exercising their right to assembly and free speech even as board members and managerial staff lead pro-government rallies,” he alleged.
At MPL, a spokesperson said at least five workers had been suspended since March 1 for alleged misconduct.
However, employees claimed 18 staff were suspended for participating in the February 27 mass rally.
Administrative Officer Miusam Abbas said he received a letter on March 1 informing him he had been suspended for misconduct. He was summoned to a disciplinary committee last week and questioned on his participation in the February 27 rally, as well as his support for the government.
Two additional MPL staffs who wished to remain anonymous confirmed they, too, had been suspended for their anti-government views and support for the opposition.
“I don’t depend on Gayoom for my sustenance. I will continue protesting,” one 35-year-old told Minivan News.
The pair confirmed MPL staff regularly received text messages from the company requesting their attendance at ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives rallies.
Both said they had been summoned to a disciplinary committee and asked if they had gone to opposition protests. Attending protests calling for the president’s resignation while employed in a state-owned company was unacceptable, the pair were told.
MPL Media Coordinator Ahmed Athif declined to comment on the suspensions, claiming it was an ongoing case.
Meanwhile, a procurement assistant at MWSC, Ibrahim Ismail, 20, was dismissed on March 12 after he participated in a boat protest near Dhoonidhoo Island on March 6.
“I knew this was bound to happen. Firing government employees who support the opposition has become common practice. But my dismissal came without warning, it was very sudden,” he said.
The reasons for his dismissal remain unclear, Ismail said.
The MWSC was not responding to calls at the time of press.
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