The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) has threatened “prolonged” strike action at resorts across the Maldives should the second round of the presidential election not be held as scheduled on September 28.
In a statement released today, TEAM – an industry body representing some 5000 workers across the country’s luxury resorts – said the Supreme Court order issued Monday (September 23) delaying the run-off vote “destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution.”
“Given that a majority of our members desire the second round of elections to be held on September 28, we call on the Supreme Court and relevant state institutions to uphold the constitution, to aid the election and not to hamper it,” TEAM stated.
“With due respect, we would like to inform the relevant authorities that if this does not happen, that if [the election] is delayed, it will adversely affect our members, and we will not hesitate to hold a prolonged strike to strengthen democracy and uphold human rights.”
TEAM’s statement came a day after the resort industry body, the Maldives Association for Tourism Industries (MATI), issued a statement warning of “irreparable consequences” to the Maldivian economy unless the run-off election is expedited.
“It is absolutely important to expedite the election and settle the issue or else there would be irreparable consequences to the Maldives, and especially to tourism which is the backbone of the economy. Therefore, it is important for everyone to see the importance of this in the interest of the country at large,” said MATI Chairman M U Manik, one of pioneers of the country’s 40 year-old tourism industry.
MATI’s statement was issued following Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed’s call for tourism workers – predominantly MDP – to strike should the run-off election scheduled for September 28 was delayed.
Nasheed emerged as the front runner in the first round of polls – held September 7 – with 45.45 percent (95,224 votes), followed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen who received 25.35 percent (53,099 votes).
JP candidate and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on the run-off with 24.07 percent (50,422), and contested the results at the Supreme Court alleging electoral fraud despite unanimous positive assessments of polls by local and international election observers.
The ongoing Supreme Court case has now heard the closing arguments from representatives of the JP and Elections Commission, with a verdict scheduled for the next hearing.
The tourism industry is indirectly responsible for upwards of 70 percent of the Maldives’ GDP, and a substantial majority of Maldivian resort workers support the MDP.
Results from resort ballot boxes in the first round revealed overwhelming support for the MDP’s candidate, even at many properties owned by Nasheed’s political opponents such as Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort (51 percent MDP).
The trend was particularly notable at prominent international chains in the luxury tourism sector, famous for providing relaxing and idyllic escapes for honeymooners, including Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa (58 percent MDP), Dusit Thaani Maldives (73 percent MDP), Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort (62 percent MDP), and One and Only Reethi Rah (75 percent MDP).
Tourism Minister and PPM Deputy Leader Ahmed Adheeb meanwhile told local media this week he would not allow politicians to sacrifice the tourism industry and its workers, and appealed to staff not to strike.
“They plan and involve the tourism industry every time there is political turmoil, every time things do not happen as they want. They called for a tourism boycott in international media. There were effects from that. We are seeing the same thing now. We cannot allow any politician to involve the tourism industry in politics. We cannot allow politicians to sacrifice the tourism industry and its workers every time things are politically turbulent,” he told newspaper Haveeru.