Police confirm body of Azerbaijan national found on Kurumba resort

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has confirmed an investigation is ongoing into the death of a 27 year-old male from Azerbaijan, whose body was discovered at the Kurumba Maldives resort near to the capital of Male’ on Thursday (July 25).

A police media official confirmed to Minivan News that the body of Tural Gurbanov had been discovered on the resort Thursday – though the cause of his death was unknown at time of press.

Local media has previously reported that the deceased was believed to have been a tourist whose body was discovered in one of the resort’s rooms on Thursday morning.


Bodu Beru and balladeering: Kurumba holds charity music festival for orphanage

Kurumba Maldives held a charity music festival on Friday, featuring 11 music acts ranging from solo Australian balladeers to local rock bands and traditional Bodu Beru drumming.

The Kurumba Maldives Music Festival, launched to coincide with the resort’s 40 year anniversary celebrations, was devised to raise US$5000 to purchase furniture, washing machines and other equipment for the state orphanage “Kudakudhinge Hiyaa”, based on the nearby island of Villigili.

Following three weeks of planning, event organisers said that yesterday’s event exceeded their fund-raising expectations, despite being the first such festival to be held at the resort.

The event’s organisers said that they had been particularly encouraged by the assistance received from sponsors and other local business. They also welcomed the Ministry of Finance in getting a temporary exemption from the country’s General Service Tax (GST) on food, drink and tickets sold to visitors attending the event.

“We were granted exemptions from paying GST for fund-raising, we were very lucky that the Ministry of Finance helped with this,” a resort spokesperson said, adding that the event had marked the first time it had been involved with fund-raising with local people.

“This was the first fund-raising of its kind to be held at a resort. We invited a lots of friends and suppliers of the resorts, so we didn’t know how much we would be receiving or how many bands would be arriving to perform. However, it was a really good day. We also had the children from the orphanage coming over to take part in activities like water sports as well.”

Orphanage focus

With about 53 children currently residing at the Villingili orphanage – eight of whom are said to be under one year of age – the site remains dependent on donations to feed, cloth and look after the children, according to the spokesperson for Kurumba’s fund raising team.

“You can see that they are well looked after, but the orphanage itself clearly lacks basic facilities. For instance, there are not enough high chairs for toddlers. Many of the property’s beds are also broken and there was just one washing machine for all the children,” said the spokesperson. “It’s therefore very hard for the orphanage to survive like this. Right now they are working on maintaining hygiene standards and providing food to the children. We hope to help where we can.”

All money raised through the festival will be used to purchase furniture and other items like washing machines through the resort’s own suppliers, to get the equipment as soon as possible.

“We are not going to give cash, instead we will directly be supplying items and goods as needed. This will allow us to get these things at our supplier rates and ensure the orphanage gets the benefit directly,” the resort spokesperson said.

“Some of the resorts here work in collaboration with more worldwide charities through their corporate social responsibility obligations,” said the spokesperson “With our 40th anniversary this year, and the resort being Maldivian-owned, we wanted to raise money for local causes and people.”


Split over two different sites on the resort, local groups and artists including Mcrew, DJ Paide, and Rock Paper Scissors were joined by international performers such as Australian singer/songwriter Ewan Procter. The line up was an eclectic mix of original compositions, cover versions and dance sets. A liberal sprinkling of stadium anthems were also provided – albeit in the more sedate backdrop of an wooden-decked Indian ocean resort property.

Despite praising the event’s outcome, Kurumba’s fund-raising team said the resort had to overcome some logistical issues in holding the small scale festival at the resort.

“We needed to be careful throughout the day to ensure we did not disturb guests. This is why we held the event at two different areas. In the evening we were required to move the performances from the beach area to our bar area so guests were not forced to participate if they did not want to. We are still a five-star resort after all.”


Kurumba staff return to work after 19 arrested

Staff at Kurumba Resort have ceased striking and returned to work following the arrest of 19 staff members on charges of vandalism and intimidation.

Almost all the resort staff have been on strike for the last three days complaining of management inaction over poor staff accommodation, food, unfair distribution of service charges and staff discrimination. Rising tension prompted management to move around 250 guests to other resorts run by the Universal group yesterday, while other visitors chose to depart the country.

Assistant Human Resources Manager at Kurumba, Ibrahim Hassan, told Minivan News that the striking staff were last night given a written ultimatum to report to duty by 9:30pm, “otherwise they would need to continue the strike elsewhere as management would not allow it to continue on the [privately-owned] island.”

“Many staff obeyed and informed HR they were ready to return to work; others were not willing  to start work but ultimately they all gave up the strike,” Ibrahim said, adding that four staff members had chosen to resign and leave the island while 19 remained in police custody.

“Management is now reviewing all the issues raised [by the strikers] and believes many are valid,” he said.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed yesterday that police arrived on the island to monitor the situation after receiving reports that management had been threatened. A door was also damaged in a staff room.

“The staff decided to cease the strike after police and management held negotiations,’’ said Shiyam today.

Mohamed Zakir, Vice President of the Tourism Employment Association of the Maldives (TEAM) alleged that staff decided to halt the strike “after police and management threatened staff that they would be terminated from their jobs and arrested.’’

The 19 staff arrested were leaders of the strike, Zakir claimed.

“There was also a riot squad on the island,’’ he claimed. “Management and police demanded staff end the strike and return to work. Most of them agreed, but four of them did not want to stop and are still on strike.’’

Shiyam claimed police “only assisted” negotiations to resolve the stand-off, after talks between staff and management reached a deadlock yesterday, “and did not threaten staff.”

Meanwhile, radio station SunFM today reported Chairman of Universal Mohamed Umar Maniku as saying that the three-day strike had caused the company a loss of more than two million dollars. He also told SunFM that bookings had been cancelled due to the strike.

Ibrahim would not comment on the financial impact caused by the strike.

Sim Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said yesterday that the organisation was concerned that “an investment of millions of dollars can be crippled and held at ransom within a few hours by its own employees, whose grievances may or may not be real,” adding that this had occurred in several resorts.

Tourism, namely the country’s 90-odd resort islands, indirectly contributes to 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced the Chairperson of Universal as Ali Mohamed Maniku. This has been corrected to Mohamed Umar Maniku.


Kurumba management evacuates guests as strike talks deadlock

An ongoing strike at Kurumba Maldives resort near Male’ has prompted management to move the island’s guests to other resorts run by the Universal Group, while other visitors have chosen to leave the country.

More than 150 Maldivian and expatriate staff are on strike after complaining of poor staff facilities, low wages, unfair distribution of service charges and discrimination between local and foreign staff.

Assistant Human Resources Manager Ibrahim Hassan told Minivan News that no staff were currently working at the resort, as “almost all” were now involved in the strike action. Nearly 250 guests had been relocated to other resorts or had cut short their holidays and left the country, he said.

“At the moment [the strikers] are very calm. They are standing in front of the Human Resources [office] and not coming out of the staff area,” Ibrahim said.

“Yesterday it became serious when they came out of the staff area and threatened senior management. Some senior managers have [subsequently] left the island.”

A third meeting between staff and management yesterday failed to resolve the deadlock, he noted. No staff member had yet been dismissed, he added.

Police have meanwhile arrived on the island to monitor the situation. Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said a police team was sent after police received reports that management were being threatened.

A staff member on strike told Minivan News that the workers decided to continue the strike after management “did not give us an adequate answer” by the workers’ deadline of 4:00pm yesterday.

“Nobody is on duty and guests have complained about the poor services, so the management decided to transfer all the guests to other resorts,” he said.

Striking staff complain to senior managers

During the last meeting resort management had given the staff a written reply to their demands, promising the construction of a new staff accommodation block in September and the formation of a staff committee representing various departments.

“We have four main concerns: wages, service charge [payments], food and accommodation,” he said. “For food and accommodation they gave a pleasant answer. But regarding wages and the service charge, they could not give an adequate answer – they said they were revising the salaries but did not know when they could increase them.”

When staff said the response was inadequate, management replied they were unable to alter the decision, he said.

“That response caused outrage among staff and some of the senior management officials were forced to leave the island,’’ he added. “Police came to the island to control the situation.’’

The staff claimed they would strike until management fulfilled their demands, he said.

Sim Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) described the industrial action at Kurumba as “a clear reflection of what little protection is provided to investors and businesses under the present laws pertaining to the conduct of business in the country.”

“The reality of the situation is that an investment of millions of dollars can be crippled andheld at ransom within a few hours by its own employees, whose grievances may or may not be real,” Sim said, adding that this situation had recently occurred in several resorts.

“The situation in Kurumba is a case in point. On Sunday August 22 the resort occupancy [percentage] was in the 80’s. Towards evening that day occupancy had fallen to less than 20% percent,” Sim said. “Tourists, tour operators and senior management have been too terrified to remain in the resort, and today the resort is empty.”

“There should be no ground for any party to reduce visitors and businesses in this country to a state of fear and terror, whoever may be at fault. The government must provide tourists and investors with adequate protection,” Sim said.

The Universal-run resort near Male’ is one of the oldest private resort islands in the Maldives, reopening as a five-star luxury resort in 2004 following renovation.


Kurumba workers on strike over poor staff facilities

More than 150 Maldivian and expatriate staff working at the Kurumba Maldives resort are on strike, complaining of poor staff facilities.

The Universal-run resort near Male’ is one of the oldest private resort islands in the Maldives, reopening as a five-star luxury resort in 2004 following renovation.

A striking staff member told Minivan News that the 157 staff were striking over “low wages, pathetic accommodation, awful food, communication barriers between staff and management, and discrimination between local and foreign staff.”

“We have to sleep 10 people to one room, and we do not even have pillow covers,’’ he claimed, adding that the resort’s management had promised to upgrade staff facilities three months ago but had not done so to the extent demanded.

The Indian and Bangladeshi workers at the resort were “fully supportive” of the strike, along with the Maldivian workers, the source said.

“Only a few people are not taking part in the strike,’’ he added.

The strike was declared after a petition reportedly signed by 157 staff working on the island was presented to management, he said.

“In the petition we gave them a time limit and stated that we did not just want a verbal reply, however they failed to reply to us,’’ he said. “So we began the strike. We do not have confidence in the [resort] management, and the staff do not wish to speak to them. We want to speak with the Directors of Universal.’’

The striking workers had met with senior officials at Universal twice, he added, “and this evening they said they will give us a final response.”

Vice President of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM), Mauroof Zakir, said staff at Kurumba were demanding “very basic facilities that the management should provide.”

“Recently some Kurumba staff were dismissed after they sent management a letter with the intention of bringing the issues to their attention,” Zakir claimed.

Management at Kurumba Maldives declined to comment when contacted by Minivan News.

The story initially appeared on Velidhoo and the Maldives Resort Workers (MRW) blog.

“Despite catering for diplomats, prominent businessmen, and generally to an affluent clientèle, the resort has a tall list of [staff] grievances,” MRW wrote. “It is quite true that the staff of KV are low paid, poorly fed, and unlovingly accommodated. Then there is the little issue of over working staff without overtime pay which is brazenly against the labour law and accepted norms of business. The situation was quite the same for 38 years and now it appears the staff are protesting these conditions.”

In April staff at the Shangri-La Villingili Resort went on strike after four workers were dismissed for allegedly playing on a PlayStation in a vacant villa.

A person familiar with the matter told Minivan News that the four men, who were ‘villa hosts’ at the luxury resort in Addu Atoll, took their PlayStation to a vacant guest room during their lunch break, “double locked the door and put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.”

The 60 staff who signed and presented a petition to the management demanding the villa hosts’ jobs be reinstated were dismissed and escorted to a nearby island by police, leading 157 workers to declare themselves on strike.

The strike was broken when resort management dismissed the 10 strike leaders and invited the remaining staff to return to work.

In February staff at the Centara Grand Island Resort in North Ari Atol held a strike complaining they were not receiving the service charges agreed to them by management, claiming that the resort had persisted in giving them a lower amount because “room revenue was very low.”  The resort increased the service charge allocated to staff after a representative from Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports visited the island.

Image: Maldives Resort Workers