The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has said an expatriate teacher hospitalised after being attacked on the island of Kumundhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll is waiting on education authorities to renew his visa before he can return to India for treatment.
Physics teacher Neelakantan Pappukutty Subash Kumar, who was attacked on May 14 over allegations he hit a student in the chest, had still been working for the Ministry of Education despite his work visa having expired the previous month. The teacher is not thought to be in a critical condition, according to diplomatic sources.
Kumundhoo Island Councilor Ali Anwar claimed Wednesday (May 15) that islanders had destroyed a a power distribution unit outside the school to cut off its electricity, before then entering and attacking the teacher, despite efforts by staff to try and prevent the assault.
“Yesterday afternoon the expat teacher hit a 13 year-old student in the chest and the child fell and couldn’t breathe and was taken to the health centre,” Anwar said. “The islanders became angry at the teacher and gathered outside the school. The security guard and school staff were unable to control them.”
The Maldives Police Service (MPS) confirmed today that five people had now been arrested in connection to the attack on the teacher, with investigations ongoing into the matter. A police spokesperson said the teacher had since been transferred to Male’ following the attack, although the MPS had no further details about his status at time of press.
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission told Minivan News today that although the expatriate teacher’s condition was not believed to be critical, efforts to return him to India for additional treatment had been impeded as a result of education authorities failing to renew his visa on time.
“His visa expired in April and is not yet renewed. The Education Ministry will send him back as soon as his visa is renewed,” the commission confirmed.
Education Minister Dr Asim Ahmed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
An Indian diplomatic source said that it was likely Maldives authorities would have sent the expatriate back to India immediately had he been in a critical condition.
However, the same source claimed the teacher’s treatment continued to highlight ongoing concerns raised by the High Commission over the Maldives’ treatment of foreign workers, notably the retention of passports and travel documents by private and state employers.
“The fact remains that his work permit has not been renewed. He was a government employee – they should have renewed his documents before they expired, not afterwards,” the diplomatic source said. “This [issue] has been going on for over one and a half years now.”
A senior Indian medical with experience of working in the country previously alleged that expatriate professionals were regularly facing intimidation and fraud in the country from employers and some members of the public.
The Maldives’ relationship with India has appeared strained since President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government took the decision last November to evict Indian infrastructure giant GMR from the country with seven days notice.
The US$511 concession agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport was declared ‘void from the start’. However, the government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not however appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission this January.
The list of Consular issues affecting the India-Maldives relationship included a number of concerns: discrimination against Indian expatriates, the keeping of passports of Indian nationals by employers, exploitation of Indian workers and repatriation of mortal remains.
Threats towards the country’s diplomats, a disparity in visa charges between the two countries and the repatriation of salaries were also raised as issues. The list’s release was followed by the Indian High Commission issuing a statement in early February slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.
“The High Commission has noted a recent trend in a section of local media to publish negative, unsubstantiated reports, while blacking out objective and positive news on Indian issues,” the commission said at the time.
Despite admitting that every country has high and lows in their bilateral relations with neighbours, the new Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare last month emphasised what he called the country’s “unshakable” long-standing relationship with the Maldives.
“During my tenure, I will endeavour to further strengthen the relationship between India and the Maldives, which is already very strong with an unshakable foundation,” he said on April 10, shortly after his appointment.