Opposition invites civil society to join anti-government May Day rally

The opposition alliance has invited civil society groups and worker’s associations to join its anti-government May Day mass rally.

NGOs and civil society organisations have a responsibility to bring an end to the alleged injustices of the current administration, former deputy gender minister Sidhaatha Shareef told the press today.

“The civil society is the fourth power of the state. But today we see the government narrowing their rights to make them useless,” said Sidhatha, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The ‘Maldivians against brutality’ alliance, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Adhaalath Party (AP) and leaders of business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoory Party (JP) claims at least 25,000 people will take part in the May Day protest.

Leaders of the alliance have been traveling across the country to rally support ahead of the demonstration, issuing stern warnings to the government and urging opposition supporters to converge on the capital on May 1.

Political tensions have been running high since the sentencing of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 13 years and 11 years in jail, respectively.

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb challenged the opposition to a confrontation on May 1, prompting fears of a stand-off and civil unrest.

Mauroof Zakir, secretary general of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM), told Minivan News that the group will consider accepting the invitation after internal discussions.

“TEAM will analyse what would be the benefits of us joining in the rally. We will look into what the employees of the tourism industry will get from joining them,” he said.

“It is possible TEAM will decide on participating after discussions.”

The influential NGO is currently preparing a petition – with more than 5,000 signatures to date – demanding implementation of the government’s pledges to distribute resort shares to employees and establish a US$600 minimum wage.

Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) said it will not participate in the opposition rally, stating it would affect their credibility as an association free of political influence.

“TAM is currently working on solving problems through negotiations. We wouldn’t want to be seen as an association sided with a political party or influenced by politicians,” said Ali Nazim, the secretary general of TAM.

Meanwhile, Sobah Rasheed, a senior JP member, said at today’s press conference that the political parties and the civil society are working towards a common goal.

“Today, both the civil society and the political parties are working to protect our human rights, to secure our civil rights which are increasingly being diminished by this dictatorial regime,” he said.

“This does not make the NGOs political but rather they are playing a crucial role in saving the nation.”

The government has been “brutal” in consolidating powers, contended former MDP MP Ahmed Easa, a former president of TEAM.

“Everyone knows that the civil service commission is ruled inside the president’s office. That is also brutality. Someone has to stand up for the rights of the civil servants. Trade unions, local NGOs and the political parties have a responsibility to fight for their rights,” he said.


TAM President accuses Education Ministry of intimidation

President of the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) Athif Abdul Hakeem has accused the government of intimidation after being summoned to the Ministry of Education following public criticism of new pay scales.

Athif told Minivan News that Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin told him to “pay attention to public interests” while speaking publicly about the new teachers’ structure.

“I see this as an act of intimidation,” said Athif, who was told by the Mushin that the warning should not be interpreted as a threat.

In response, Muhsin said that although details of such talks are normally kept private, he denied having given a warning, noting that special regulations are in place within the civil service to formally warn employees.

“I did not give any warning to Athif,” stated Muhsin, who said that he could not comment on the new pay structure.

Athif has told local media that the pay rises promised by President Abdulla Yameen will not be realised, accusing the government of “lying to the community”.

Yameen had announced that all teachers will get a salary increment not less than one third of previous earnings.

Around 90 percent of the country’s teachers protested in September last year against poor pay and inadequate protection of teachers, prompting the government to enter negotiations as a full strike loomed.

Athif explained that the education ministry called him yesterday (January 28) to request he come to meet permanent secretary, in his capacity as TAM president.

“I told them that if I am to go as the TAM president, I can only go with my secretary,” said Athif, after which he was asked to attend in his role as the Majeediyya School’s Dhivehi teacher.

He went on to say that, during the brief meeting, Muhsin first asked whether the new teachers’ structure was displayed on the notice board of Majeediyya School.

“I told him yes. I also told him that he could have phoned the school and inquired about it rather than bringing me to the ministry,” Athif continued.

He argued that, according to the new teachers’ structure, certificate-level teachers will be paid less than the amount they were previously paid, affecting their overtime and Ramazan allowances.

TAM had tentatively welcomed the rises in salaries earlier this month, which pledged increases of between 35 and 15 percent depending on the qualifications held.

“We welcome the increases in salaries. We have some concerns, we will release a full statement after analysing the changes brought, if they satisfactorily meet our demands”, said TAM Secretary General Ali Nazim at the time.

Athif today suggested that the government wished to eliminate the layer of teachers at the certificate level from the new structure by the start of the next year but that “until the end of this year, they should not be paid lesser than what they are paid now”.

In November, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s budget review committee suggested that the government had not budgeted the required MVR532 million (US$34.5 million) needed to raise the salaries of teachers despite promises made by both President Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel.

Related to this story

President Yameen announces rise in teachers’ salaries

Teachers across Maldives take part in ‘black protest’

Education Ministry hikes teachers’ pay by 35 and 15 percent

Teachers’ Black Sunday protest prompts government talks, strike decision pending


President asks Teachers Association for proposal to address grievances

The Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) met President Abdulla Yameen on Wednesday (September 24) to discuss pay rises and education sector reform after a calling off a planned nationwide strike.

TAM informed local media following the one-hour meeting at the President’s Office that the president listened to teachers’ concerns and asked for a proposal on addressing grievances about pay and other issues.

The proposal on increasing salary for teachers and improving efficiency in the education sector would be submitted next month following consultation with the education ministry, TAM said.

The response from President Yameen was “positive” and TAM received assurances that a pay rise would be considered.

“The government’s decision to sit for talks and compile a timeline [on meeting the demands] is a sign President Yameen himself attended to the teacher’s demands,” TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem told Minivan News on Sunday (September 21) after teachers went on to work dressed in black.

The Ministry of Education had earlier appeared unwilling to give in to teachers’ demands for higher pay and reform, while the Labor Relations Authority reportedly labelled the proposed strike as ‘not peaceful’.

A statement from the Civil Service Commission meanwhile noted that government was treating the potential strike as illegal.

Grievances raised by TAM include revised pay, protection of teachers and students, and official recognition of the association.