Resort workers dismissed on drug abuse charges were ‘key unionists’

Four resort workers were dismissed on June 6 from Alif Alif Atoll Kandholu resort on bogus drug abuse charges because of their work on a petition demanding a minimum wage, the Tourism Employees Association of the Madives (TEAM) has said.

“All four of the dismissed staff were key figures in gaining signatures for the TEAM petition. The resort wanted to dismiss them with any excuse they could find,” said the organization’s secretary general Mauroof Zaki.

The TEAM petition – signed by more than 5000 Maldivian resort workers – demands a US$600 minimum wage, the implementation of an eight percent quota for Maldivians in the resort sector and the equal distribution of service charge to all employees.

Police raided Kandholhu resort – owned by Universal Enterprises – after the management complained of staff using drugs on the island.

A police spokesperson said the four were taken to Rasdhoo Island for a urine test. Two of the staff tested positive on a drug screening. But the police said they were released the next day because the substance they had used was not illegal.

The dismissed staff told Minivan News they were using medication.

Speaking to Minivan News, 21-year-old Ibrahim Sameen said he was “targeted by the management for working with TEAM to gain signatures for the petition.”

“The police started checking our belongings and doing body checks of the people singled out by the management. They checked me and said I was clear of any problems,” he said.

Resident manager Ahmed Jaleel told Sameen to accompany the police to Rasdhoo.

“I immediately asked Jaleel whether he would re-instate my position at the resort if I was did not test positive and he promised me and gave his word.”

When the drug test came out negative, Sameen said he was taken to Kuramathi resort, also owned by Universal Enterprises, and informed of his dismissal.

The letter of termination obtained by Minivan News, accused Sameen of gross misconduct for appearing as if he was not his “full senses” and “disrupting the peave in the resort.”

The letter was signed by Jaleel.

Jaleel told Minivan News that he had did not made any promises to reinstate staff and said he was not aware of their work gaining signatures for the petition.

Meanwhile, a staff at the human resources department refused to comment and said: “the decision to terminate the staff came from the top management.”

Jaleel and the Kandholhu general manager were not responding to further calls despite repeated attempts.

Over the past few years, resort workers have occasionally tried to launch protests.

Workers who had been fired from Sheraton’s Maldives luxury resort for allegedly demanding union recognition protested near the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa in February, according to the website of the International Union Federation.

Carrying banners with slogans such as “Sheraton fully booked — no room for human rights”, the dismissed workers carried out a boat picket around the resort, while employees came to the beach and waved in support.

Three staff at Palm Beach were dismissed in July 2014 after 50 staff staged a strike over alleged discriminatory polices at the resort.

In February 2013, an employee strike in Vaavu Atoll Alimathaa resort resulted in 27 employees being fired by management.


Police officers to be tested for alcohol and drugs

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has said that a new department has been established to test police officers for urine and alcohol after media reports of police being drunk while on duty.

Riyaz said police officers will be randomly picked for the urine test and that police officers will always be tested to see if officers use any illegal drugs or alcohol.

Riyaz said this was to strengthen police professional standards and to increase public confidence in the police.

He told the press that this new policy was not established because there have been issues with the police, but to ensure all citizens that police officers on duty are there only for the safety of the citizens.

Riyaz said although this was new in the Maldives it had been done in other countries.

Earlier this month Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy alleged that many police officers in riot gear to control a MDP protest “were drunk” and some fell to the ground “while others were seen vomiting.”

Imthiyaz further alleged that police officers had forced MDP activists to drink alcohol.

A police official told Minivan News that time the accusations were baseless: ”It would be better to report these allegations to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) or some other independent institution to investigate, rather than making false accusations,” the police spokesperson said.

Recently police arrested 13 people after clashing with demonstrators at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s ongoing protest.

MDP supporters alleged that police officers were drunk and were very violent that night. Several protesters alleged that police officers stabbed them and that officers were armed with small bayonet knives.