The Edition


Bodufinolhu riot: lawyer levies strong accusations against Seal Maldives

Shahudha Mohamed
08 July 2020, MVT 16:34
Property damages caused in the riot at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, by expatriate workers forced to work without pay for months. PHOTO: POLICE
Shahudha Mohamed
08 July 2020, MVT 16:34

A statement released on Tuesday by Lawyer Aiminath Nash'a, representing one of the expatriate workers arrested in the recent Bodufinolhu riot, levied new accusations against Seal Maldives.

On July 2, Maldives Police Service arrested 19 out of 200 expatriate workers which partook in protests over their employer's failure to pay six months of salary, which culminated in the holding of 13 Maldivian staff hostage at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll - an island being developed as a resort property by Seal Maldives.

Eydhafushi Magistrate Court, on July 4, ordered the expatriates to be remanded in a facility determined by the Ministry of Home Affairs while the police continued the investigation.

However, Nash'a noted that a translator was not appointed for the expatriates arrested over suspected criminal activities. She condemned the fact, questioning Baa Atoll's judiciary whether a fair trial would be conducted.

"Since shareholders of Seal Maldives are businessmen from Baa Atoll, and Baa Atoll Police Station did not take any measures against former reports of threats", her statement read.

However, local media Mihaaru reported that the shareholders of Seal Maldives are currently registered at capital Male'.

According to the lawyer's statement, the riots in Bodufinolhu were sparked when Mohamed Idhurees of Sea Maldives threatened the expatriates, saying "your boss (from RIX Company Pvt Ltd) has left the island", the expats had "no power" and "you will be deported back to your countries without salary".

The statement read that expatriates defended themselves from a mob that attempted to climb on to the island after the threats were issued.

Furthermore, the lawyer claimed in her statement that the expatriates attacked the first team of police officers that arrived at the island, mistaking them for mobsters.

The aforementioned allegations were made referring to statements from an expatriate under custody.

On Monday, the police accused RIX Company Pvt Ltd, which was contracted with the construction work on Bodufinolhu, of human trafficking and exploiting its foreign workers.

The company is headed by MP Ali Riza, the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency.

Referring to the investigation, led by the police department tasked with human trafficking issues, the authority's spokesperson declared that RIX had violated workers' rights and failed to provide employment fees on behalf of its foreign employees.

Moreover, police noted that the company had sourced trafficked expatriates from various islands and coerced employees to continue working with their wages withheld for long periods of time.

They also accused RIX of terminating workers for protesting over the injustices, revealing that certain employees were expelled from the island and sent to the capital city Male'.

However, RIX Maldives claimed that it was unable to pay salaries over Seal Maldives' failure to make payments for four months from January 2020 onwards.

Seal Maldives denied these allegations, asserting that payments were made along with a surplus to cover the cost of additional work. The company stated that there was no reason obstructing RIX from making payroll, and accused the company of neglect.

This issue comes amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives. Violations reported include that of human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.

In response to the Bodufinolhu case, left-wing political movement 'Navaanavai' has demanded that the Prosecutor General's Office drop charges against the 19 people arrested over the hostage situation, given the gross mistreatment of the employees.