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RIX claims responsibility for only 14 Bodufinolhu employees

Mariyam Malsa
12 July 2020, MVT 20:47
Members of Public Interest Law Centre (PILC)at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll. PHOTO: PILC
Mariyam Malsa
12 July 2020, MVT 20:47

RIX Maldives Pvt Ltd, on Sunday, stated that only 14 of the foreign workers on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll were employees of the company.

In 2019, Seal Maldives contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu to RIX Maldives, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.

On July 2, 203 expatriate workers protested against six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island which is slated for development as a resort. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals during the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.

According to local media outlet Mihaaru, 179 foreign workers currently remain on Bodufinolhu.

In an interview given to Mihaaru, a member of RIX Maldives' legal team Ali Saeed asserted that the company did not hold responsibility for any foreign workers except 14 of the individuals currently on the island. He stated that RIX was prepared to take the 14 workers under its care if the police had no objections.

Maldives Police Service formally accused RIX Company Pvt Ltd of human trafficking and the exploitation of foreign workers on July 6.

The police also accused RIX of terminating workers that protested over their conditions and sending them to the capital city of Male'. As per reports, RIX employees staged a silent protest on May 16, demanding full payment and clearance to leave Maldives and return to their respective countries.

Saeed maintained RIX's initial assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries as per agreements between the two companies, adding that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers.

In order to support the statement, Saeed asserted that the request sent to Maldives Immigration to secure the quota for workers was lodged with a document bearing the name of Seal Maldives' Managing Director.

Mihaaru has reported that Seal Maldives had addressed a letter to the Ministry of Economic Development on June 20, stating that the development of Bodufinolhu was contracted to RIX, and that Seal Maldives' quota for 42 labourers was transferred to RIX Maldives. The letter also requested the approval of a higher quota for RIX.

The legal representative further noted that RIX had been providing food for the workers since December 2019 on humanitarian grounds despite stating that Seal was responsible for their salaries.

Seal Maldives has lodged a case with the Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court, seeking an order to extradite the workers from Bodufinolhu.

According to RIX, the welfare of these workers was now the responsibility of the police and other government institutions as the situation involved serious allegations of human trafficking. Referring to the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, Saeed stated that the government was legally mandated to provide protection for such individuals.

In addition to claiming that Seal was legally required to pay salaries, RIX Maldives claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by the developer's failure to make payments.

Seal Maldives countered with a statement noting that it made payments in addition to those mandated by agreements and accused RIX of neglect, stating that there was no reason preventing the contractor from paying its workers. Seal Maldives also asserted that RIX was mandated to cover insurance, healthcare and Visa application costs in addition to monthly salaries.

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