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Police seek action over false information on Bodufinolhu by lawyers

Ahmed Aiham
11 August 2020, MVT 14:04
Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) meeting with migrant workers at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll. PILC has pledged to provide pro-bono legal aid to migrant workers employed for the development of Bodufinolhu. PHOTO: PILC
Ahmed Aiham
11 August 2020, MVT 14:04

Maldives Police Service, on Monday, announced its decision to file complaints regarding disciplinary issues against certain lawyers for allegedly spreading false information about the expatriates arrested over the unrest at Bodufinolhu in Baa Atoll, earlier last month.

Police claimed that some of the lawyers were actively working to exert influence on the police investigation and slander the reputation of the institution.

Per the police investigations, the lawyers are accused of coercing the detained to refrain from mentioning their employers as well as their wages, further noting that the defendants were urged to divulge information they were unaware of.

Authorities also stated that the lawyers in question were not among those officially representing the arrested individuals.

Among those providing legal representation, five were provided by the Maldivian government, five by Transparency Maldives, while the remaining nine chose to acquire their own counsel.

On July 2, 203 expatriate workers in Bodufinolhu protested over six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals amid the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.

In 2019, Seal Maldives had contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX Pvt Ltd, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.

The Labour Relations Authority (LRA) also identified a lack of collaboration by RIX Pvt Ltd, stating that the company had failed to credit the six months of unpaid salaries to its expatriate workers as instructed before July 30.

However, RIX's legal representatives have denied receiving any letters from LRA and instead asserted that the company had addressed a letter to the authority, stating that the issue could only be resolved by the Employment Tribunal.

RIX has maintained its initial assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries as per agreements between the two companies, and that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers. The contractor claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by Seal Maldives' failure to make payments.

The developer 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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