The government of Maldives has been issuing contradictory regulations in a scramble to keep the resorts operating. Management of the JA Manafaru resort has capitalized on the situation to victimize union officer Ibrahim Ziyaadh, a branch leader of the tourism workers’ union TEAM which is fighting to defend the rights, health and safety of tourism workers.
On March 13, the IUF-affiliated TEAM called on the government to collaborate on adopting measures to protect worker health and safety in the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism workers in Maldives live on the island resorts where they work. The union’s call was ignored, and the government proceeded to act unilaterally.
On March 14, the government Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced that no one would be allowed out of the resorts, but returning workers would be allowed in. On March 18, the HPA reversed its ruling and announced that no one would be admitted onto the resorts. A March 25 ruling declared that workers could enter and leave the resorts.
On March 20, TEAM branch leader Ibrahim Ziyaadh returned from leave on his home island, where he had not learned of the March 18 ruling, to the JA Manafaru resort where he was employed. Security officers allowed him to enter the resort, and doctors placed him in quarantine. On March 21, management called the police, and Ziyaadh was arrested. On March 23 his employment was terminated while he was in police custody
He has been not been charged with violating the HPA regulations, which normally carries a fine, but with violations of the criminal code; he faces up to 6 months in prison.
TEAM’s exclusion from the development and implementation of measures to protect public health has made it impossible for the union to assist their members with moving on and off the resorts, inform them of their rights and protect their health and safety, in a country which depends on tourism. A union activist now faces imprisonment as a result.
The IUF has written the Maldives authorities to demand the immediate and unconditional release and reinstatement of Ibrahim Ziyaadh.
In addition to the JA Manafaru, JA operates resorts and hotels in Dubai and Seychelles.