Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reethi Rah staff say police are lying

Maldives police have denied using excessive force, including tear-gas or pepper-spray, in their pre-dawn crackdown of a peaceful protest by staff of One And Only Reethi Rah Resort. But protesters say police are lying.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, about 50 or so riot police, they say, got on the luxury resort island, pepper-sprayed and severely beat up demonstrators to break up a protest. One of the protesters say he saw police tread on people's feet and spray pepper into their faces. 

Peaceful protesting is allowed under the current constitutional and police may have acted unconstitutionally in Reethi Rah this morning. 

Last night the protest,  which had been continuing all day, lead to the firing of 13 staff, including the president and vice-president of TEAM (Tourism Employment Association of Maldives) by the management of the resort. Protesters are now calling for the removal of the resort's general manager and the training manager, who they blame not only for failing to implement the employment act but also for the mess hotel finds itself in today.

Meanwhile president Anni has denied knowledge of the decision by his home minister Gasim Ibrahim to send in riot police to quash the protest. But it is unlikely to inspire the confidence of either resort staff or the general public for the way the government has handled the crisis.

If the government really means to make amends it must admit that mistakes have been made if, indeed, they have; officials must take due responsibility and apologise to the staff of Reethi Rah Resort who have been injured in the crackdown or fired from their jobs; and remedial action must take place at once.

For a start, the government needs to get tough on all resorts failing to implement the employment act. 

With parliamentary elections due early in the new year, Nasheed's government cannot afford to lose public confidence in their first real test since coming into power.