A legal representative of Seal Maldives stated on Monday that RIX Company Pvt Ltd had forwarded a list of 250 expatriate staff members employed by the latter, although RIX recently claimed that only 14 workers on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, were under RIX’s employment.
In 2019, Seal Maldives contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, 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. 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.
Although RIX refused to claim responsibility for the rest of the workers, Hassan Falaah of law firm Advocacy Chambers, representing Seal Maldives, stated that RIX had sent documents with the details of expats employed by RIX to Seal Maldives, Maldives Police Service and Labour Relations Authority (LRA).
According to Falaah, RIX sent the documents after police, Maldives Immigration and LRA clarified the details of the unpaid workers’ situation on July 4, including the employee details and pending payments.
“The names of 179 expats on Bodufinolhu and 26 expats that had [formerly worked for RIX and] left Bodufinolhu are on it”, Falaah said.
The lawyer further questioned RIX’s statements that the company had nothing to do with the expats on Bodufinolhu when the document contained the employees’ names and assigned code numbers as well.
RIX maintains 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, RIX’s lawyer Ali 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.
Local media 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.
RIX’s 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.
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.
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 the Maldives and return to their respective countries.
The protest on Bodufinolhu took place amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in the 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.
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