Hulhudhoo Islanders Protest Against Yacht Tours

Hulhudhoo Islanders Protest Against Yacht Tours

A large group of Hulhudhoo islanders have said they will protest against Yacht Tours everyday from 4 to 6.30pm until there is a change of management at Handhufushi (Herethere) Resort.

Islanders have been protesting on one side of a channel which separates Hulhudhoo from the resort since Friday, using megaphones and loud speakers to convey their anger.

Ahmed Asleem, a member of the Hulhudhoo island development committee and one of the organisers of the demonstration, said several hundred islanders were protesting “for the rights of workers, the rights of business people in Addu and the rights of tourists”.

But Abdullah Jabir, the chairman of Yacht Tours, which currently manages Handhufushi Resort, has said those protesting are ex-employees of the resort who were dismissed for drug abuse.

The resort has recently been in the media spotlight after Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) said it would terminate Yacht Tours’ contract for the resort in three days for non-payment of rent.

“Unhappy”

According to Asleem, Hulhudhoo islanders have been “unhappy” with the negative impact the resort has had on the atoll since Yacht Tours took over its management from MTDC.

Not only have workers’ rights been infringed upon but employees within the management have been smuggling alcohol to Hulhudhoo, he alleged. “These things were not happening under MTDC.”

An employee at the resort, who did not wish to be named, said among the protesters were suppliers who claimed they had not been paid by Yacht Tours.

Earlier this month, resort staff had protested because they alleged their salaries and bonuses had not been paid, he said. “Three months of bonuses were not paid until last Thursday, foreign workers had not been paid for three months and Maldivians for two months.”

He added Maldivian employees had now been paid but the December salary for foreign workers was still pending.

Redundancies were another concern, he continued, as nine employees had recently been dismissed and there were rumours that more would follow.

In light of the feud between MTDC and Yacht Tours, many employees were uncertain about the future of their jobs. “They don’t know what will happen to them and they don’t know how secure their jobs are.”

“Political pressure”

Ibrahim Rasheed, the general manager of the resort, has denied the allegations about non-payment of wages. “They are saying we are not paying their salary but you can call any Maldivian staff on the island and they won’t complain.”

According to Rasheed, bonuses have never been part of the agreement between the resort and staff. “It’s not a must, but we have given it anyway.”

He explained bonuses were given to employees to compensate for the absence of service charge, which was not being levied on tourists because of the low occupancy level.

Rasheed said he was “very concerned” because the protest had disturbed some of the guests. “Whatever they’re doing is fine but we have requested them to stop making noise.

“It started around 4.30pm yesterday but there were only between 30 and 50 people. On the news I heard that it was 100 but it’s not true. And I have told them if they need to talk, I am available to talk first.”

Referring to the dismissals, Rasheed said staff had been fired for various reasons such as theft of alcohol. He added due to the low occupancy levels, there was a possibility that more redundancies would follow.

One of the reasons for dismissing some of the employees had been due to violent behaviour which Rasheed assigned to “political pressure” because of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“Political pressure is getting into this; 100 per cent that’s what’s happening. I would just like to advise all politicians not to put their political pressure into business.”

Disgruntled

Both Rasheed and Jabir have denied claims that Yacht Tours has not paid its suppliers. “There may be a few payments that are a couple of days overdue,” said Rasheed, “but the rest have all been paid.”

According to Jabir, the protest was organised by disgruntled members of the Hulhudhoo community who had been rejected for jobs during the resort’s recruitment process.

“We can’t provide jobs for all of them but they don’t understand. How can we give jobs for everyone?”

For Asleem, Hulhudhoo has failed to benefit from the resort due to mismanagement. “Jabir is overdue to so many small businesses and so our business is diminishing.”

He added, although Hulhudhoo residents had initiated the protest, Adduans from other islands would be participating from tomorrow. "I am a member of a political party," he said, "but we are fighting this as citizens of Addu not for political reasons.

“We have heard that Jabir and the tourism minister have been in contact with each other.

“So we are saying to our tourism minister who is also a native of our island, support the people of Addu especially as this government has promised they are with the people.”

Source: Minivan

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