Defense Minister says hidden factors behind violent expat protests

Maldives National Defense Force's (MNDF) Chief of Defense Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal (R) and Defense Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi (L). (Sun Photo/Muzayyin Nazim)

Defense Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi has proclaimed that the recent spate of violent protests by expatriates in the Maldives was due to other hidden factors rather than the lack of rights. 

Violent protests have been staged in Thilafushi, Bodufinolhu and even the suburb of Hulhumale’ over unpaid wages and poor treatment of workers. 

The Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations which is evaluating the matter, summoned the Minister today. Speaking in the Committee, the Minister said that it was a matter of national security that expatriates were attacking police officers and that there were possible other factors behind the protests.

“Looking at the Bodufinolhu case, they took locals hostage, vandalized property. Looking at the Kooddoo issue, they said that they wanted to return home. Herethere issue, they also wanted to return home. So it is not that they are unpaid or their rights are unfulfilled.” Said the Minister.

“Expatriates of Island Expert that caused chaos in Hulhumale recently, attacked police when the company was in negotiations with them and some of their wages were paid,”

“This is connected with national security. Not because of unpaid wages or unfulfilled rights. I believe, there are some figures hidden,” Said the Minister.

She said that the issue of expatriates were being labeled on social media as human trafficking, however, according to UN conventions and protocols, it was not human trafficking. 

Citing laws, the Minister said, “This is very clear. This is how it is. Labeling it as human trafficking, speaking in different manners, we are seeing a lot of work is being done to disrupt the peace and interest of the nation.” Said the Minister.

No country in the world would permit expatriates to conduct activity threatening to national security, said the Minister who requested the cooperation of the parliament. 

The Defense Minister’s manner of speaking echoes the same as Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail who accused of political figures being behind the protests last Monday.

200,000 expatriates, more than 150,000 undocumented

Speaking in the same Committee alongside the Minister, Chief of Defense Force Maj. Gen. Abdulla Shamaal described the events unfolding in the Maldives as similar to events that can be seen from a colonized country.

He said that the issue of expatriates was a long-running one and that a committee formed to advise by the defense force had conducted a study that showed there were around 200,000 migrants in the country.

Out of them, 179,954 individuals were in the Maldives without proper documents, and 66,000 were in the Maldives with the proper documents.

Maj. Gen. Shamaal said that it was a huge threat to national security and that the reason for this was due to unregulated and open borders. He said that this was not the time when one country would invade the other with weapons.

“A large number of people have invaded the country in other words, we are seeing events visible from a colonized nation from them (expatriates). They have integrated into every part of society. That includes marrying locals and every other way. They are now very much involved in criminal activity as well.” Said Maj. Gen. Shamaal.

The chief also described the events in Bodufinolhu where expatriates faced off with law enforcement authorities as a threat to the national security. Challenges were faced in implementing the law on undocumented expatriates, said the chief, before saying that it was a huge worry that expatriates in the country outnumbered the youth population of the nation, which required a lot of work from the state and NGOs to address the issue.