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Maldivian port workers on strike over election

Last Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 21:29

Male: A group of port workers went on strike in the Maldives Sunday, urging their government to hold the presidential election even as the foreign ministry pulled up India`s high commissioner for getting in touch with the poll panel here.

The Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) went on strike following the Maldives Supreme Court`s decision, with the support of the government, to postpone the second round of the presidential election, Xinhua reported.

"We are taking our constitutional right to give a message to the government," said Ibrahim Khaleel, MPWU president.

Around 90 of the union`s 490 members opted to stay away from work for the morning shift, though Khaleel said that workers would return to work for the later shift.

"There is not much work, but next week we have a charter boat with more than 300 containers. If we are not given an election date, we will stop any future operations. We are just giving that message.

"The ports union will do this again and again if they do not listen to us," he added.

The ports in the Maldives are crucial to keep its economy ticking.

In addition to port workers, the island`s valuable tourism industry could also go on the rocks after more than 5,000 resort workers threatened to go on strike if the presidential election is not held soon.

In another related development, the Maldives has taken strong objection to a meeting India`s High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare has had with this country`s Election Commission.

The foreign ministry summoned Shahare Friday to lodge a protest. According to a report in online, a foreign office official met him.

"We had a meeting ... but we cannot reveal details," the report quoted the official as saying.

On Friday, Shahare met Maldives` Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek amid escalating political uncertainty in the atoll nation after the Supreme Court cancelled a second round of voting in the presidential election, reported the Minivan News.

The embattled Maldives Election Commission late Friday canceled the second round of voting for the presidential elections, triggering political unrest on the Indian Ocean group of islands.

The commission made the announcement after a last-minute meeting to decide whether they could go ahead with the elections scheduled for Saturday.

The Maldives Supreme Court had Monday indefinitely postponed the second round run-off sparking protests across the capital city of Male.

The date for the runoff would be announced later, the commission added in a press release.

The Maldives capital was tense Friday evening as thousands of people supportive of ousted president Mohamad Nasheed gathered in front of the country`s Supreme Court demanding that the postponed presidential election be held as scheduled Saturday.

Nasheed, the first democratically elected president in the Indian Ocean group of islands, obtained 45.45 percent of the vote to win the first round of voting.

However, he failed to get a crucial 50 percent mandate that would have negated the need for a second round.

Nasheed`s party has pledged continuous protests till a date for the election is set and has insisted that the first round of voting was free and fair.

Nasheed was to have contested the second round of voting against former president Abdul Gayoom`s half-brother Abdulla Yamin who polled 25.35 percent.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth, the US, the European Union, the UN, India and Australia have called for the swift resumption of the polling process and have warned of an outbreak of violence if delays continue.


First Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 21:29
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