Police Clash With Protesters On One&Only Reethi Rah resort

Sunday, 30 November 2008 20:23

As reported on Minivan News

A five star luxury island resort turned into a battle-zone on Sunday morning when riot police allegedly used pepper spray and shock batons on protesting staff after thirteen fired staff refused to leave.

Between 20 and 50 riot police were sent at 5.00am on Sunday to remove the staff sacked after a mass strike, resulting in a clash between police and around 200 resort employees, according to varying accounts from protesters.

A police statement has denied the use of batons, tear gas or pepper spray, and said they handcuffed some protestors after some acted violently and “attacked police”.

A small team of police, not in riot gear, first arrived on the island to ask the employees to leave, but resort staff rallied behind those fired and those dismissed refused to leave.

Demonstrators then said that at about 5.00am, a large group of police officers arrived on the island in full riot gear. The 13 members of staff were again asked to accompany the police off the island but refused to do so.

Police then allegedly sprayed the group of around 200 with pepper spray and used electronic batons to beat them, according to reports from protestors.

President of Tourism Employees Association Ahmed Easa, who was among the thirteen fired on Saturday, said it was like “a kind of war”.

“What we were trying to do was to run away and they caught 13 of us including myself. I am quite badly injured,” he said.

He said he believes the police left after an order from the president’s office. Aishath Zanir, a sales and marketing coordinator at the resort, says she was hit by police.

“We told the police when they came and if the 13 people go, we will all go. I was in the middle [of the group] holding Easa’s hand and somebody hit me on the head,” she said.

“I don’t know what it was with because they hit me from the back. And I was screaming. I didn’t know what to do. I genuinely was scared. I screamed so badly and one of my friends came and took me into the canteen,” she added.

The protestors also allege they have video evidence of the scene to prove the police used weapons.

But Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh said reports had been distorted.

“We didn’t give any orders to harm anyone. I personally called to ask about the situation on the ground. They have exaggerated what happened,” he told Minivan News.

He was not available to comment on who it was that gave the order for the actions of the riot police.

Zannie Leong, public relations manager at the resort, said: “The situation has calmed down since this morning and the management is in talks with government officials at the moment.

“It was a peaceful protest but a lot of it [the police] was for the safety of the guests,” she said.

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