Mariyam Mohammed, an employee of Fenaka, a government-owned utility company in the Maldives, has been suspended from her job, allegedly for refusing to show support to President Solih. The suspension was immediately linked to the recent tension between the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the newly formed opposition, "The Democrats".
Formerly an MDP activist, Mariyam switched her allegiance to The Democrats, a breakaway faction formed by followers of President Nasheed, which has been seen as a direct political threat to President Solih's regime. The suspension notice, issued by Fenaka's HR department, mentioned that she was under investigation, thereby leading to a suspension period of 30 days without pay.
Mariyam reported that she had been threatened by a representative of MP Nihad, warning her against signing for The Democrats. Despite the threats, she joined the opposition party and subsequently received the suspension notice.
Speaking to the Maldives Journal, Mariyam expressed her shock and disbelief, stating, "It has been a year since I have been working here. So far there were no issues with regard to my job. But all of a sudden, I got this chit."
This incident has raised concerns as it is not the first instance of the government taking punitive action against its employees for their political affiliations. Since assuming office, President Solih has been criticized for reportedly suspending, dismissing, and penalizing various government employees for either refusing to support him or openly criticizing his regime.
The increasing number of such incidents presents a worrying trend, as it may lead to the suppression of freedom of speech and political diversity, both of which are crucial for a functioning democracy. The apparent politicization of government employment can result in a chilling effect on the democratic process, dissuading individuals from expressing their political views for fear of professional repercussions.
This case has the potential to stir a significant public debate about the balance of power, the rights of government employees, and the importance of safeguarding democratic principles in the Maldives. It is a call to action for policy-makers, human rights advocates, and international observers to scrutinize and address the politicization of public services in the country.
As Mariyam's case unfolds, it will serve as a litmus test of the Maldivian government's commitment to upholding democratic norms and ensuring fair employment practices free from political influence.