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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Police, fired workers clash at One and Only Reethi Rah Maldives

Reuters India

Police and striking workers clashed on Sunday at a luxury Maldives resort on an atoll in the Indian Ocean, police and protesters said.

The strike at the One and Only Reethi Rah resort began on Friday when the workers demanded better conditions and the transfer of a manager. Thirteen employees were fired on Saturday but refused to leave and police arrived on Sunday.

"They were beating me as they arrested me. They tied my hands at the back and pushed me on the ground," Ahmed Easa, one of about 200 workers taking part in the protest, told Reuters.

Other workers said they were beaten with batons.

About 200 guests were staying at the resort, where the cheapest room, a beach villa, costs $780 a night during the low season.

Tourism accounts for 28 percent of the Maldives' $800 million-a-year economy but many in the nation of 300,000 Sunni Muslims say that only a few people have grown wealthy from it.

Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh said officers briefly arrested some workers but released them.

"They have exaggerated what happened," he said.

Protesters were still on the atoll on Sunday and the resort said it was in talks with the government to resolve the strike.

It is the first accusation of heavy-handed action by police since President Mohamed Nasheed was sworn earlier this month after defeating 30-year incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was criticised for setting police on opponents and protesters. (Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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