A number of staff from the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company have signed for the ruling party amid reports that state employees were forced to attend the Progressive Party of Maldives rally in Malé Thursday night.
PPM Secretary General Ahmed Tholal meanwhile told The Maldives Independent more than 500 membership forms were submitted during the Thursday night rally.
The forms were presented to the party’s leader former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the rally, which was the first PPM event since April 2014 with President Abdulla Yameen in attendance.
In his speech at the rally, Gayoom said the PPM is aiming to reach 100,000 members by the end of 2016. As of February 2015, the PPM had 36,232 members.
A senior staff at MTCC told The Maldives Independent more than 25 employees submitted membership forms.
In contrast, several opposition supporters were dismissed by state-owned companies last year for attending protests sparked by the imprisonment former President Mohamed Nasheed. The labour tribunal has since ordered the companies to compensate some unfairly dismissed employees.
Staff at other state-owned companies, such as the State Electricity Company and Fenaka, were also required to attend. A mass text message was sent to the staff at the Maldives Custom Service asking them to reply with a reason if they cannot attend.
The MTCC staff were meanwhile required to gather ahead of the rally for a headcount.
An employee at Fenaka, the state electricity provider in the atolls, told The Maldives Independent that staff were told attendance “wasn’t compulsory, but that they would note who went and who didn’t.”
“Maybe those who didn’t go will be punished on Sunday,” the employee said on the condition of anonymity.
A Fenaka staff told CNM that the company was asked to fill 350 chairs. According to the online paper, the Maldives Ports Limited was required to fill 400 chairs.
An employee of STELCO told The Maldives Independent that senior officials told staff to “note down the names of those ‘wanted’ to go.”
The STELCO staff were reportedly taken to the rally on a company vehicle.
According to local media, employees and vehicles of the state-owned Maldives Road Development Corporation were used to transport chairs for the rally.
Participants were required to undergo screening before entrance to the carnival area. Armed soldiers and police officers maintained security.
According to CNM, MTCC staff were also asked to attend a meeting at the company’s showroom before the rally started at the carnival area.
“They told us to be there by 8:30 and that they would note attendance,” an employee said.
At a press conference held ahead of the mass rally, PPM Ali Fazad had said the turnout for the rally will show the party’s strong support among the public despite not having used “posters and loudspeakers” to promote the rally.