Family members of Addu City fishermen, in a show of solidarity, have joined the demonstrations against the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO), demanding overdue payments that have significantly affected their livelihoods. The protests, which began on Thursday in Hulhumeedhoo Island, have seen participants from more than 17 fishing vessels call for immediate action from the government and MIFCO.

The protests erupted after MIFCO failed to pay fishermen for the fish sold, with some payments overdue by more than 80 days. The protests have resulted in the suspension of operations at MIFCO’s fish processing plant and the disconnection of electricity to the facility’s processing plants, administrative offices, and accommodation buildings.

In response to the initial power cut, MIFCO enlisted the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to restore electricity to the site on Monday. The company confirmed that the police had to use force to carry out the operation, particularly in the accommodation block. Despite this intervention, demonstrators have once again succeeded in cutting power to the accommodation block, effectively maintaining their stance against the company.

The protests took a significant turn on Monday as the wives and other family members of the fishermen joined the fray, intensifying pressure on the Muizzu administration to settle the overdue payments.

Family involvement underscores the dire straits facing these households, with one spouse expressing the severe financial strain they are enduring: “We find ourselves in a situation where we are struggling to cover essential expenses such as electricity, water, and phone bills, resorting to borrowing for basic necessities from local shops.”

Meanwhile, political figures have weighed in on the ongoing standoff. Hulhudhoo MP Mohamed Shahid, representing President Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC), has criticised the fishermen’s protests, denouncing their actions as politicised and unacceptable.

“I completely disagree with the fishermen’s demonstrations near the Hulhumeedhoo fish factory in Addu,” MP Shahid declared.

Shahid’s remarks have angered the fishermen, who have dismissed the criticism as “inhumane,” highlighting that the demonstrations are driven by the wives, children, and families directly affected by the prolonged non-payment of dues. Defiant in their stance, the fishermen have vowed to continue their protests until the government fulfils its obligation to compensate them for their work.

Demanding clarity and transparency from the authorities, the fishermen have called for a definitive timeline regarding when they can expect to receive their overdue payments.

Unfazed by threats of repercussions, including MIFCO’s warning to suspend fish purchases from vessels and individuals participating in the protests, the fishermen remain resolute in their demands, decrying the government’s tactics as reminiscent of past authoritarian regimes.

Amid escalating tensions, the fishermen have lamented the government’s lack of a proper response to their demands, characterising the continuing silence as deeply irresponsible and dismissive of their plight.