In Addu City, fishermen’s growing frustration with the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd. (MIFCO) has taken a dramatic turn as protests over delayed payments have escalated into direct action. Demonstrators have cut the electricity supply to the MIFCO Addu Fisheries Complex and forcibly entered the canteen.

The protest, which began on Friday evening, has forced the suspension of operations at the fish processing factory. Fishermen demand immediate settlement of outstanding payments from MIFCO and a guarantee of future payments within 15 days of catch purchase.

In a press statement, MIFCO revealed that protesters had issued an ultimatum to take over the facility by 4 p.m. Sunday if their demands were unmet, threatening to expel factory staff post-deadline. The situation escalated on Saturday when demonstrators broke into the factory canteen and severed the electricity supply to the accommodation block, forcing staff to sleep outdoors, according to MIFCO.

The state-owned company told the media, “Since last evening, factory staff have been forced to sleep outdoors on tarps. Protesters have violated their rights— including access to food, water, and sanitation facilities,” highlighting the dire conditions faced by the staff due to the protest actions.

The company has urged fishermen to protest peacefully and allow the restoration of essential services for the factory staff. It also indicated ongoing discussions with the government and relevant agencies to address the issue.

Despite police presence at the scene, no action has been taken to disperse the protesters. Both police and Addu City Mayor Ali Nizar have urged demonstrators to adhere to relevant laws.

Mayor Nizar expressed concern over the government’s delayed payments to fishermen and criticised the management of MIFCO, labelling it a “hive of corruption” that successive administrations have not adequately addressed.

“MIFCO has been mired in corruption, a fact that past governments have consistently overlooked, and the current administration under [Mohamed Muizzu] has also failed to implement any substantive measures, which is deeply troubling,” said Nizar.

Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam, speaking with the state media, responded to the protests by affirming that the government is attentive to the fishermen’s concerns and is in continuous dialogue with the demonstrators. He noted ongoing efforts to settle the overdue payments and promised updates following the Eid al-Adha holidays.

Minister Shiyam also appealed to the fishermen to act peacefully, acknowledging the difficulty of taking punitive action against them for property damage, given the generally peaceful nature of previous demonstrations.

The recent protests in Addu City are part of a series of demonstrations over the same issue, including large protests earlier this month in Hulhumalé, Malé, and Madaveli Island, Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. Following these demonstrations, the government released MVR 46 million of the MVR 80 million owed to fishermen ahead of the Eid al-Adha holidays, yet the issue of unpaid dues remains unresolved.