The Jumhore Party (JP) has said that it is “investigating and very closely looking into the abrupt removal of the party’s only cabinet member, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Honourable Dr Ahmed Shamheed.”
In a statement on Thursday night, the government-aligned JP said it would take “necessary action” following an inquiry, expressing “serious concern” with statements in the media by officials from the President’s Office regarding the reasons for Shamheed’s dismissal.
An unnamed JP official alleged to Villa TV (VTV) – owned by JP Leader and MP for Maamigili Gasim Ibrahim – that Dr Shamheed was sacked because of his opposition to the recently concluded sale of a 30 percent stake in the Addu International Airport Company Ltd (AIA) to tourism pioneer ‘Champa’ Hussain Afeef.
JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim had alleged corruption in the deal and claimed the valuation of the 30 percent stake was too low.
The JP senior official meanwhile told VTV that Shamheed was removed to allow Champa Afeef to control the airport project, claiming that the “cowardly” act of sacking the JP minister was intended to divert media and public attention from the Addu airport controversy.
Dr Shamheed was sacked immediately after an agreement was signed to extend the lease of the Maamigili airport – owned by JP Leader Gasim’s Villa Company – for 99 years.
The JP however noted that the decision was unanimously approved by the government’s Economic Committee on November 1. In addition to Shamheed, the Economic Committee consists of Minister of Finance Abdulla Jihad and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ahmed Shafeeu, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu, Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb.
Government Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News on Thursday that despite Shamheed’s dismissal, the decision to extend the lease had “not yet” been reversed.
Abbas had tweeted that the cabinet seat would be reserved for JP, the third largest party in terms of membership in the ruling coalition.
Meanwhile, in a press conference today, MP Gasim Ibrahim said that he did not believe President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik could have been unaware of the ministerial economic committee’s decision to extend the lease, which was finalised at a meeting at the President’s Office on November 1.
For President Waheed to be unaware of a decision “approved by half the cabinet” was “a joke”, he said.
Gasim said Villa has spent more than MVR 1.4 billion (US$90 million) on developing the airport at Maamigili in addition to more than MVR 500 million spent for the island’s development.
The airport was leased by the government for an annual rent of US$24,000, the Maamigili MP revealed.
Dr Shamheed meanwhile told Sun Online following his dismissal that he believed he was sacked for differences of opinion with the President on a number of issues, including his opposition to the sale of the AIA stake and the agreement with Nexbis to install a border control system.
On November 5, Dr Shamheed tweeted that there was “no justification” for the valuation of an asset worth US$150 million for US$13 million.
He also criticised the sale of the AIA stake as “irresponsible”.