Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Alhan Fahmy has warned that dismissed Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed must be reinstated in order to retain the ruling coalition.
Dr Shamheed was removed from his cabinet post after he extended the Maamigili Airport lease to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim for 99 years.
In a press conference held on Tuesday (November 13) the JP stated it requested President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik reinstate Shamheed before Sunday.
Fahmy told Minivan News that he believes Shamheed should be reinstated if “Dr Waheed wants to sustain the national unity government.”
“I don’t believe [Waheed] was unaware of the decision [to dismiss Dr Shamheed], and it is of his own irresponsibility if he says so,” Fahmy said.
“A minister shall not be dismissed under the existing political situation unless it is associated with proper reasoning.”
Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Fahmy said Waheed met Gasim on Monday night and what he had to say implied that the President was “not fully aware of how [the dismissal] happened.”
After looking into the dismissal, Alhan said the JP believed it was done “without a legal basis” as the JP minister had not breached any laws or official procedures but was sacked “as a result of what the minister did to implement a decision made by the government.”
“Therefore, as we believe that this happened because the President was somewhat confused or misinformed, and after making certain of all the processes that were followed with regard to [the dismissal], the Jumhoree Party has asked the President to reinstate Dr Shamheed to the cabinet before next Sunday,” Fahmy said.
The government’s actions in sacking the minister provided opportunity to level corruption allegations against the JP’s presidential candidate and were “highly damaging” to the party, the MP for Feydhoo added.
A statement from JP last week said the party would take “necessary action” following an inquiry, expressing “serious concern” with statements in the media by officials from the President’s Office regarding Shamheed’s dismissal.
Minivan tried to contact President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad, but he was not responding at time of press.
Controversy has surrounded the sacked minister following allegations that Shamheed was dismissed because of his opposition to the recent sale of a stake in the Addu International Airport Company Ltd (AIA).
The unnamed JP official, who made the allegations speaking to Villa TV, said that Shameed was removed to allow Champa Afeef – a tourism tycoon who recently bought a 30 percent stake in Addu airport – to control the airport project.
The JP official said the sacking of Shameed was intended to divert attention away from the Addu airport sale.
Following his sudden dismissal, Shamheed claimed he had been sacked following his criticism of some decisions made by the government.
“I continued to criticise President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik over the Nexbis issue. Attorney General insists that the project cannot go on. Home Minister has to be responsible for the Immigration Department. Home Minister had ordered to stop the project. But the project went on. I have voiced my discontent over several such issues. We have all seen the result of that,” Shamheed told Haveeru Online.
Shamheed refused to comment on the current situation when called by Minivan News.
Maamigili airport had originally been leased to Gasim’s Villa Group for 30 years, and according to JP, the decision to extend the lease by Shamheed had been 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.
Shamheed, in a quote from newspaper Haveeru, said: “Documents to extend the lease of Maamigili Airport for 99 years were sent to the transport ministry by [former President Mohamed] Nasheed’s government. But the current government delayed the matter. The present government only endorsed the decision. It was decided by the NPC [National Planning Council] during the former government.”
More recently however, Haveeru Online learned that Shamheed had announced the extension of the airport’s lease before the ministerial cabinet had sanctioned it.
A tweet from government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza on the day of Shamheed’s dismissal read: “Transport Minister Dr Shamheed has been relieved from his duties today. Defence Minister Nazim will be the care taker until replaced by JP.”
He added that the cabinet seat will be reserved for the JP, currently the third largest party in terms of membership in the ruling coalition.
Minivan News was informed by Riza that the decision to extend the lease has not yet been reversed.
Following Shamheed’s dismissal, Dr Shamheed told Sun Online he believed he was sacked for difference 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.