The defence ministry has dismissed eight officers at the aviation security command claiming the military no longer trusted them.
But the dismissed officers, who are all members of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), told Minivan News they were fired because of their political views.
The dismissals come at a time of heightened political tension in Malé following the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The fired officers had served between 13 and 26 years at the aviation security command.
They include the head of security for Koodoo Domestic Airport, head of administration, head of cargo unit, head of human resources, supervisor of the Malé international airport’s international terminal, two outpost duty officers and a driver.
“We are all members of MDP and we will always remain so. But never in my 26 years of service have I ever betrayed the state. Now they see my political beliefs as a threat to them,” former head of Koodoo Airport Mohamed Nadeem told Minivan News today.
Hussain Nazeef, who was the head of cargo unit, said members of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had wanted them dismissed from their jobs.
“We were at a very senior level and the people working for us, who were also members of PPM, lacked proper qualification and the leadership to advance. So the only way for them to go ahead was to get us fired,” Nazeef said.
The ministry, citing budgetary constraints, had given the eight officers notice in early March, but the decision was not enforced until Wednesday. Two more officers who were given notice in March still remain at their jobs.
The dismissal notes said: “Based on the intelligence information gathered by the Ministry of Defence and National Security, you are no longer trusted to continue working in an environment related to the national security.”
At a press briefing today deputy defence minister Thorig Ali Lutfee dismissed the officer’s claims, but failed to reveal the reasons for dismissal.
“It is difficult to state the exact reason why we let go of any of our staff. We don’t want to reveal our reasons to the media,” he said.
Meanwhile, other employees of the Aviation Command say they “fear for their jobs” and have described their working environment as “tense.”
“There are many people who are depressed because they do not know what will happen to them eventually. People are scared of losing their jobs. It’s not easy to work in a place not knowing what accusations they are going to throw at you the next minute,” an employee who asked to remain anonymous said.
The defence ministry has previously brought changes to its ranks during Maldives’ frequent political crises. In February, following the arrest of ex defence minister on weapons smuggling charges, the military dismissed the head of the armory and the head of the special protection group.
Several employees of state owned companies have also reported being dismissed for their participation in the opposition’s mass protests.
The defence ministry also dismissed several senior ranking officers from the military during the contested presidential elections of November 2013.
Nine soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal, Captain Abdulla Muizz Musthafa and Sergeant Major Naushad Ali were dismissed in December 2013 after President Yameen assumed power.
Nilam and Muizz subsequently sued the state for unfair dismissal.
The Civil Court last Thursday threw out Nilam’s lawsuit, stating they were unable to summon Nilam to court as he had provided the wrong address on case documents.
Muizz’s case is ongoing.