Former health minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela has suggested her removal from office was the result of a conspiracy which included death threats and a smear campaign.
Giving an interview to local newspaper Haveeru, Shakeela alleges that she was ousted in order to clear the way for corruption within the health sector.
“When I was given the post, some people said this can’t be done by bringing in someone from far outside after we worked hard to bring this government,” she told Haveeru.
“So from the start there were some people who were bent on showing that I was a failure,” she continued.
Shakeela told the paper that she had received multiple threatening phone calls – including eight in a single evening, suggesting she would be killed if she did not resign.
Dr Shakeela’s reappointment in the redefined role of health minister was overwhelmingly rejected by the pro-government majority People’s Majlis last month.
Parliamentary group leader for the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Nihan, has told Minivan News today that Shakeela’s removal was a democratic decision made by the parliamentary group.
“I cannot accept her claims in that regard, and cannot verify whether this is the case [of threats] or not,” said Nihan.
The Villimalé MP said that rejection of Shakeela by the parliamentary group after her nomination by the president sent a strong signal to ministers.
“If we [MPs] decide to give another year to Shakeela and wait for a whole year, who will be blamed?” he asked.
The President’s Office today said that it did not wish to comment on the interview, nor the allegations of death threats sent to the former cabinet minister.
Threats to politicians have become increasingly common in recent months, with Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim alleging fellow politicians were behind these attempts at intimidation.
Dr Shakeela, speaking while attending a conference in Bhutan, said that political opponents intended to utilise the position to benefit from large scale corruption in the health sector.
“I am not talking about small amounts [of money]. For example, because of the state of disrepair of infrastructure, about MVR500,000 has to be spent at least to build even one place. In most places, it goes above a million,” she explained.
“So consider the profit people could make. They could give it to whoever they want. They could do whatever they want to purchase equipment. I tried to do it without allowing any of that.”
Dr Shakeela – who served as environment and energy minister under the previous government – also alleged that negative media coverage of the health sector was part of wider efforts to engineer her removal.
A series of protests over regional healthcare services came soon after it was revealed state-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) had transfused HIV positive blood to a patient in February due to an alleged technical error.
In June, Fuvahmulah councillors called for Shakeela’s resignation after a case of stillbirth, an interrupted caesarean, and the death of a soldier on the island. A few weeks later, over 300 protestors demonstrated in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi over deteriorating conditions at the regional hospital.
Shakeela was up for parliamentary approval in August for the second time during President Abdulla Yameen’s administration after her initial portfolio as minister of health and gender was modified.
While Shakeela told Haveeru that she was not given adequate authority to carry out her job, PPM parliamentary leader Nihan today said that acting health minister Colonel (Ret.) Mohamed Nazim was now doing a “tremendous” job.
“I’m sure that the work of the acting Health Minister is commendable, work that Shakeela could not have done – I’m quite sure of that,” said Nihan.
Drawing parallels with the work of former health minister Ilyas Ibrahim – brother-in-law of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Nihan argued that the sector had needed a more proactive minister.
Nihan suggested that the money allocated to the health sector in the past two budgets had been generous, a point previously disputed by both Shakeela and Permanent Secretary at the health ministry Geela Ali