Coalition divided over fate of STO/Addu Airport managing director

Representatives of several government-aligned parties are divided on whether to support removing Shahid Ali from his position as Managing Director (MD) of both the State Trading Organisation (STO) and Addu International Airport over his alleged political beliefs.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) said this week it not made any sort of decision over removing Shahid from the positions he presently held and had not been aware of any such motion to remove him, though added any eventual decision would need to be “justified”.  Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir said his party would support the STO MD, while also warning against the politicisation of key business positions and deals across the nation.

The comments were made as the Interim Vice President of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdul Raheem Abdulla told local media that parties within the present coalition government sought to remove Shahid from his posts for allegedly being a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Earlier this week, Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili MP, Gasim Ibrahim warned Shahid that he would be sacked from his post at the STO if an agreement was signed to sell a 30 percent stake in the Addu International Airport Company Ltd (AIACL) to Kasa Holdings.  The sale was confirmed a day later.

During a televised appearance on private broadcaster Dhi TV on Wednesday, Abdul Raheem claimed that calls to replace Shahid were not related to the controversial sale of the shares in Addu International Airport (AIA), newspaper Haveeru reported.

Instead he said that the motion was based around concerns about having a figure he claimed was allegedly linked to the opposition MDP in a senior position of a state-owned company, claiming such an appointment was “unacceptable”, according to media reports.

Abdul Raheem went on to accuse Shahid of spending money to help fund a recent campaign trip by former President Mohamed Nasheed in Addu during the program.

PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and Party Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof were not answering calls at the time of press.


Responding to the PPM’s criticism, JP Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir said that Shahid was a “professional” and “highly technical” MD, adding both he and his party would not back any attempts to remove him.

Jabir also played down claims Shahid was politically tainted or biased in his work.

“We should keep independent people in business as much as possible, we need good people like him right now,” he told Minivan News. “STO is a huge company with many employees and he has done a very good job, I support him and our party will support him.”

Jabir also requested that Maldivians avoid trying to politicise business and economic matters in the Maldives that could impact on the investment climate within the country.

Last month, Jabir also hit out at what he claimed were attempts by some of the JP’s coalition partners to try and “politicise” a dispute between the government and India-based GMR over an agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) – fearing a negative impact on foreign investment.

Meanwhile, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News today that it had not been made aware of any decision to remove Shahid from either of his MD posts.  He also expressed caution over making a potential scapegoat out of Shahed over concerns owing to the Addu airport sale.

Shareef said that before taken any potential position on the matter, the party would need to investigate if there was any possible reason to dismiss Shahid, claiming the party would not back any cause raised by coalition partners unless it was “justified”.

“However, I do not think a deal such as [selling shares] in Addu International Airport can be taken by one person alone,” he added, referring to Shahid.

Responding to the PPM’s reported concerns of potentially giving positions in government-owned companies to opposition figures or supporters, Shareef claimed that the coalition had been founded on a policy of not discriminating along party lines.

“It is important to remember that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan invited the MDP to join his coalition government – an invite they declined,” he claimed. “However, that said, the government was to invite capable people from anywhere to join us even from MDP. We have nothing against the MDP.”

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader Dr Hassan Saeed and Secretary general Abdulla Ameen were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Coveted post

Back in August, an audio clip allegedly of Deputy CEO of Maldives Ports Limited, Ahmed Faiz, was leaked and then aired on opposition-aligned Raajje TV, alluding to significant interest in replacing Shahid Ali within the STO.

In the transcript, which Faiz confirmed was authentic but re-cut and edited together, he appeared to allege that PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen had offered financial incentives to replace the STO MD.

“The first post that was guaranteed to a person in this government was one that I had asked for, that is the post of Managing Director at STO, the one in which that Shahid Ali is. That is something I did in my interest, and I swear, it is something I myself did. There is no one who hasn’t been coveting that post. I was offered five hundred thousand dollars to get Shahid Ali replaced by a person of Yameen’s choice. I said to him… what he said to me even at the beginning is that if you are uncomfortable by this, then we shall treat this as a conversation that never happened, and I replied saying this never happened,” Faiz claims in the audio.

“I said this conversation never happened. Yameen said it never happened. And that was it, I got up and walked away. That (expletive) said to someone nearby that I am a very dangerous (expletive). Now I’ve told you of some of the problems in this government.”