Shidhatha: Entire State must be accountable for Shaim’s disappearance

Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Shidhatha Shareef responds to questions at the Parliament on July 15, 2019. (Photo/People's Majlis)

The entire State needs to be bear responsibility for the disappearance of Shaim Abdulla, 14, from State custody, says Gender Minister Shidhatha Shareef.

She made the remark in response to a question posed by Faresmaathoda MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef regarding the case at the Parliament this Monday.

Shaim ran away from the children’s shelter in Vilimale’ - where he was kept on a temporary basis after both his family members or his foster family refused to take responsibility for his care – on June 18.

The police found him from a private residence located on Buruzumagu, in the Maafannu district of Male’ City, on Monday, July 1.

Hussain Mohamed Latheef asked Shidhatha regarding the officials responsible for the oversight which allowed Shaim to run away, and action taken to hold those responsible to account.

 In response, Shidhatha said that while the Gender Ministry must be held accountable to a great extent, the entire State must also be accountable for the oversight.

“I believe Gender Ministry is one key State institution which must bear responsibility for this. And at the same time, I believe, the entire State must also bear responsibility for this,” said Shidhatha.

Shidhatha said that it was the responsibility of the entire State to ascertain the safety and welfare of children in State custody, and the responsibility of the State to establish and manage children’s shelters.

She said the children’s shelter in Vilimale’ sorely lacked trained professionals, resources, infrastructure and finance.

“We have been working underbudget for the past six years. There are currently 42 children between the ages of 13 and 18 years at the shelter. The facility is 29 staff members short. The number of children at other facilities is also increasing. But there is a shortage of staff to look after them,” said Shidhatha.

She said the entire children’s shelter was searched immediately after Shaim was discovered missing. And that the Gender Ministry worked alongside Maldives Police Service until Shaim was found.

One of the staff members at the children’s shelter who was on duty on the night Shaim ran away has been placed under temporary suspension.

Shidhatha also responded to criticism over her decision to disclose Shaim’s case history to the press.

Shidhatha said she did not disclose any private information, and disclosed necessary case-related information following spread of misinformation by the press.

“It is my legal duty to provide clarification to the general public if its misleading so as to establish order. I note that I made no comment with the intention of disclosing the child’s personal information,” she said.