Maldivian parliamentarians, on Wednesday, demanded Gender Minister Shidhatha Shareef for her immediate resignation following the revelation that Ahmed Hishan had been known by Gender Ministry as an alleged sex offender, but awarded him the position of honorary disability ambassador and a number of national awards, despite being privy to the information.
The revelation had been made during a High Court hearing on Tuesday, held in response to Hishan’s appeal of a 2018 Family Court decision not to grant him legal guardianship of a young mentally handicapped man who he continues to foster at his home.
Gender Ministry had been informed by Police Intelligence that Hishan was a suspected sex offender, and it had been on that basis that the Family Court had denied his 2018 petition for legal guardianship.
It did not take any action to remove the young man from under Hishan’s care, reasoning that the young man had no longer been a child, but above the age of 18 years, despite the fact that mentally handicapped persons are not considered adults in the eyes of law.
It also awarded him the honorary disability ambassador, and did not stand in the way when he was awarded numerous national awards, and the President’s Office, and even the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) awarded him disability ambassador positions.
South Galolhu MP Mickail Ahmed Naseem has presented an emergency motion urging an investigation into Gender Ministry’s negligence.
He has demanded Gender Minister Shidhatha’s resignation, and threatened to initiate a no-confidence motion against her if she refused to resign. All parliamentarians who took part in the ongoing debate over the motion expressed similar sentiments.
‘SHIDHATHA SHOULD RESIGN, EVEN IF OUT OF SHAME’
Mickail, who presented the motion, said that Gender Ministry’s decision to suppress the information it had regarding the allegations of sexual abuse against Hishan, its inaction, and its blatant violation of its own mandate had been gross negligence.
He said that the Gender Ministry had been negligent not just in its failure to protect Hishan’s victims, but in ascertaining the safety of all handicapped persons in Maldives, children, and all others at risk.
He also condemned Gender Ministry for its inaction in ascertaining the safety of the mentally handicapped young man who he continued to keep under his care despite the 2018 Family Court decision to deny him legal guardianship.
Mickail said that while he did not believe the fault lay directly with Gender Minister Shidhatha herself, but that it was the person in charge of the Gender Ministry, and not its receptionist, who must bear responsibility given the extent of the State negligence in the case.
“I take this opportunity to call on Minister Shidhatha to resign, even if it’s out of sheer shame. And if she does not resign, I respectfully ask the government to remove her from office. And if this doesn’t happen, I urge this honorable Parliament, if you honorable parliamentarians have even the least bit of conscience, to initiate a no-confidence motion against the Gender Minister,” said Mickail.
Some things should never be compromised, he added.
‘GENDER MINISTER IS INCOMPETENT, IT HAS BEEN ONE ACT OF NEGLIGENCE AFTER ANOTHER’
Joining the debate, Deputy Speaker, North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla accused Shidhatha of gross incompetence, and said that she had been committing one act of negligent after another.
She said that the Parliament would not hesitate to hold an inquiry and initiate a no-confidence motion against her if necessary, if she refused to resign.
Eva said that while many such cases had come to light, Shidhatha, instead of taking any action to protect the children and adults at risk, or provide a measure of relief to the community, had taken a defensive stance.
“I call on the Gender Minister to resign. Please resign. At this point, we are now looking into these cases and you have been found incompetent. So resign. I assure you that otherwise we, this Parliament, if forced to, will look into this, and if found necessary, will not hesitate to impeach the minister who is negligent – the Gender Minister,” said Eva.
She said that the main purpose of raising such motions was to assess the potential risk to more children, adults, and the entire community as a whole, and to identify the necessary measures required to ward off such dangers, along with identifying the shortcomings of the current protection system, and improve it.
‘I DON’T CARE EVEN IF IT RESULTS IN THE COALITION UNRAVELLING, DISMISS HER!’
Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef said that such acts of negligence would not have happened if Shidhatha had been competent.
He said that a parliamentary committee should hold an inquiry, and should be forwarded to an investigative agency if the findings indicated criminal negligence.
“This needs immediate action. I call on the President to immediately dismiss Minister Shidhatha. Because, if she had been capable of running her ministry, these things wouldn’t have taken place like this,” said Shareef.
He said that the fact that the Gender Ministry had decided against sharing the allegations of sexual offenses against Hishan it had been privy to with the President’s Office, had been further evidence Shidhatha wasn’t up to the task.
“I call on the President. You must dismiss her. Whatever political party she may belong to, even if it results in the coalition unravelling; this simply cannot be condoned,” said Shareef.