Every democratically elected president has a defining challenge of their time. United States of America’s former President Obama described his presidency’s defining challenge as the growing income inequality. Former President Yameen of our country ran on a ticket of progress and revolved his presidency around development and infrastructures.
And while President Solih and the team stressed restoring democratic principles and decentralization during the campaign, his reign coincided with the global COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled our economy. As common citizens hurried to stock their homes with sanitizers, food, and in some countries, toilet paper, the government carried the burden of preparing and strengthening the public health sector to take in the influx of patients to come.
Amid this deadly pandemic that has left countless Maldivian citizens jobless and sick, people at the top, people we have elected, saw an opportunity not to damage control and help the poor, but to steal from its voters.
How It Began
The case began from an MVR 34.50 million contract signed by the Ministry of Health with Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators last year, to increase the capacity of the Maldivian health system to combat COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic in the Maldives. However, the Auditor General’s Office had found this to be in breach of Public Finance Regulation.
A further audit revealed that the Maldives received only 15 out of the 75 ventilators ordered, and the audit report shows the Health Ministry paid MVR 30.91 million, which made for 90 percent of the total payment, to Executors General Trading as an advance, without obtaining an advance guarantee or a performance guarantee.
After the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) concluded its investigations into the issue and forwarded charges against former Health Minister Abdulla Ameen and 11 others to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), the PGO declined charges in the case citing insufficient evidence to prove the charges in court.
PG Shameem has stressed yesterday that his office will prosecute only should investigators find a money trail and present the information.
“We will prosecute if they find where the money went to, to whom the money went to,” said Shameem.
Nasheed, the “rayyithumeeha ge hero” Has All the Answers
Speaker of Parliament and former President Mohamed Nasheed made headlines this weekend after expressing displeasure over the decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office not to pursue charges in the corruption case.
He has since demanded Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem’s resignation, which PG Shameem agreed to in an interview given to Raajje TV. And despite Nasheed calling for his resignation, Shameem described Nasheed as a hardworking public official who has always put the public interest first.
“I will act in the matter of my resignation per official procedure,” he said.
The leader of the main ruling party MDP Nasheed further iterated that he does not wish for the MDP party to stand by a government that steals from the people, and voiced that the government colluded in the corruption scandal. He also explained that putting a lid over the ventilator corruption case will be highly damaging to the people, and he would not budge over the case.
But isn’t the government MDP Coalition?
Speaker Nasheed is happy to sidestep along with MDP and play the role of a “rayyithumeeha ge hero” whenever its administration has failed its people. Whether it is former Gender Minister Shidhatha failing to keep the abused children safe, or former Communications Minister Maleeh failing to keep his promises of cheaper internet.
Of course, they are not failures of MDP, they would never be popularized as incompetence or corruption of a political party that capitalizes on being relatable to ordinary citizens.
Nasheed’s tweet shows a clear-cut attempt at distancing himself and the party from a major government scandal that drained thousands of taxpayer money and had very much created this corruption, to begin with. There is no accountability for this administration, there is only deflecting blame and preparing the next scapegoat for slaughter.
Almost Over, What Are the Citizens Left With?
It seems that we are at the climax of this defining scandal. With a couple of individual resignations and a few held accountable, the administration will soon bury this story among the mass graves of incompetencies and corruption we have seen. MDP has proved itself to be a master at spinning stories and isolating itself whenever a scandal dims its brand.
However, the public outcry against the scandal has especially been pronounced on Social Media, many calling to reveal the 11 names of the accused.
And aside from our dangerously under-resourced public health sector, if there is anything we have learned from this deadly pandemic, it has been that corruption will run rampant in every inch of the country’s projects. The pandemic has also been revealing of a growing number of fed-up working-class citizens disgruntled at the incompetence of a failing government.