Presidential Spokesman Backtracks On Comments Made To Minivan News

Sunday, 6 July 2008 14:28

The presidential spokesman on Saturday officially denied comments made to Minivan News after he was reported as saying government was looking into “serious allegations” against tourism minister Dr Mahmoud Shaugee.

Spokesman Mohamed Hussein Shareef (Mundhu) was quoted as saying to Minivan News editor Judith Evans that the president’s office had been looking into allegations against Shaugee “for a couple of days”.

The remarks came in response to a question about Shaugee’s resignation, according to Evans. Sources close to the minister indicate he tendered his resignation from the cabinet on Wednesday.

The statement from the president’s office reads that “the Presidential Spokesperson wishes to clarify comments and erroneous references taken from the press interview,” which it later says were “taken out of context” in an “attempt to assassinate the character of senior officials”.

One comment, the statement says, was “in response to malicious allegations against Minister Shougee. These comments were denied.”

However, Evans says the issue of allegations was first raised by Mundhu, who said: “There were some issues regarding Shaugee – some allegations sprang up […] They are serious allegations. They have been some issues for a couple of days we’ve been looking at.”

Evans says the statement also contains direct fabrications, such as the assertion Mundhu had told her “spurious allegations levelled at ministers and other senior officials must be supported with ample evidence”.

“I reject the statement from the President’s Office,” Evans said. “We aim to provide accurate, balanced coverage, and this article was no exception. As the official spokesperson of the president, Mundhu should take responsibility for his remarks made in this capacity.”

Shaugee on Saturday told Minivan News: “It would not be appropriate for me to say that one or another is telling the truth. If it is something Mundhu has said, he will know the truth.

“I don’t want to think further about it as it would destroy the assumptions I hold. If he [Mundhu] has said it he should be responsible for uttering those words,” he added.

Shaugee said he did not wish to comment on reports of his resignation. He has been Tourism Minister since 2005.

In addition to Minivan News, local paper Miadhu reports sources saying Shaugee has resigned, adding: “According to the source the President has discussed the matter with him and has yet to accept Dr. Shaugy’s resignation”.

In June 2007, local media accused Shaugee of irregularities in the leasing of the Kaafu atoll Vaadhoo resort to Sri Lankan firm Aitken Spence, but no evidence was produced against him and no action taken.

In the past two years, the government has deported two contributors to Minivan News, Adam Cooper and Phillip Wellman.

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