Male’, Maldives – After becoming the center of of heavy social media criticism and the subject of a complaint filed to the Parliament, Minister Sheikh Imran Abdullah has put the blame on media, saying that the did not claim that sexual assault is a small issue and that it was the media which twisted his words.
The Minister came under fire after a program aired on a local radio channel ‘Dhivehi Raajjeyge Adu’ where he spoke on the ‘Safari Rape Case’, which took place during late June of 2020, where a Kenyan woman was sexually assaulted onboard a safari which was docked in the lagoon of Hulhumale’.
During the program, Minister Imran referred to the case and said, “About that, I will speak very truth fully. There are instances in dealing with them and releasing them, that are not within procedure. But when looked at the reality of the matter, in addition to the procedural issues, the public’s perception of the reality of the matter – I am telling the truth, when I heard the story, when it started spreading, even I imagined it as this huge rape case. But when I went and looked into the matter further, it is not easy for me to say exactly what happened in a place like this. But I can confidently say it is something which can happen in a public place, among people. And it is something that when it happens, people wouldn’t even know it happened.”
While his words implied that sexual assault is not a big issue, following public scrutiny and a letter by the team of lawyers representing the victim, to the Parliament, as an official complaint against the Minister, he has taken to Twitter to defend himself.
“Sexual assault or sexual harassment against a woman is not a small thing, it is a big issue, and neither have I said that it is a small matter either. The content being published by media about me misrepresent what I have said. I request all local journalists to maintain professionalism when reporting content. If anyone feels that what I said implied anything negative, I clarify that it was not my intent. And I apologize for any confusion.” His two tweet long thread regarding the subject said.
The ‘Safari Rape Case’ made international headlines after, Maldives Police Service had arrested two 39 year old males from the crime scene, only to release them citing that there was no probable cause to keep the pair in custody. Police also refrained from revealing the names of those who were arrested saying that it cannot be revealed during the course of the investigation, despite having done so in similar cases previously.
Following, this incident, public outrage sparked which later was followed by news that one of the perpetrators was the husband of an MP, as well as a relative of the President, calling them “royal people.” With this, protestors took to the streets of Male’ calling for justice to be served and against impunity. Furthermore, the Maldives Police Service had to face major public criticism after the lawyers of the victim who got sexually assaulted on a Safari docked in Hulhumale’ lagoon, shared a video of investigation officers mocking and talking about tempering the victim statement. However, they denied of any such wrong doing.
This is not the first time the public has outraged due to injustice regarding sexual assaulting in Maldives. In 2013, a 45-year-old named Ibrahim Rasheed who was charged for conducting sexual activities with a 17-year-old girl was slapped with a 10-year prison sentence. However, the sentence on Ibrahim was reduced after the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) came into power in November, 2018, where Imran became the Home Minister and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih became the President of Maldives. While Ibrahim was supposed to be released on 2023, President Solih reduced his 10-year sentence and released him on December 2018.