The education ministry has suspended a school teacher from the island of Kanduhulhudhoo in Gaafu Alif atoll over a poem deemed offensive towards First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim.
Ashraf Abdullah, a leading teacher at the Kanduhulhudhoo school, was reprimanded over a poem he wrote that was read by a parent at an event held earlier this month to mark Children’s Day.
The poem featured a Maldivian folktale she-demon called Santhi Mariyanbu who lugs around a sack of teeth. It recounted a nightmare in which the poor could not afford to pay goods and services tax after the monster finished removing teeth.
The education ministry spokesman said that the ministry was not aware of the incident, but added that details would not be revealed to the media in case of such suspensions.
A source familiar with the incident told the Maldives Independent that Ashraf was suspended for a month after the Kanduhulhudhoo island council complained to the authorities in Malé.
“In an item presented by the parents, they spoke ill of the government and [First Lady] Madam Fathun,” newspaper Mihaaru quoted from a letter sent by Shazna Hassan, the council’s vice president, to the education ministry.
A parent who spoke to the Maldives Independent on the condition of anonymity said the school’s principal had stopped the poem’s recital halfway by seizing the microphone and forcing the parent who was reading it off the stage.
“Some people assumed it was critical of the government because the poem talked about GST and how expensive things are now,” the parent explained.
“But the poem was just a satirical take on modern life using a character from folklore. The poem had nothing that characterised Madam Fathun.”
The poem has since been circulating on social media.
The first lady, known as Madam Fathun, has stirred controversy with the activities of her campaign office and charity organisation, most recently by distributing medicine and influenza vaccine during a severe flu outbreak in March.
She previously came under fire for distributing cash to the chronically ill at the hospital and during visits to households in Malé. In early January, the anti-graft watchdog ruled out corruption in the distribution of dates gifted by Saudi Arabia under the name of her charity.
The Children’s Day event meanwhile took place on May 11.
Following the ruling coalition’s defeat in the May 6 local council elections, local media reported that lawmakers from the Progressive Party of Maldives complained to President Yameen about civil servants who were openly critical of the government.
Several lawmakers told Mihaaru that the president was urged to take action.
“For example, when a nurse or a teacher openly raises her voice against the government, it is questionable whether she could provide a good service. So the MPs had such concerns,” an unnamed lawmaker was quoted as saying.
An ambulance driver from the island of Milandhoo in Shaviyani atoll was also fired in late February over a Facebook post deemed to be disrespectful towards the first couple.