DOHA: The outgoing Nepalese Ambassador, Dr Maya Kumari Sharma (pictured), yesterday refuted media reports that she had described Qatar as an ‘open jail’ for workers or spoken to journalists from the Guardian newspaper and the BBC.
The reports are fabricated, Sharma told local journalists at her residence in the West Bay area in Doha. However, she admitted that she had met a group of Nepalese journalists six months ago but maintained that the meeting was unofficial.
She claimed that the Nepalese journalists had a “political agenda” against her, recorded the conversation without her knowledge and misquoted her in their reports. “I didn’t give any interview to the Guardian or the BBC. They approached me, and I discouraged any interview, but they collected information from my embassy and wrote against the embassy and me,” said Sharma.
“A group of Nepalese journalists had asked for permission to come and meet me, but I told them not to come, I told them that there is no permission from the Qatar News Agency, but I don’t know how they came.
“They asked me for an interview, but I refused, then they left and came back after eight days — a woman and a man. This happened six months ago.”
Sharma said her conversation with the journalists was edited to misquote her. “They kept the camera without my knowledge… They were talking to me casually but they were recording the conversation. They asked if Qatar was an open jail. Then I said yes but this is in your language (words) but in my words it’s Khafala, the legal system here, we should respect the Qatari law… However, after the word ‘but’ they cut (edited the conversation).”
Sharma admitted she had been recalled by the Nepalese government due to the controversial media reports and said she would leave Doha on Sunday.
Around 400,000 Nepalese workers are in Qatar, mostly employed in the construction sector.
Asked if the controversy about Nepalese workers would stop more workers from Nepal coming here, Sharma, after a pause, said: “No, I don’t think the Nepalese government will make such a decision.”
However, she claimed that Nepalese workers here faced several problems, and said, “189 have died, a majority of them due to cardiovascular arrest, and 16 committed suicide last year, and it’s a serious issue”.
She said the issue had been taken up with H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
“When I went to Wajba Palace for Eid, I spoke about the problems with Her Highness Sheikha Moza. I told her that so many Nepalese workers had died due to climatic conditions and workers cannot explain themselves to doctors as they cannot speak Arabic. Sheikha Moza listened to me seriously and asked me to come to her office, but I couldn’t meet her as she was busy with foreign visits,” said Sharma.
The ambassador stressed that relations between Qatar and Nepal were strong and Qatar had been providing a large number of opportunities for Nepalese workers.