Ministry threatens to reclaim leased uninhabited islands

Uninhabited islands leased for agriculture, fisheries or research purposes will be reclaimed if work is not being done in accordance with agreements, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has warned in a circular (Dhivehi) yesterday (August 17).

The ministry explained that the islands were leased after evaluating proposals and accompanying work plans while agreements signed with the lease holders are treated in line with the Contracts Act of 1991.

Work was not being conducted in most leased islands in accordance with the work plans, the circular stated, adding that reports were also not being submitted regularly as stipulated by the agreements.

Moreover, the ministry often faced difficulties sending documents to lease holders as some no longer resided in the given addresses, the circular noted.

If corrective measures were not taken within a 3-month period to carry out work in accordance with the submitted plan, the ministry warned that legal action would be taken under contract law.

Last week, the ministry decided not to renew the lease of Laamu Baresdhoo, an uninhabited island leased to Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa company for agriculture.

Moreover, the fisheries ministry gave a 30-day notice to reclaim a plot of land in Gaaf Dhaal Hoadehdhoo leased to Gasim’s Horizons Fisheries.

According to the ministry, more than 60 islands were leased in the past for a period of 20 or 21 years.

At a press briefing yesterday, Deputy Minister Khursheed Thowfeek revealed that the ministry was in the process of formulating new rules for leasing uninhabited islands.

Khursheed also revealed that the decision not to renew the lease for Baresdhoo was made after the President’s Office informed the ministry that island has been designated for tourism development.

The ministry was in talks with Villa over extending the lease when a letter from the President’s Office was sent, he noted.

“So what we do? In truth, islands are only in our care for a very short period. When the Maldivian government decides that a particular ministry wants islands for a particular purpose, we have to hand over the islands,” he said.