The religious Adhaalath Party called on President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and other coalition parties to not conduct any communication with Indian infrastructure giant GMR which might disrupt the government’s push for airport nationalisation.
This call comes in connection with the visit of GMR’s Chairman, G M Rao, and board members on Thursday.
Local newspaper reported that Rao and the delegation arrived on a private jet on Thursday morning at 9:00am, and had departed by 2:50pm in the afternoon.
CEO of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), Andrew Harrison, told Minivan News that the visit was part of a regular bimonthly business review and unrelated to the current rhetoric.
“They was never any intention [for the delegation] to meet anyone from the government. Media got hold of the manifest and drew conclusions,” he said.
A statement released by Adhaalath Party on Thursday stated that it did not accept that the GMR board being in the Maldives was a “coincidence”. The party called on the political and civil members of the coalition, which it described as being on a “national jihad” to nationalise the airport, to be cautious about the visit and to “fear Allah” in the interest of the nation and its people.
President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, on Wednesday rejected an invitation to meet with Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay. Imran is quoted in local media as saying that he did not accept the invitation because of “the current situation” regarding the GMR issue and because the High Commissioner had not explained the reasons behind the invitation.
Imran also said that his rejection was not based on animosity towards India, as the GMR issue was “only a disagreement between the Maldivian government and a private company”. He expressed his hope that the Indian government would not get involved in the matter.
A letter allegedly sent by GMR to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting intervention by the Indian government, was reported to have been leaked in August.
The Indian Minister of Civil Aviation Ajit Singh has also spoken with the Maldivian government about settling the disputes regarding the GMR contract.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Azima Shakoor has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the laws of the Maldives could be applied to the agreement with GMR concerning the development of INIA.
Airport CEO Harrison stated that the company saw no need to responding to nationalisation rhetoric aired in the media: “We’re waiting for the government to tell us what it wants. Otherwise its business as usual,” he said.
Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay was also not responding to calls.
GMR won a 25 year concession agreement to develop and manage the airport during the Nasheed administration. The opposition at the time challenged the government’s privatisation and threatened to renationalise the airport should it come to power.
Following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, the unity government under President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has swung between issuing reassurances within diplomatic circles that Indian investments in the country would be protected, while locally stepping up nationalisation rhetoric.