President Abdulla Yameen has said that the compensation proposed by GMR for an out-of-court settlement is too big and the government does not believe that it has to be paid.
“GMR is seeking a very big compensation. We, the government, do not believe that we can pay such an amount, or that it is necessary to pay it. So now we are facing [the issue of] unmatching numbers,” Yameen was quoted as saying in local media.
Yameen suggested that the large compensation being sought is the reason the parties have failed to reach an out-of-court settlement.
Both sides are now awaiting the conclusion of the arbitration, revealed Yameen, and further discussions will continue afterwards if it is necessary. He did not reveal the amount proposed for an early settlement.
Proceedings of the arbitration case, in which GMR is seeking US$1.4 billion as compensation for the abrupt termination of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) contract, has already begun in Singapore.
Last week the government appointed sitting Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Saeed as a legal expert in the arbitration case, with the Saeed promptly travelling to Singapore.
According to the Judges Act, however, any judge leaving the country to take part in a judiciary or law-related event should first obtain special permission from the independent Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Sheikh Shuaib Abdurahman – one of the two members legally required to give consent for such a trip – has said said he was unaware of Judge Abdulla Saeed’s departure, though the Attorney General’s office has told local media that all necessary permissions were acquired.
The Maldives’ legal team includes Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil, Deputy AG Ahmed Usham, and a team of experts from Singapore and the UK.
Haveeru has reported that GMR hired former Sri Lankan Attorney General Mohamed Shibly Aziz, former Maldivian Deputy Solicitor General Ibrahim Riffath, and Maldivian lawyer Fayaz Ismail to assist them in matters related to the Maldivian legal system.
The AG’s Office is now looking into Riffath’s involvement in the case, stating that he could have accessed privileged information when working at the office during the cancellation of the GMR agreement and several other GMR related cases before that.
The office has noted that information obtained through holding such a position cannot be utilised in such circumstances.
The AG’s Office earlier stated that the Maldives would be represented by Singapore National University Professor M. Sonaraja, while former Chief Justice of the UK Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips were to represent GMR.
The arbitrator – mutually agreed upon by both GMR and the Government of Maldives – is retired senior UK Judge Lord Leonard Hubert Hoffman.
Legal experts are expected to present their opinions to the arbitration panel today, local media has reported, while the process is expected to continue until Wednesday.
Airport development plans
The government owned Maldives Airports Company Limited which took over the airport’s management from GMR after the cancellation of the agreement, is now planning further development.
A US$5 million work project to develop ground handling at INIA was announced in January, with more plans to be announced in the near future based on a revised version of the previously compiled Scott Wilson airport development master plan.
Since assuming office President Yameen has made repeated assurances that the country is safe for foreign investors, calling for new developers from the Arab-Muslim countries in particular.
“The thrust of the government is to welcome foreign investment, and to assure all investors that your investment – your money – is safe with us, and your stay here in Maldives is going to be conducive for you”, Yameen said earlier this month at a housing project inauguration in Hulhumalé.
The president yesterday shared the government’s INIA development plans with a delegation of Singapore’s Changi Airport Group and Changi Airport International in a meeting at the President’s Office, although a subsequent press release did not specify the exact reasons for the visit.
During the forum, the government’s development plans and projects will be revealed to international corporate and individual investors. One of the key five projects being scheduled for presentation is the the development of INIA.
Earlier this month Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc – 45 percent of whose shares are held by the government – sold Herethera Island Resort in Addu City for US$33 million to Singapore’s Canaries Private Ltd.