The only option for “reclaiming the airport from GMR” is to invalidate or cancel the concession agreement with the Indian infrastructure giant, argues Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader and Special Advisor to the President, Dr Hassan Saeed, in a new book (Dhivehi) released on Monday.
The book, titled: “Loss and challenges of the long-term leasing of Male’ international airport to GMR” was launched at a ceremony on Monday at the government-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the DQP.
The booklet covers various issues surrounding the concession agreement awarding management and development of the international airport to a consortium of GMR Infrastructure Limited and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), alleged purported national security threats, economic and financial damages and undue advantages for the consortium.
Speaking at the book launching ceremony, Home Minister Jameel said it was the duty of the most capable people in the country to step forward and help “liberate” the nation from “grave problems” during the current “difficult times”.
Jameel claimed the former DQP presidential candidate’s book would reveal a number of facts that the Maldivian people were unaware of before the signing of the agreement.
The Home Minister added that he hoped ongoing efforts by the coalition of parties supporting the current government would yield results.
Dr Hassan Saeed was not responding to calls by Minivan News at time of press.
In his book, Saeed laid out three choices for the government: continuing the agreement in its current form, resolving disputes through dialogue or invalidating the agreement.
The DQP leader contended that cancelling the agreement and nationalising the airport would be the beneficial course of action for the nation.
“There is little hope that GMR would implement changes brought to the agreement through dialogue,” Saeed wrote. “GMR will change what is written in the agreement in black and white any time it pleases. For example, although the agreement states that 27 percent of from oil revenue must be paid to the state, it has been changed. GMR knows very well the skill to change the minds of the government of the day and its senior officials.”
Saeed further claimed that the concession agreement posed dangers to national security, in addition to being contrary to public interest and violating the constitution, the Public Finance Act and the Companies Act.
If the airport was not nationalised in the near future, since all parties in the ruling coalition opposed the deal, Saeed argued that the presidential election in 2013 would become “a referendum” on annulling the agreement.
Saeed claimed that GMR would donate large sums of money to parties in favour of keeping the agreement in place.
Conceding that cancelling the agreement would strain relations with India, Saeed contended that the move would be beneficial in the long-term to both countries.
Saeed compared cancelling the deal to “taking bitter medicine to cure a disease” or “amputating an organ to stop the spread of cancer.”
The book also likened GMR to the Indian Borah traders expelled from the Maldives by former President Ibrahim Nasir.
Meanwhile, in June this year, a delegation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on the private sector in developing countries – met with senior government officials to address concerns over the concession agreement.
On the bidding process, which was organised by the IFC and “evaluated based on the payment of an upfront fee as well as annual concession fees as a percentage of gross revenues to the government”, a document by the organisation explained that, “Each bidder was required to demonstrate that it had the requisite experience in developing, designing, constructing, operating, and financing airports of a similar size.
“The technical solutions proposed by the bidders were also expected to consider the specific conditions on Hulhulé Island, including its physical and environmental constraints, and the coordination required between conventional aviation activities, seaplanes, and motor boats.
“The cornerstone of the project was the construction of a new passenger terminal expected to meet LEED silver criteria and to be carbonneutral—i.e., to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions through the use of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies, and minimize water consumption. The bidders were also asked to make specific, predefined improvements to the existing airport infrastructure, and to manage all core airport services, including the provision of fuel—a historically established role at Malé airport.”
However, in early September, the government accused the IFC of negligence during the bidding process for INIA – allegations there were rejected by the organisation amidst continued calls from government-aligned parties to renationalise the airport.
Both the government and GMR are presently involved in an arbitration case in Singapore over the airport development.
In August, Dr Hassan Saeed released a book in English entitled, “Democracy betrayed: behind the mask of the island President”.
Speaking to local media at the book’s launch at the studios of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV), DQP Secretary General Abdullah Ameen said the book detailed reasons why former President Nasheed had to resign on February 7.
Ameen added that the reasons mentioned in the book included the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and allegations that Nasheed wished to “destroy the values of Islam” in the country.
In the months leading up to the controversial transfer of power on February 7, the DQP published a pamphlet titled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.
In an interview with UK’s the Guardian newspaper recently, Saeed said the charges were justified. “You look at his behaviour, his actions, you have to come to that conclusion,” Saeed said.
The Nasheed administration had slammed the publication at the time for containing “extremist, bigoted and hate-filled rhetoric”. The pamphlet and religious-based allegations also led to successive attempts by the Nasheed administration to arrest two senior members of the party and sparked a debate on freedom of expression and hate speech in the Maldives.
Saeed was also a co-author of the book Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam, which discussed the issue of apostasy in Islam and stirred controversy during the 2008 presidential election.