The Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) has advised President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to terminate the agreement with airport developer GMR “no matter the cost”, but asked the President to ensure public services were not affected.
The move follows a meeting between GMR’s Chairman, G M Rao, and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at a hospital in India where Gayoom’s wife was being treated, during which Gayoom expressed concerns over the contract on behalf of Maldivian citizens, reports local media.
Attorney General Azima Shakoor also this week asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the laws of the Maldives could be applied to the government’s agreement with GMR concerning the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
Shakoor and three other cabinet ministers also held a press conference accusing the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) of “negligence” and behaving “irresponsibly” in its handling of the bid under the former government.
On Tuesday, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told media of the contents of a letter sent by President Waheed to the party, informing it that, while the current agreement was not the most beneficial for the country, any attempt to terminate the agreement would result in a huge financial burden on the government.
According to Thasmeen, Waheed’s letter went on to say that, owing to the economic condition of the Maldives, it would be extremely difficult to make the payment of US$700 million needed to terminate the agreement with GMR.
Waheed further advised that cancelling the agreement may have negative effects on the perception of the Maldives as a favourable destination for foreign investors. It highlighted the President’s concerns about the impact such a move may have on foreign relations, specifically the country’s relationship with India.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said he was not aware such a letter had been sent.
DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that the party had earlier asked to the government to clarify the legality and validity of the agreement with GMR.
“If the agreement is not legally valid, then that is it. The airport will be back in the hands of the Maldivians. Even if it turns out to be a valid agreement, there is still an exit clause in it,” Mausoom said.
Mausoom said the party calls on the government to investigate whether there was any corruption in making the contract with GMR, and to have the concerned authorities look into any cases that may come up. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is currently investigating the deal.
“DRP holds on to the stand that we want the airport to be nationalised. All this loss is being caused by (former President) Nasheed’s blunder. We do not wish further hardship on the Maldivian people. So we call on the government to go ahead and pay whatever it takes to terminate the agreement with GMR. They must however first ensure that public services will not be adversely affected through this,” Mausoom said.
Dr Mausoom subsequently contacted Minivan News to clarify that the DRP “calls on the government to proceed fast in checking legality of the contract with GMR and to provide an assessment of financial and other costs of terminating the agreement. DRP’s council will then decide on future actions to be taken.”
Mausoom said the DRP’s council would come to a decision on a course of action based on the government’s response to the party’s concerns.
The seven political parties currently in the national unity government – apart from the DRP – held a press briefing on Monday, announcing that they were officially starting work to nationalise the airport.
Explaining DRP’s decision not to participate in the joint press briefing, Mausoom told Minivan News that he felt that “yelling in groups” would not lead to any productive results.
“These parties have just gone in front of cameras and said whatever might get them some media coverage and headlines. They have no common agreement and contradict each other. The things they say in these places are not verified, and often later proved wrong. We aren’t interested in being part of a circus or showing off. As a responsible party, we did not want to participate in the press event,” Mausoom explained.
He further said, “We aim to do things under due procedure, and have called on the government to proceed at speed with the work, through the relevant institutions. Our party works to achieve results with national interest as our priority”.