Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – also a DRP MP – have dismissed allegations republished in local media that they each accepted bribes of US$1 million from Indian infrastructure giant GMR to stall parliament sittings until the GMR-Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) consortium took over management of Male’ International Airport.
Parliament Majority Leader Thasmeen dismissed the rumours as “a total fabrication” linked to opposing political agendas while Speaker Shahid said he had “never met [GMR officials] and never been offered anything.”
“These allegations originated in an internet site called the Dhivehi Post,” Thasmeen told Minivan News today. “If you go through it you can make a reasonable guess as to who they support.”
He added that the party’s opposition to the GMR airport deal had not changed as DRP signed an agreement with four opposition parties in parliament to oppose the leasing of the international airport.
Managing Director of GMR Male International Airport Limited P Sripathy described the claims as “totally false and baseless, and very disappointing and damaging to our reputation. We have never met any members of the opposition to date.”
“The GMR Group is in Male’ on serious business – to build a world class, benchmark airport that people of Male’ and the Group will be very proud of,” he added.
The rumours of the senior DRP officias accepting bribes from GMR surfaced in the Dhivehi Post blog earlier this month, a website that routinely refers to President Mohamed Nasheed as “bipolar” and “ganjabo” (marijuana smoker).
The DRP, DQP, JP and PA formed an opposition coalition in June to protest against the airport deal, on nationalistic grounds. Deputy Leader of the DRP Umar Naseer told Minivan News on June 28 that ” if [the operators] allowed it, an Israel flight can come and stop over after bombing Arab countries.”
The government has alleged that opposition to the airport deal stems from the “vested interests” of certain MPs, several of whom it arrested following the resignation of cabinet on June 29 in protest against the “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament.
The fuel trade is the most immediately lucrative part of the airport deal, Minivan News understands, and is a key reason behind both GMR’s interest and the government’s decision to award the contract to the Indian infrastructure giant. GMR has told Minivan News it will amalgamate the trade under one umbrella, a decision that will likely affect current third party suppliers.