The Maldives government has called for a cessation of work on the new airport terminal by Indian infrastructure group GMR, over allegations the company has “violated rules and regulations” regarding the construction.
President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza confirmed to Minivan News that the cabinet, acting on information provided by the Transport Ministry, had requested that building work on the new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) be halted.
“When the government decides that a project be stopped, we will make sure this happens,” he said. “GMR have not discussed the construction with relevant authorities.”
Abbas did not clarify if the alleged violation of rules and regulations by the company was related to previous reports that construction on the project commenced last month without obtaining construction permits from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Transport and Communications Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed was not responding to calls at the time of press.
A GMR spokesperson said today that the company itself had received no letter or communications calling for a halt to work.
However, local media has reported that the cabinet opted on Tuesday (July 24) to call for a “temporarily halt” on work on the terminal, over claims GMR had not acquired necessary authorisation and permit approval from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority.
GMR told Haveeru earlier earlier this month that terminal construction had been approved in an existing master-plan agreed with the government. The company has pledged that it will open by July 2014, “irrespective” of outside issues.
Addressing the matter of GMR’s construction work earlier this month, the government at the time claimed that the permit was “not a huge issue” and was believed to have resulted from an error by contractors presently working on the airport’s construction.
The development of the airport – expected by the company to total US$511m in costs – is the largest foreign investment project undertaken in the Maldives’ history and includes commitments to renovate INIA’s existing terminal by September both in terms of operational efficiency and customer services, according to GMR.
With contractors already having begun work on the new structure in June, the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed has previously stressed that it would not seek to interfere or “disturb” the project that officially commenced back in November 2010 under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
However, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas previously claimed that the long-term prospects of the construction ultimately depended on GMR validating the legality of their contract – a document that was overseen by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC is a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector in developing countries.
Abbas added that should the (now government party controlled) parliament also decide on nationalising the airport in line with the wishes of certain pro-government parties to take back the project from GMR, then the present administration would have to comply with such a decision.
The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan comprises a coalition of former opposition parties that represent the majority of elected representatives. The now-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presently has 29 MPs in the Majlis, the largest number of MPs belonging to a single party.
Several pro-government parties – including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), People’s Alliance (PA) and Jumhoree Party (JP) – advised President Waheed last month that they continued to endorse an agreement signed in June 2010 calling for the airport to be taken back from GMR and nationalised.
The agreement endorsed six main points which included taking legal action to prevent the government’s decision to award the contract to GMR.