Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader, MP, and chairman of the Villa Group of businesses, Gasim Ibrahim, denied in parliament today that he had spoken against the sale of shares of Addu International Airport (AIA) with the intention of buying shares himself. He claimed he had done so “in the best interests of Addu and the country.”
“If Gasim wanted shares, Gasim would have bid for them,” Gasim said in response to some MPs, who had alleged he was himself interested in buying the shares.
Referring to his offer in his letter to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to reclaim land for the project free of charge “using my own dredger, employees and machinery with the government only providing oil,” Gasim said that the costs of the work would come up to US$7 million.
“I am very concerned that they have gone ahead and sold the shares without even considering the offer of free aid of this size,” Gasim said.
Gasim further stated that although he did want to see the Addu airport developed, the shares had not been sold in the right manner, adding “things won’t go very well” due to how the shares had been given away.
JP MP Alhan Fahmy echoed Gasim’s statement that he, too, wished to see the Addu airport developed, but that he was concerned with how the sale of shares had been carried out. Fahmy said that 30 percent of shares being sold off for MVR 60 million (US$3.89 million) was “nothing but daylight robbery”.
“The shares have been sold far too cheaply. Our problem is that they’ve done this while there are many other ways obtain the funds needed for development,” Fahmy explained.
A number of MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) stated that the party supported the concept of privatisation, adding that the development of the Addu airport was originally an MDP initiated plan. They, too, however, expressed concerns over how the bidding process had been carried out.
MDP Parliamentary Group’s Deputy Leader Ali Waheed criticised Gasim Ibrahim for his “lack of conviction” when speaking about the issue in parliament.
Waheed said that Gasim had not dared to criticise the government even after it had sold the shares, despite Gasim’s allegations that major corruption had been involved in the deal.
Referring to Gasim’s common name “Buruma” (‘drill’), Waheed said, “There is no use for a drill without electricity”, alleging that the JP leader had been “too cowardly” to even speak of the issue openly during today’s parliamentary session.
“Cowards need not contest in the coming presidential elections,” Waheed further declared.
Gan Airport development to start in January: Shahid
MD of AIA and STO Shahid Ali said in a press briefing on Monday that the Addu Airport development work is set to begin in January.
Ali said that the pre-bid meetings had been held with the three shortlisted contractors and that the bids were scheduled to be submitted by November 28.
The development plans include an extension of the runway, repairing of the apron, placing an extra layer of tar on the runway and setting up a sea plane base.
He also stated that contrary to general speculation, the airport had not been “sold”, but rather shares from the company AIA that had been sold to KASA Holdings.
He also refuted allegations of corruption, saying that KASA Holdings had been given higher priority since it was a local company and that all proceedings had gone through the bidding process in a matter which was completely free of any corruption.
“It is often said now that 30 percent of the airport has been sold to a private party. The truth is that 100 percent of the land of Gan, the infrastructure of the airport and its facilities are with the government, because Gan Airport Ltd is a company which is 100 percent owned by the government. So all the assets are owned by them. Then this company has leased the airport to AIA for 50 years,” Ali explained.
Ali said that therefore it was clear that selling 30 percent of the shares of AIA, a joint company formed by the Gan Airport Ltd, STO and the Maldives Airports Company Ltd, was not a sale of the airport itself.
Leave politics aside
Addu City council has released a statement welcoming the signing of the contract which they said would lead to the development of the Addu airport.
The statement further notes “the importance of leaving politics aside and for the good of citizens in letting the venture bring positive changes to Addu’s economy.”
Meanwhile, MDP released a statement on Monday urging “not to let political feuds, political needs and power play interfere in important work directly related to the development of Addu City citizens, and generally all Maldivian citizens.”
The statement also condemned Gasim’s threats against Shahid Ali, stating “This party calls on political leaders to refrain from making unlawful threats through the greed for power and political wants.”
In a uncommon move, 18 citizens from Addu held a press conference on Monday, speaking in support of the Addu airport development.
The citizens welcomed the selling of shares to KASA Holdings, stating that it was not a sale of the airport itself. They further said that the citizens of Addu were happy that although the airport has so far remained the same, development work is scheduled to begin early next year.