The National Movement has accused the government of obstructing its plans to celebrate the anniversary of the termination of the airport development contract with Indian company GMR.
The movement claims that, despite having obtained written permission from the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure to use the Artificial Beach area last weekend, authorisation was later revoked.
Previous National Movement rallies have been held at the same location.
Since taking power last month, the current administration has launched a charm offensive in an attempt to repair strained bilateral relations with its northern neighbour. President Abdulla Yameen is scheduled to visit New Delhi later this month,with Indian media reporting the likely reopening of a much needed standby credit facility.
The self-titled National Movement consists of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Civil Coalition umbrella group which claims to represent several civil society organisations.
The movement was born out of the December 23 coalition – an alliance of several political parties including the now-ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party, along with the Civil Coalition. The PPM later left the National Movement in December 2012, after members criticised current President – then PPM’s parliamentary group leader – Abdulla Yameen.
The group has reportedly shared a statement with local media in which it is said to have criticised the current government for inhibiting the movement’s efforts to mark the one year anniversary of “having successfully brought the Maldivians’ airport back into Maldivian hands”.
In the statement, the movement alleges that the government had given multiple warnings not to not celebrate the anniversary.
“We are deeply saddened that the current government has obstructed the joyous event of celebrating the first anniversary of freeing the Maldivian people’s airport, finally to the extent we are simply unable to hold any celebrations at all on the occasion.”
“We further believe that the actions of the government have created reason for us to believe that there is a hidden agenda behind it all,” the statement read, as quoted in local media.
The National Movement however stated that they would still be holding a celebratory event, giving Thursday as a tentative date – the group has not yet announced a venue.
Deputy Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Abdulla Muhthalib stated that the ministry had not received any requests from an entity called the ‘National Movement’.
“We did, however, get a letter from a political party seeking permission to use the Artificial Beach grounds for an event last weekend. The letter did not specify what the event will be. We did grant this permission,” he said.
“However, based on the fact that we have received complaints that people besides those we grant permission to have been using the allocated area, we decided to retract the permission and halt providing the location to anyone until after we compose guidelines on how such areas can be used. We have neither received nor rejected any requests by National Movement,” Muhthalib explained.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News today that “it is not in this government’s policies to obstruct any citizens from demonstrating within the boundaries of law. I have spoken to media several times about these allegations against us by National Movement and I believe we have been answerable enough by now. It is pointless to talk about the matter too much anyway.”
Muaz has previously told local media that there is “no use to talk about having taken back the airport from GMR an year ago” and that the government will not support a gathering to mark the same.
Despite the PPM formerly being a member of the National Movement, Muaz alleged that the organisation “is not even a registered group, as far as I know.”
He described the matter as “an issue that arose between a Maldivian government-owned company and an Indian company”, adding that the matter has since been resolved.
GMR has taken the premature termination of its contract to a Singaporean court of arbitration where it is claiming US$1.4billion in compensation.
“I see no reason why this matter needs to be brought up and discussed again. The two governments [Maldivian and Indian goverments] are conducting several discussions in the interests of the Maldivian people. The government sees no reason why the GMR matter needs to be taken up again at a time when we are making progress with India, and we don’t support such efforts. This is, however, not to say that we will obstruct freedom of expression,” Muaz is quoted as saying.
Members of the National Movement, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla and National Unity Party Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza had their phones switched off at the time of press.