The opposition coalition against airport privatisation has announced the four opposition parties – including the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Jumhoree Party (JP), People’s Alliance (PA) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) – will draft a bill governing “operations and rules” at Male’ International Airport.
A statement issued by the coalition said the draft bill would be presented to parliament this week.
“We will not hesitate to take action against those who violated the law in leasing Male’ International Airport, a state asset, to [Indian infrastructure firm] GMR for 25 years,” said the statement.
“We assure the people of the Maldives that we stand steady and go forward on this issue.’’
The opposition parties – which strongly oppose the government’s decision to upgrade the airport under a 25 year management contract to the GMR-Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) consortium – have not yet revealed whether the bill will oppose the deal outright, or restrict its operations in some way.
DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said the contents of the bill would be disclosed on conclusion of the drafting process, but said he believed the bill’s object “is not to utterly obstruct the leasing of the international airport.”
Leader of the DQP Dr Hassan Saeed refused to comment to Minivan News on the issue.
According to a report in Haveeru, the DQP’s Deputy Leader Dr Mohamed Jameel told the newspaper in a statement that the bill’s objective was to ensure the airport was “managed by the government or a [Maldivian] company assigned by the government. The aim is to prevent [the government] from giving the airport to a foreign party. The bill will specify everything very clearly,” he said.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said opposition coalition had proved they had vested interests concerned concerning the lease of the airport, and “have shown they are not working not in the interests of the nation, but rather their own self-interest.”
”When the first announced the proposal and published it locally and internationally, no person expressed concern or protested against it,” said Zuhair. ”Because the government did not receive [acceptable bids], the government requested proposals a second time, this time with the assistance of the World Bank.”
Opposition parties were silent throughout, he said, and expressed disapproval “only when the transaction had reached its final stages.”
Zuhair queried the coalition’s claims that leasing the airport compromised the country’s nationalism: “It is only the management of the Airport that we are handing over to GMR – the water company is operated the same way, and so far no one has complained about that. It just shows how insincere the opposition are being.”
The GMR-MAHB consortium will spend US$373 million upgrading the international airport after winning the controversial bid. Last week it held workshops with airport staff and stakeholders to determine what would be required.
Speaking at the opening of the cavernous Delhi Terminal 3, GMR Manager P Sri Pathi told Maldivian journalists that physical work would begin on the airport towards the end of this year.