Former Minister of Transport Dr Ahmed Shamheed has criticised his removal from cabinet last year following the decision to extend the lease of Maamigili Airport by 99 years.
Shamheed has claimed that he was dismissed by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik following the approval of the airport lease extension because the president wanted to take credit for the decision. The lease was given at the time to the Chairman of Villa Group, Gasim Ibrahim.
Last month, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) began an investigation into the 99-year lease of the airport. According to the ACC President, Hassan Luthfee, the investigation is still ongoing.
Despite the investigation, President Waheed inaugurated Maamigili Airport last week (February 28).
Shamheed claimed that the decision to extend the airport lease had been made whilst former President Mohamed Nasheed had been in power, and that the decision was not one he had made on his own.
“It was the economic committee who had decided on the lease, I never decided on my own. It was initiated by the committee actually, that is how it started,” Shamheed alleged to Minivan News.
“It do not think it was the 99-year lease that was the problem, I heard from people close to him that he thought he should be the one making the decision. He thought he should take the credit for that.”
Shamheed was nominated to his former ministerial post by the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) – of which Gasim is the party’s president.
Speaking back in November 2012, the former transport minister told local media that the documents to extend the airport lease for 99 years had been sent to the transport ministry by Nasheed’s government.
“The current government delayed the matter. The president government only endorsed the decision. It was decided by the NPC [National Planning Council] during the former government,” he was quoted as saying in local newspaper Haveeru.
President Waheed inaugurated Villa International Airport in Maamigili Island in south Ari Atoll on February 28.
Speaking at the ceremony, Waheed thanked Chairman of Villa Group, Gasim Ibrahim, before stating that he was greatly honoured to inaugurate the airport.
The main objective of making the airport an international airport was to improve the country’s transport system and the tourism industry, Waheed said during the ceremony.