Former President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed that the recent verdict by the Supreme Court of Singapore allowing the government to annul a development contract with infrastructure group GMR “justifies” the Maldivian government to “nationalise anything”.
Nasheed’s comments follow the handing over of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) from GMR to the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), after the Maldivian government voided the concession agreement.
Nasheed told Minivan News that the annulment was “very unfortunate” and highlighted that the government had “not only expelled the biggest foreign investment in the Maldives’ history”, but also created a “precedent” whereby nationalisation is acceptable.
“[The government] has created an avenue, or rather the verdict they got from Singapore Court, apparently justifies the government nationalising anything,” Nasheed added.
Prior to the eviction of GMR, arbitration proceedings were underway in Singapore over the contested airport development charge (ADC). GMR received a stay order on its eviction and appeared confident of its legal position even as the government declared that it would disregard the ruling and proceed with the eviction as planned.
On December 6, the Maldivian government successfully appealed the injunction in the Supreme Court of Singapore. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon declared that “the Maldives government has the power to do what it wants, including expropriating the airport.”
Minivan News has learned that senior Chinese military officials landed at the airport in the tense week leading up to the handover, even as India warned of “adverse consequences” should the government proceed with forceful eviction. The government has continued to dismiss such claims.
When asked about claims regarding China’s potential involvement, Nasheed said: “I am not aware of any involvement from the Chinese, but what is being suggested is that the coup government seems to have strength, or seemsto get strength, from somewhere, from someone else.”
“In a sense, it is also sad that India has felt that appeasing bigots and appeasing racists and appeasing ultra nationalism is going to help them or this country,” Nasheed added.
President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad responded to Nasheed’s comments, stating: “Nasheed is absolutely right, we have had some strength from another source. We have had British and Singaporean lawyers who found the contract to be ‘void ab initio’.”
With GMR having now been evicted from INIA, Masood stated that the Indian infrastructure giant and MACL were working “seamlessly together” over the airport hand over.
The verdict from the Singaporean Supreme Court effectively legalising the sovereign eviction of foreign investors regardless of contractual termination clauses or pending arbitration proceedings, was “completely unexpected”, according to one GMR insider – “the lawyers are still in shock”.
A last ditch request for a review of the decision was rejected, as was a second attempt at an injunction filed by Axis Bank, GMR’s lender to the value of US$350 million.
Following a meeting with its staff before the handover, GMR issued the following statement:
“In deference to the orders of the Court of Appeals, Singapore; GMR Male International Airport Ltd (GMIAL) will facilitate a smooth takeover of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by the Maldives Airport Company Ltd (MACL), effective midnight tonight.
GMIAL has been assured that as a result of this takeover all its employees, suppliers and other interested parties will not be put to any inconvenience. GMIAL remains committed to finding a suitable solution to this situation. We are taking requisite steps to work out the compensation receivable from the Government of Maldives, keeping in mind the judgement of the aforementioned court and the concession agreement dated 28th June 2010.
All actions as above are without prejudice to our legal rights and statements made before various courts/tribunals where matters are currently being pursued or likely to be taken up.”