The Malaysian government has expressed “disappointment” at the scrapping of the Maldives’ “legitimate” contract with the GMR-Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad consortium.
Indian media reported that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was scheduled to visit New Delhi towards the end of the week and would likely be discussing the matter with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Malaysia’s Consul General in Chennai, Citra Devi Ramiyah, told reporters in Delhi that it was too early to speculate whether MAHB would seek compensation from the Maldivian government, which voided the GMR-MAHB concession agreement and ordered the company to leave by December 7.
The government had earlier dismissed a stay order for the eviction granted by the arbitrators – the Singapore High Court – as an affront to the country’s sovereignty. A day before the end of the seven day notice period, the injunction was dropped on appeal after Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of the Supreme Court of Singapore declared that “the Maldives government has the power to do what it wants, including expropriating the airport.”
Ramiyah told reporters that the Maldivian government had shown its intention “to do the project on its own and [was] willing to compensate financially. So, it is very early for us to comment.”
Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Seri Mustapa Mohamad was more concerned, according to the Economic Times, and expressed hope that the Maldives would reconsider its decision to evict the investors.
“In Male we have enjoyed very close ties with the previous government for many years. The Maldives is 100 per cent Muslim country. Of course, with the new government the lesson for us is we should be more careful, more due diligent,” Mohamad said.
“We want our investments to be protected. There was a legitimate contract signed. We are disappointed,” he added.
GMR meanwhile handed over the duty free stores today after being ordered to do so by the government.
“GMR has vacated the duty free shops at the airport. So since they’ve cleared their goods, no services will be provided from the shops,” Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) Rahmathullah Ashraf told local media.
Andrew Harrison, CEO of GMR Male International Airport – GMR’s side of the voided airport development – dismissed claims in local media that the company had “stripped” the duty free store ahead of the handover.
“We were asked to close duty free by the 17th. It is not true we have stripped duty free. We have destocked and in some cases returned goods to suppliers, or found buyers through appropriate customs procedures,” Harrison said.
GMR had sought a smooth transition after being ordered to handover the airport “as we did not want passengers or carriers to suffer,” he said. “The only area left where we [were] active was duty free.”
GMR staff had begun returning to India, particularly those involved in the construction of the new terminal after the cancellation of the contracts to build it, he said.
The government has not yet declared what it intends to do with the foundations of the abandoned terminal project, built on 60 hectares of reclaimed land on the other side of the airport island.