Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Adbulla has said that the people of the Maldives will celebrate the liberation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on the first anniversary of the resignation of the previous government – February 7, 2013, local media has reported.
The comments were made at a press conference held by a coalition of NGOs and political parties opposed to the deal with the Indian infrastructure company GMR – signed by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration – to develop and manage the country’s international airport.
Imran predicted there would be “some unrest and damage” on the day the deal is annulled, but urged people to come out and support the calls for nationalisation – although the GMR deal is actually a 25 year lease arrangement and the airport still belongs to the government.
Minivan News was unable to gain further comment from the Adhaalath Party members at the time of press.
Imran said the Maldivian population would be able to endure economic hardship should the deal be annulled, before threatening “a completely different activity” should the government fail to resolve the issue to the coalition’s satisfaction.
“February 7 this year should suffice to make this clear [to the government],” Imran was quoted as saying by Haveeru.
“We were talking about a particular thing and a particular person completed it. Therefore, when the Maldivian people carry out these activities, too, in a certain way, the people who completes it will decide it a certain way. I hope the President has the courage, ability and steadfastness to take such a measure on behalf of the people,” he continued.
Imran’s comments are symptomatic of the incendiary rhetoric surrounding the airport, the nationalisation of which the Adhaalath Party has previously described as a “national jihad”.
The Civil Coalition of NGOs joined with the seven now-government aligned parties to campaign against the former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led administration, most famously gathering on December 23 last year to defend Islam against what it perceived as irreligious tendencies in the Nasheed government.
The Coalition explained that it was to conduct a week of activities between November 3 – 9 in opposition to the deal, referred to as “airport week”, rather than the mass protest that had previously been planned.
Sun Online reported that the decision had been made owing to clashes with school exams and the government’s plans to celebrate the anniversary of 1988’s attempted coup on November 3.
The paper also reported that the week would be accompanied by the launching of songs and a special logo in support of the movement.
A large balloon has appeared in recent days over the skies of Male’ reading “GMR go home.”
However, previous attempts to organise demonstrations in opposition to the development met with disappointing results when a September protest was poorly attended.
One government-aligned party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), refused to join the September protest, arguing that the dispute ought to be resolved through the courts.
DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has previously expressed his concerns that reneging on the GMR deal might have detrimental effects on investor confidence in what is already a perilous financial situation for the Maldives.
Abdulla Jabir, Deputy Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), has also been vocal about the economic impact of politicising the deal, criticising the Adhaalath Party.
“Sometimes they are religious experts, sometimes they are financial experts. But everyone loves Islam here. Right now, foreign investors are finding it difficult to understand the climate here,” Jabir told Minivan News earlier this month.
“This is not a perfect time for this issue to be happening with GMR,” he added. “I think these protests [against GMR] are unrealistic.”
The JP were, however, represented at the press conference, with State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Fuad Gasim reportedly suggesting that senior government figures were being pressured into silence over the deal.
Official government opposition to the deal is currently taking the form of investigations of the $511million deal via the country’s Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) as well as through a Singapore court of arbitration as agreed in the original contract.
However, the Attorney General has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the matter might be dealt with within the Maldivian court system.
Earlier this month, INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Indian media that the company had received no official word from the Maldivian government concerning a resolution to the dispute.