Maldivian government appeals stay order as GMR eviction deadline nears

The Maldivian government is appealing an injunction granted by the Singapore High Court halting its eviction of Indian infrastructure giant GMR from the Maldives pending the outcome of arbitration proceedings.

Minivan News understands that the hearing began at 10:00am this morning Singapore time, and is expected to take most of the day.

The government at the time denounced the injunction as an imposition on the country’s sovereignty. At a press conference hours after the stay order was granted by the Singapore High Court, Defence and Acting Transport Minister Mohamed Nazim pledged the government would “continue the airport takeover and Insha Allah from next Saturday onwards [the state-owned] Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) will be running the airport.”

“The government remains firm and committed towards implementing its decision to terminate the agreement. We will not reconsider it,” he said at the time.

The deadline for the government’s eviction of the Indian airport developer is midnight tomorrow (December 7).

GMR on Tuesday “categorically” refuted claims by the government to international media that it had agreed to vacate Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), following a meeting between airport CEO Andrew Harrison and Defence and Acting Transport

Harrison told Minivan News that Nazim had said that “no force would be used to take over the airport” and that “media reports that the MNDF would take over the airport are untrue.”

“Our position, which I communicated to them, remains crystal clear,” said Harrison. “The Singapore High Court has issued an injunction which clearly prevents MACL or the Government of Maldives or any of its agents from taking any action that interferes with GMIAL operating the airport.

“The injunction clearly prevents them from taking the action outlined in their notice issued to us stating that the airport would be taken over at the end of the seven day period. We remain resolute in our position and there is no question of an offer being made and certainly no question of any alleged offer being accepted as we will simply not agree to our rights nor the injunction being undermined in any way.”

The Civil Aviation Authority has however informed the developer that its aerodrome certificate will be withdrawn at 23:59 on December 7, without which GMR has acknowledged it cannot operate the airport. The impending stalemate potentially has ramifications for tourism disruption at the start of the peak season.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Affairs Abdullah Mohamed was reported in local media as telling a press conference yesterday that “GMR has the opportunity to seek fair compensation if they are not satisfied with the government’s decision.”

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has meanwhile issued a statement calling on the Maldivian government to allow the “legal processes involved in the GMR case to take their own course based on the contractual obligations of the parties involved. The Maldivian government should not allow the situation to go out of hand.”

“In this context, it is expected that no arbitrary and coercive measures should be taken pending the outcome of the legal process underway. Resort to any such actions would inevitably have adverse consequences for relations between India and the Maldives,” the MEA Spokesperson said.

“We are concerned over reports from the Maldives about continuing violence and intimidation against elected representatives and expressions of radical sentiments. There is need to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and principles and tenets of democracy are maintained. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”