MVK to protest against GMR following eviction of Alpha MVKB duty free shop

MVK Maldives is organising a protest against airport developer GMR at 8:30pm on Thursday evening in Male’, following the eviction of the company’s duty free shop from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

“We are just demonstrating our opinions and dislike of what GMR has done to us and to get public responses,” said MVK CEO Ibrahim Shafeeq.

The protest comes after the High Court upheld an earlier Civil Court ruling that GMR’s termination of its contract with Alpha MVKB Duty-Free was lawful.

The High Court noted that GMR gave notice on March 1 and, as per the agreement, the contract terminated on March 31. As no party could extend the termination notice, the court concluded that MVK had no right to remain at the airport without approval from GMR. Alpha MVKB was originally leased for 10 years under an agreement between MVK and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), with a one month termination clause, the court noted.

On December 4, GMR officials began dismantling a temporary wall outside the Alpha shop and packing up the shop’s contents. Customs officials intervened to oversee the management of the shop goods, which included alcohol products.

Shafeeq claimed that GMR’s actions were “unprofessional”, and he further demanded an apology from Minivan News claiming that its coverage of GMR’s eviction of Alpha MVKB had damaged his reputation.

“What GMR has done is without my permission and without consultation of Customs. They broke into our premises and were stealing our goods and we don’t know where they are now,” he alleged.

“They ransacked the place, we don’t know what they did with the goods, they are under Customs’ purview. We don’t know where the goods are.”

Asked what he hoped to achieve at tomorrow’s protest, Shafeeq replied “Achieve? To get the public opinion on whether we are right, or they are wrong.”

A petition is currently being circulated to register public support for MVK’s cause. The Alpha shop’s General Manager Ahmed Nazim told Haveeru that 30 such papers have been set up outside the MVK office at the Carnival area.

MVK was reported in Haveeru as having provided financial backing to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Shafeeq confirmed the relationship, but said that the planned protest had no political connotations.

“This is nothing to do with any political party. It’s just with MVK employees and the people who are with MVK, who like us, and will sign a petition.”

MVK currently employs “close to 500 employees in Addu, Fuvahmulah, and Male’,” Shafeeq said.

“We are the major supplier for the Maldives hotel industry,” he claimed, adding that the company did not have plans to open another shop.

Pick up trucks with loudspeakers circled Male’ today calling on aiport employees and their families to join the protest.

GMR said the protest would not impact airport operations.

“We are continuing with business as usual, we have an airport to run and cannot stop our operations for this protest,” a spokesperson said.