Annulling GMR agreement “only option for reclaiming airport”: Dr Hassan Saeed

The only option for “reclaiming the airport from GMR” is to invalidate or cancel the concession agreement with the Indian infrastructure giant, argues Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader and Special Advisor to the President, Dr Hassan Saeed, in a new book (Dhivehi) released on Monday.

The book, titled: “Loss and challenges of the long-term leasing of Male’ international airport to GMR” was launched at a ceremony on Monday at the government-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the DQP.

The booklet covers various issues surrounding the concession agreement awarding management and development of the international airport to a consortium of GMR Infrastructure Limited and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), alleged purported national security threats, economic and financial damages and undue advantages for the consortium.

Speaking at the book launching ceremony, Home Minister Jameel said it was the duty of the most capable people in the country to step forward and help “liberate” the nation from “grave problems” during the current “difficult times”.

Jameel claimed the former DQP presidential candidate’s book would reveal a number of facts that the Maldivian people were unaware of before the signing of the agreement.

The Home Minister added that he hoped ongoing efforts by the coalition of parties supporting the current government would yield results.

Dr Hassan Saeed was not responding to calls by Minivan News at time of press.

In his book, Saeed laid out three choices for the government: continuing the agreement in its current form, resolving disputes through dialogue or invalidating the agreement.

The DQP leader contended that cancelling the agreement and nationalising the airport would be the beneficial course of action for the nation.

“There is little hope that GMR would implement changes brought to the agreement through dialogue,” Saeed wrote. “GMR will change what is written in the agreement in black and white any time it pleases. For example, although the agreement states that 27 percent of from oil revenue must be paid to the state, it has been changed. GMR knows very well the skill to change the minds of the government of the day and its senior officials.”

Saeed further claimed that the concession agreement posed dangers to national security, in addition to being contrary to public interest and violating the constitution, the Public Finance Act and the Companies Act.

If the airport was not nationalised in the near future, since all parties in the ruling coalition opposed the deal, Saeed argued that the presidential election in 2013 would become “a referendum” on annulling the agreement.

Saeed claimed that GMR would donate large sums of money to parties in favour of keeping the agreement in place.

Conceding that cancelling the agreement would strain relations with India, Saeed contended that the move would be beneficial in the long-term to both countries.

Saeed compared cancelling the deal to “taking bitter medicine to cure a disease” or “amputating an organ to stop the spread of cancer.”

The book also likened GMR to the Indian Borah traders expelled from the Maldives by former President Ibrahim Nasir.

IFC role

Meanwhile, in June this year, a delegation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on the private sector in developing countries – met with senior government officials to address concerns over the concession agreement.

On the bidding process, which was organised by the IFC and “evaluated based on the payment of an upfront fee as well as annual concession fees as a percentage of gross revenues to the government”, a document by the organisation explained that, “Each bidder was required to demonstrate that it had the requisite experience in developing, designing, constructing, operating, and financing airports of a similar size.

“The technical solutions proposed by the bidders were also expected to consider the specific conditions on Hulhulé Island,  including its physical and environmental constraints, and the coordination required between conventional aviation activities, seaplanes, and motor boats.

“The cornerstone of the project was the construction of a new passenger terminal expected to meet LEED silver criteria and to be carbonneutral—i.e., to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions through the use of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies, and minimize water consumption. The bidders were also asked to make specific, predefined improvements to the existing airport infrastructure, and to manage all core airport services, including the provision of fuel—a historically established role at Malé airport.”

However, in early September, the government accused the IFC of negligence during the bidding process for INIA – allegations there were rejected by the organisation amidst continued calls from government-aligned parties to renationalise the airport.

Both the government and GMR are presently involved in an arbitration case in Singapore over the airport development.

Previous publications

In August, Dr Hassan Saeed released a book in English entitled, “Democracy betrayed: behind the mask of the island President”.

Speaking to local media at the book’s launch at the studios of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV), DQP Secretary General Abdullah Ameen said the book detailed reasons why former President Nasheed had to resign on February 7.

Ameen added that the reasons mentioned in the book included the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and allegations that Nasheed wished to “destroy the values of Islam” in the country.

In the months leading up to the controversial transfer of power on February 7, the DQP published a pamphlet titled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.

In an interview with UK’s the Guardian newspaper recently, Saeed said the charges were justified. “You look at his behaviour, his actions, you have to come to that conclusion,” Saeed said.

The Nasheed administration had slammed the publication at the time for containing “extremist, bigoted and hate-filled rhetoric”. The pamphlet and religious-based allegations also led to successive attempts by the Nasheed administration to arrest two senior members of the party and sparked a debate on freedom of expression and hate speech in the Maldives.

Saeed was also a co-author of the book Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam, which discussed the issue of apostasy in Islam and stirred controversy during the 2008 presidential election.


Failure of judiciary, JSC and parliament justified detention of Abdulla Mohamed, contends Velezinee in new book

Former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee has written a book extensively documenting the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.

Over 80 pages, backed up with documents, evidence and letters, The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun recounts the experience of the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.

That moment at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period marked the collapse of the new constitution and resulted in the appointment of a illegitimate judiciary, Velezinee contends, and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed two years later.

Nasheed resigned on February 7 after mutinying police and military officers joined forces with opposition demonstrators, who had been accusing Nasheed of interfering with the ‘independent’ judiciary in his arrest of the judge, and demanding not to be given ‘unlawful orders’.

The Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report found that there was no evidence to support Nasheed’s claim that he was ousted in a coup d’état, and that his resignation was under duress and the events of the day were self-inflicted.

“The inquiry is based on a false premise, the assumption that Abdulla Mohamed is a constitutionally appointed judge, which is a political creation and ignores all evidence refuting this,” Velezinee stated.

“Judge Abdulla Mohamed is at the centre of this story. I believe it is the State’s duty to remove him from the judiciary. He may have the legal knowledge required of a judge; but, as the State knows full well, he has failed to reach the ethical standards equally essential for a seat on the bench.

“A judge without ethics is a judge open to influence. Such a figure on the bench obstructs justice, and taints the judiciary. These are the reasons why the Constitution links a judge’s professional qualifications with his or her moral standards,” she states.

The JSC itself had investigated Abdulla Mohamed but stopped short of releasing a report into his ethical misconduct after the Civil Court awarded the judge an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.

“There is no legal way in which the Civil Court can rule that the Judicial Service Commission cannot take action against Abdulla Mohamed. This decision says judges are above even the Constitution. Where, with what protection, does that leave the people?” Velezinee asks.

“The Judicial Service Commission bears the responsibility for removing Abdulla Mohamed from the bench. Stories about him have circulated in the media and among the general public since 2009, but the Commission took no notice. It was blind to Abdulla Mohamed’s frequent forays outside of the ethical standards required of a judge. It ignored his politically charged rulings and media appearances.

“Abdulla Mohamed is a man who had a criminal conviction even when he was first appointed to the bench during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s time. Several complaints of alleged judicial misconduct are pending against him. The Judicial Service Commission has ignored them all. What it did, instead, is grant him tenure – a lifetime on the bench for a man such as Abdulla Mohamed. In doing so, the Judicial Service Commission clearly failed to carry out its constitutional responsibilities. It violated the Constitution and rendered it powerless. Where do we go from there?”

Parliament, Velezinee states, was the body responsible for holding the JSC accountable.

“The Majlis knew the threat Abdulla Mohamed posed to national security and social harmony. The Majlis was also aware of the Judicial Service Commission’s failure to carry out its constitutional responsibilities and its efforts to nullify constitutional requirements.

“Concern had been shared with the Majlis that the Judicial Service Commission had committed the ultimate betrayal and hijacked judicial independence. The Majlis failed its Constitutional responsibility to hold the Judicial Service Commission accountable for any of these actions. The Majlis had violated the Constitution and rendered it powerless. Where to from there?”

Ultimate responsibility for upholding the constitution fell to the President, Velezinee states.

“Democratic governance can only function if the entire system is working as an integral whole; it is impossible if the three separated powers are failing in their respective duties.

“Under the circumstances – once it was clear that Abdulla Mohamed was an obstruction to justice and a threat to national security, and once it became apparent that neither the Judicial Service Commission nor the Parliament was willing to hold him accountable – the only authority left to take control of the situation was the Head of State.”

With the return to power of Gayoom’s autocratic government behind President Mohamed Waheed’s “fig leaf of legitimacy”, the judiciary continued to be subject to influence, Velezinee writes.

“The judiciary we have today is under the control of a few,” she wrote.

“This was an end reached by using the Judicial Service Commission as a means. Most members of the Judicial Service Commission betrayed the Constitution, the country, and the people. They broke their oath. There is no room for free and fair hearings. And most judges do not even know how to hold such a hearing.”

“For democracy and rule of law to be established in the Maldives, and for the right to govern themselves to be returned to the people, they must have an elected leader. And the judiciary, currently being held hostage, must be freed.

“Article 285 of the Constitution must be fully upheld, judges reappointed, and an independent judiciary established,” she concludes.

Download The Failed Silent Coup (English translation by Dr Azra Naseem)