Former Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor will continue to advise the government on two high-profile legal cases she has previously been involved in, despite being transferred to the Gender Ministry earlier this month.
The two cases involve the future of an agreement to implement a border control system supplied by Malaysia-based Nexbis and arbitration hearings resulting from declaring “void” a US$511 million airport concession agreement with India-based GMR void.
Shukoor, who was appointed as Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights on April 10, said yesterday (April 13) that she intended to continue to serve on a team of lawyers working for the state on the cases involving Nexbis and GMR, local newspaper Haveeru has reported.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad has previously told Minivan News that the government had decided to transfer Shukoor as part of commitments to help oversee proposed legal reforms that could potentially end the use of flogging as a punishment for sexual offences.
The government has previously criticised the practice, which it alleged serves to punish victims of rape and sexual abuse in some cases.
The state has come under further pressure to review the handling of sexual offence cases from petition site Azaaz.org, which has threatened otherwise to call for a tourism boycott over a flogging sentence handed to a 15 year-old girl for ‘fornication’.
Shukoor has claimed in local media to have personally requested the president appoint her to the Gender Ministry on condition she would continue to work on the cases relating to Nexbis’ agreement and the arbitration hearings with GMR.
In November 2012, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government declared void a concession agreement signed by the previous government with Indian firm GMR to manage and build a new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA). It then ordered the company to leave the country within seven days.
GMR is seeking US$800 million in compensation for the sudden termination, while the Maldivian government is contending that it owes nothing as the contract was void ab initio – meaning the contract was invalid from the outset.
Nexbis signed a “legally binding” deal in 2010 to provide a customised border control system under a ‘build, operate and transfer’ agreement to Maldivian authorities that still remains in use as of this month.
The deal is presently the subject of legal wrangling over whether the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has the power to demand termination of the contract. Parliament has also voted to cancel the system, but this is subject to a court injunction.
However, the US government late last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide a border control system to the Maldives. Representatives for Nexbis at the time said they had not been informed of the MOU signing or what it might mean for the company’s own agreement with the state.