The government’s “indifference” to providing regular ferry services in Addu City has been described as discrimination towards smaller islands by Addu Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam.
“If a ferry service in Malé is interrupted, the government rushes to reestablish it. But if it is the islands they it is allowed to go on for long periods. This is a huge discrimination,” she said.
There have been no regular ferries in Addu City for the past two years and the service is frequently on complete halt at times, said Addu City Mayor Mayor Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq.
Many are forced to take expensive private boats, while in medical emergencies people usually hire a speed boat for approximately MVR 2500 – double that rate at night.
Hulhumeedhoo, with an estimated population of over six thousand, is disconnected from the rest of the inhabited islands of the city which are joined by the 14km Addu Link Road causeway.
The Hulhumeedhoo-Feydhoo public ferry system had been established in 2009 as part of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government’s campaign to connect the Maldives through a public transport network.
The service is provided by MVK Maldives Pvt Ltd under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract. Many inhabitants of Hulhumeedhoo travel to Feydhoo for work and to visit Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.
Rozaina Adam also expressed concern that inconsistent services were damaging both the health and the finances of locals.
“It is very hard for them, sometimes appointments at the Hithadhoo hospital get cancelled because the ferry does not show up without any prior notice,” she said.
On 26 July, Rozaina held a press conference expressing concern over the failure to provide a sea ambulance for the area. She accused Minister of Health Mariyam Shakeela of reneging on a promise made before the Majlis to provide the service.
The Addu Meedhoo MP has described the speedboat allocated for Addu as unfit, noting that the cover is ripped, the floor cracked, and that the vessel is without GPS, and a compass, among other equipment.
Mayor Sodig noted that the government had awarded MVK the Dhoogas Guest House in Gan as an incentive for providing the ferry service.The guest house “which was functioning well when handed over”, said the mayor, is now mostly vacant and ignored.
“It was utilised to some extent during the SAARC Summit, but they are not running the place at all,” he said.
The handing of Dhoogas to MVK was investigated by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2010 which found the guest house was awarded in contravention of relevant laws and regulations. The then-MDP government denied these allegations.
Management of the guest house, with approximately fifty rooms, was in handed over to former MP Abdulla Jabir’s ‘J Hotels’ in February this year, and was renamed ‘J Palace’.
While the city council is tasked with monitoring the service, mayor Sodig said today that they were unable to contact MVK to discuss the issues.
Addu council have been discussing the issue with the government since 2012 with no action being taken, the mayor said.
“We have brought this issue to the attention of all past transport ministers. And the Dhoogas guest house is given to MVK to provide public transport service here, but we are seeing that they are unable to do so,” he said.
MP Rozaina also said attempts to communicate the issue with the government have been in vain, mainly due to confusions regarding the institution responsible following the recent abolition of the Ministry of Transport.
“They told me I should contact home ministry, but they told the council to contact economic ministry. The parliament was not informed of these changes in the ministry, so it will be very difficult for MPs to inquire,” said Rozaina.
Minivan News was also unable to reach MVK, or the Ministry of Economic Development regarding the issue. The listed official numbers of MVK were out of service.
While the Addu city council is still working on resolving the issue, Rozaina has pledged to raise the issue in the Majlis if a solution is not found within a week.