Government “cynically used xenophobia, nationalism and religious extremism” to attack foreign investor: former President

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett and Mohamed Naahii

The Waheed government’s decision to void the GMR contract and issue the developer a seven day ultimatum will “put off potential investors for decades,” former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

“Waheed’s government has cynically used xenophobia, nationalism and religious extremism to attack GMR, the country’s largest foreign investor. Waheed is leading the Maldives down the path to economic ruin,” Nasheed said, following Attorney General Azima Shukoor’s issuing of the ultimatum on Tuesday (November 27) evening.  The ultimatum was made while arbitration proceedings are pending in the Singapore courts.

The government’s party to the 25 year concession agreement – the 100 percent state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) – issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that the company was “now working with stakeholders to take over the operations of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on or before the expiry of the seven days period provided to [GMR] to handover possession of the INIA pursuant to the notice issued by the government of the Maldives and MACL.”

GMR meanwhile yesterday denounced the move as “unilateral and completely irrational”.

“We have no plans to go. We have 23 more years here,” GMR’s Head of Corporate Communications Arun Bhaghat told Minivan News.

CEO of INIA, Andrew Harrison, told Minivan News that the airport’s 1700 staff were “quite concerned” and “not exactly jumping for joy”.

The company had held several meetings with staff following the announcement and called on them to ensure continued smooth operation of the airport while the legal team was working to resolve the issue.

“People who have seen their businesses improve since GMR took over have been calling me up expressing support,” Harrison noted.

The company had received no communication from the government apart from the notice issued yesterday, he added.

The Indian government was quick to back GMR yesterday following the announcement by its Maldivian counterpart, noting that the company was awarded the deal “through a global tender conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank.”

“The IFC has stated that it has complied with Maldivian laws and regulations and followed international best practices at each step of the bidding process to ensure the highest degree of competitiveness, transparency and credibility of the process,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Indian government added that it was prepared to take “all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of its interests and its nationals in the Maldives.”

Surprisingly, GMR’s stock showed an upward trend following the government’s announcement.

Traders on one broker’s website predicted that stock was reacting positively due to the Indian government’s quick defence of the company and the prospect of significant compensation for the infrastructure developer following arbitration proceedings.

“Stock will definitely react in a positive manner as it has now become a matter of national prestige,” predicted one trader on Indian finance portal, Moneycontrol.

The Maldives’ decision was widely derided in the Indian media. Forbes India suggested that “the decision to send the Indian consortium packing has brought into focus the risk of doing business in emerging markets with rapidly changing political landscapes.”

“India Inc has had its share of relatively minor `law and order’ problems in its journey into Africa and a few brushes with shifting goalposts in places like Indonesia and Russia. But being thrown out after signing a 25-year, supposedly iron-clad international contract, is a first,” Forbes observed.

Locally, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of 30 year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom praised the government’s move as “important for protecting the rights of Maldivian citizens”.

“It is PPM’s hope that the government’s decision to terminate the agreement with GMR will not affect the historic friendship between the governments and people of the Maldives and India,” the PPM said in statement.

The largest party in the ruling coalition, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), was more reserved.

“The government should act responsibly and according to the legal contract,” said DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom. “The consequences of government decisions should not adversely affect the lives of the Maldivians.”

The 2191-member Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), which during the Nasheed administration filed the Civil Court case outlawing the airport development charge (ADC) stipulated in GMR’s concession agreement which deprived MACL of airport revenues and cost the government several million dollars, praised President Waheed as a national hero.

“[The] decision will be noteworthy in the history of this country,” DQP Leader and President Waheed’s Special Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, was reported as saying in local media.

“No one would expect such a decision to be made by a country that heavily relies on India. But Waheed has decided what is best for his country,” said Saeed. “President Waheed will be remembered in the years to come.”

Saeed earlier wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to terminate the Maldives’ airport development contract with GMR, warning of rising fundamentalism and anti-Indian sentiment should he fail to do so.

“I want to warn you now that there is a real danger that the current situation could create the opportunity for these extremist politicians to be elected to prominent positions, including the Presidency and Parliament on an anti-GMR and anti-India platform,” Saeed informed Singh.

“That would not be in the interests of either the Maldives or India. You are well aware of the growing religious extremism in our country,” Saeed warned the PM.

Seven day stand-off

GMR has shown no interest in complying with cabinet’s direction and has expressed confidence in the professionalism of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and its assignment to protect the airport, raising speculation as to how far the government would be willing to go to enforce its decision to void the concession agreement and reclaim INIA.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News on Wednesday that the government’s role had “solely been to advise MACL to take control of the site.”

“We are not engineering any handover [of the airport],” he said. “What we have done is just given our opinion after being advised that [terminating the contract] was the proper thing to do.”

GMR has responded that it did not recognise a legal basis for the government’s decision while the arbitration is still ongoing in the Singaporean courts, stating that it would continue to manage and oversee development at the airport for the remaining 23 years of its tender agreement.

Masood claimed that any decision to retake the airport would be “the responsibility” of MACL.

“Well I suppose if MACL decide to terminate the agreement and the company hasn’t moved, procedures are in place for the MACL to address these issues,” he said, forwarding further inquiries to MACL Managing Director Mohamed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim however told Minivan News he was “not willing to disclose anything at this moment.”


CNI report to be delayed until end of August

The final report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 will be delayed, after hundreds of people have come forward offering new information.

The CNI held a press conference on Thursday morning to update the media on its progress. The next update will be in a fortnight, July 19.

CNI Co-Chair – retired Singaporean Judge G P Selvam – stated that the new date for the report’s completion would be the end of August, which would be discussed with the government. The original deadline was July 31.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s member on the Commission, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, said that 244 people had registered to provide information to the commission following the reforming of the CNI.

“There has been a lot of interest. We will speak to each and every single one,” he said.

The new names will join the 87 spoken to by the government’s original three member panel, taking the total number of contributors to 331.

“That’s one contributor for every 1000 of population,” Saeed remarked.

The commission has so far spent 103 hours conducting interviews with 139 people, working from 9:00am to 7:00pm every day. The new commission started work on June 17, 16 days behind schedule.

“Ramadan may upset the apple cart a bit,” Saeed acknowledged, suggesting that the CNI would need to take into consideration that people would be tired and drained during the day: “We intend to make [the hours] more flexible,” he said.

The first three-member CNI was appointed by President Mohamed Waheed, following a police and military mutiny and Nasheed’s resignation, in what he and his party have described as a coup d’état.

Facing pressure from the Commonwealth and civil society NGOs, the government eventually agreed to reform the commission to include a retired Singaporean judge and a representative for Nasheed.

The former CNI subsequently released a ‘timeline’ into events that took place between January 16 to February 7. The MDP accused the commission of trying to prejudice the work of new commission, and then released its own version of events in response – the ‘Ameen- Aslam’ report based on interviews with the security services. The government described the publication of this report as a “terrorist act”.


Political advisor Hassan Saeed meets UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s political advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, on Wednesday met UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt.

According to a statement on the President’s Office website, Burt “recognised the work being done in the Maldives to resolve its internal issues, encouraging the government of Maldives to continue dialogues with all parties. Mr Burt also welcomed the establishment of the National Enquiry Commission, decreed by President Dr Mohamed Waheed.”

“Further, the Under Secretary of State reassured Dr Saeed of the UK government’s non-partisan approach to the current political situation in the Maldives, and stated their only interest was to establish facts regarding the recent transfer of power, and to ensure a stable Maldives.”


New government meets US Ambassador, Rajapaksa

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan yesterday met United States Ambassador to the Maldives Patricia A Butenis.

According to a statement from the President’s Office, discussions were primarily on the current political situation in the Maldives.

“Particularly, the President briefed Ambassador Butenis on the National Unity Government and the progress of its Roadmap,” the statement read.

Vice President Designate Mohamed Waheeduddeen meanwhile met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka.

Visiting Sri Lanka as a Special Envoy of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Waheeduddeen presented a letter to the Sri Lankan President, on his behalf.

“At the meeting, Waheeduddeen noted the close relations established between the two countries, and discussed hopes for further enhancing the ties both the countries share,” a statement read. “Further, Mr Waheeduddeen expressed his gratitude to the Sri Lankan government for the aid and support being provided to the Maldives.”

Dr Waheed’s political advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, yesterday met with the Commonwealth in the UK, representing the new government. Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farahanaz Faizal, represented former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Dr Saeed was also interviewed on the BBC.


Letter on Islamic education

Dear fellow Maldivian brothers and sisters,

Assalaamu alaikum Wrh. Wbr.

Let me express my concern over our school system. I invite all to comment on this, be it negative or positive, I would be pleased to hear your comments.

Maldivians believe their schools must develop a Muslim generation capable of analytical and critical thinking, who become Muslims by conviction and who will strive to fulfill their role as Allah’s vicegerents on Earth.

Maldivians believe their schools must develop strong and highly-educated Muslim persons for whom Islam is a complete way of life. This can only be achieved by developing a balanced and wholesome Islamic personality whereby one’s behavior and attitude are guided through training of the spirit, intellect and emotion as well as developing a sound and healthy body.

Maldivians believe their schools must develop educated Muslims who are capable of making good judgments that enable them to lead a life of ‘happiness’ through fulfilling their roles as the servants and vicegerents of Allah SWT.

Our schools must be Islamic schools because we are a 100 percent Muslim society. An Islamic school must emphasise an integrated and balanced human development – intellectual, physical, spiritual, moral, emotional and social – based on the Islamic World View anchored on Tawhid (the unity of Allah).

This means spiritual and character education is regarded as equally important as intellectual education.

Our schools must arouse curiosity and wonder in our students, inculcate important values such as sincerity, honesty, trustworthiness, self-reliance, excellence and responsibility.

Our schools must enhance our students’ spirituality through wonders of the natural phenomena, congregational prayers, Qur’an recitation and memorisation, Qur’an studies, halaqah (study circle), and observe Islamic adhab.

If you like to know about such a school, you can visit

This school being international, English is the medium of instruction and the school adopts the University of Cambridge International Examinations Curriculum. Being Islamic, means Arabic Language and the Qur’an are equally or even more important.

International recognition and achievements of the above school: Top 5th Cambridge Centre in Malaysia 2004, ISO certification since 2003.

In a public gathering at Hulhumale’, Dr Hassan Saeed expressed that the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) was ready to setup an International Islamic School in the Maldives but the problem was they could not get land to build the school. Since the school I am talking about is also a subsidiary of IIUM, why not the Education Ministry try to obtain such assistance from the IIUM?

Wassalaamu alaikum Wrh. Wbr.


All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter, please submit it to [email protected]


Letter on Hulhumale’s rubbish

Dear Editor,

I spoke to the Municipal Section In-charge of the Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC) regarding the waste dumped at various wastelands (unused goathi) of Hulhumale’, and also the waste dumped at the bottom of the beautiful bushes beside brand-new pavements.

I understand that the authority tried to solve this problem by keeping waste bins at various locations but failed to solve the problem because people started dumping household waste and waste from the shops, so that they stopped keeping the bins.

Similarly, I have seen very old sick people, with the family members’ support, boarding on MTCC Ferries and looking for a seat when there are seats reserved for them. Neither the captain nor the crew is able to help our beloved senior citizens or the sick, by letting them have their reserved seats on the ferry.

Since the authority for the Municipal Section of HDC is also the chairperson for Hulhumale’ Crime Prevention Committee working together with Hulhumale’ Police, I feel sorry that they had no solution other than to stop keeping the bins in public areas. I also feel sorry that the captains keep quiet, watching such inhuman scenarios, while he has the authority to question passengers who disobey rules like not purchasing a ticket before boarding the ferry and so on.

I think what’s actually happening is that the hospital has no concern over the issue because at the moment this waste has not caused an epidemic. Police have no concern over the issue because they feel people would not like them for interfering in their freedom to do whatever they want.

HDC has no worries over the issue because they get monthly rent from these wastelands, and they get no complaints from the public who believe they can do anything they want and it’s their freedom to do so.

I think all the government and non-governmental agencies must work together to strengthen the monitoring mechanism and action taking so that those who are responsible do their job in order to keep Hulhumale’ clean and attractive. A country can never afford to watch such scenario and wait until the issue becomes a difficult and expensive problem like drugs, murder and so on. As we all know, drugs and murder was not an issue here before but can we say it’s not an issue today?

So, why can’t we all join together to stop such crimes in our society before it’s too late?


All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter piece, please submit it to [email protected]


Journalist fined for defaming Ghassan

The former editor of weekly magazine Sandhaanu has been ordered to pay Rf5000 (US$389)for defaming Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon, the former president’s son.

Ghassan took Abdulla ‘Fahala’ Saeed to the civil court seeking Rf3.375 million (US$262,600) over an article Fahala had written in the 118th edition of Sandhaanu magazine.

Ghassan claimed he lost support in the parliamentary election because of rumours about him published in an article written by Fahala.

Fahala claimed that the Rf5000 fine was “an injustice” and announced he intended to take the case to high court.

”The judge did not even look at the article I wrote, I was sentenced based on what Ghassan had said,” Fahala claimed.

He insisted that he did not defame Ghassan “but ‘wrote it as it was a rumor spreading.”

”In that article I mentioned that it was a rumour. People were speaking about it everywhere in the Maldives,” he said.

Ghassan is currently in India and did not respond to Minivan News’ request for comment.

However spokesman for the former president, Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, said the judgement was fair and Fahala was free to take the case to the high court.

“[The court] has proved the rumors people spread about former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his family were lies,” Mundhu said.

People who committed “ugly crimes” while working for the government should be “kicked out”, Mundhu said, “if the government does not want to lose respect in front of the people.”

President of the Maldives Journalism Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said the case would not affect journalism in the Maldives.

”Fining for defamation is a punishment practiced everywhere in the world. Journalists should be careful about it,” Hiriga said.

Journalists had a responsibility “to write true information about people”, he said.