Opposition allege corruption in Thilafushi port deal

The opposition has alleged corruption in a new government deal with a Dubai-based marine terminal operator to establish a commercial port and free trade zone near Malé.

Opposition members have criticised the deal over an apparent lack of transparency, noting the government had signed an MoU with Dubai Ports (DP) World last month without an open bidding process.

DP World, among the world’s largest ports operators, is expected to invest up to US$300 million in a deep-water complex on the industrial island of Thilafushi, and create hundreds of jobs for Maldivians according to the government.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said the government will sign an agreement for a joint-venture company with DP World this month.

Former MP and MDP member Visam Ali said DP World was only interested in the Maldives to protect its multi-billion dollar port in India’s Cochin.

“Dubai World has already made a huge investment in the Maldives region. There are three main ports in this region, Colombo, Tutticorin and Cochin. Dubai World has made a US$2billion investment in the Cochin port, to handle a million containers at the same time,” she said at a rally in Kulhudhuffushi this weekend.

“Their only reason to invest in the Maldives is to protect that investment, because if there is a major port in the Maldives their investment in the Cochin port will fail. Maldives’ strategic location will make a port here more beneficial to traders. So Dubai World knows if there is a major port in the Maldives, their Cochin port will not be economically viable. So they are attempting to take control of the Maldives port. There is black money in this.”

Adeeb and DP World were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, London-based maritime analysts Drewry Equity have characterised DP World’s interest in the Maldives as an attempt to take on Colombo’s position in the Indian Ocean, as the Maldives is “more strategically ideal as a cross-road between Far East-Europe and Far East-Africa trade lanes than the Colombo port.”

However, a Maldives port may “cannibalise” transshipment volume at DP World’s main port at Jebel Ali, Drewry said, adding that the best strategy for the company would be to operate the Maldives port as a low margin facility, possibly in partnership with a shipping line.

The maritime research organisation also said Maldives as a transshipment hub “is a digression from DP World’s core strategy of handling higher gateway cargoes, which allows for higher margins.”

Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Nihan last week said the port was a first step in transforming the country into Singapore.


Former DRP leadership MPs Thasmeen, Visam join MDP

Former Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and his wife Visam Ali joined the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Wednesday.

The DRP backed MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed in September after the MDP won 45.45 percent in the annulled September 7 presidential election. Thasmeen had contested as former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s running mate, but the pair managed to get only five percent of the vote.

Speaking at a ceremony held at the MDP’s offices yesterday evening, Thasmeen said: “I believe in and have been working to establish modern democratic principles in the Maldives. When you look at the current political environment, MDP is the party that will implement democratic values that the citizens believe in, as well as bring growth and development in the Maldives.”

With Thasmeen and Visam, the MDP now has 35 MPs in the People’s Majlis.

MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Thasmeen and Visam joining MDP gives the party “a new strength” in holding President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s government accountable.

Thasmeen had contested the Maldives’ first multiparty presidential elections in 2008 as the running mate of President of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The pair lost to a coalition led by Nasheed who won with 53.65 percent of the vote.

Gayoom then resigned as the leader of DRP and handed over leadership to Thasmeen in 2009. At the time, the DRP was the largest political party in the Maldives and won majorities in the People’s Majlis elections of 2009 and the local council elections of 2011.

However, its strength declined when a faction of the party that continued to support President Gayoom split to form the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) in September 2011. In April 2013, DRP MP and People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid resigned from the party to join the MDP.

DRP’s deputy leaders and MPs Rozaina Adam, Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef and Mohamed Ramiz have also resigned from the party this week.

In a tweet on November 16, following the MDP’s defeat in the presidential polls, Rozaina said she would join the MDP to “continue to work for democracy, human rights, against torture and against a dictatorship.”

MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed has temporarily assumed the DRP leadership and has pledged to bring back “the party’s golden days.” Nasheed defected from the MDP to the DRP in 2012.

Nasheed said the DRP will hold a party congress within two months to elect a leader and deputy leader and added: “My responsibility is to save the party. My mandate is to expedite a congress and hand over the party leadership.”

At present, the DRP has 19,038 registered members, the PPM has 24,311 members and the MDP has 43,277 members.