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Civil Court rules to not order halt handover of two islands in Noonu atoll for tourism

Lamya Abdulla
01 February 2023, MVT 18:13
(FILE) Justice Building in capital Male' where Civil Court is located -- Photo: Mihaaru
Lamya Abdulla
01 February 2023, MVT 18:13

Civil Court ruled on Monday that they will be unable to issue an order to stop the handover of two islands in Noonu Atoll for long term lease while the case relating to the islands is ongoing in court.

Noonu Atoll Council submitted the case against the President's Office over their decision to lease Kendhivaru and Dhonaerikandoodhoo for long term tourism lease. The council states that President Ibrahim Mohamed's decision to do so is against the Decentralization Act.

The council had requested for an interim injunction stating the island is being currently leased long term for agricultural purposes to individuals under single-personal basis. The council said places that are leased on this basis do not generate adequate income and benefits for the people of the atoll and the public is not given the opportunity to use them.

Responding to the interim injunction, the state said Kendhivaru was lease to Damac Ocean Heights for tourism development on December 22 of last year under an agreement between the company and Tourism Ministry. As the rights to the island now belongs to a third party, any order passed without taking the their rights into consideration would lead to a great loss to the company and the state as well.

The other island in the case, Dhonaerikandoodhoo, is to be given under an MoU signed on December 12, 2017 between the government and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) to build and operate The Maafaru International Airport under the cross-subsidy model.

The state that they were in a situation where they have to weigh the rights of the people of Noonu atoll against the rest of Maldives, and that if an interim order is not issued the interest of the country will be protected.

The state also said that the council will have to show what efforts were undertaken in order to reach a peaceful solution if the council feels the two islands were allotted for tourism without their consultation. They said this is not a case where there was no opportunity to discuss the matter if there was a difference of opinion as well.

Therefore, Judge Ibrahim Ismail concluded based on the material submitted to the court in addition to past precedent, they cannot issue the order as the council had requested.