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No plans to give VIA to GMR: Presidential Spokesperson

Fathmath Shaahunaz
13 June 2019, MVT 18:22
An Emirates aircraft pictured at Velana International Airport. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
13 June 2019, MVT 18:22

Spokesperson for the President's Office, Ibrahim Hood, on Thursday refuted allegations that the government was in talks to hand over Velana International Airport (VIA) to GMR Group of India.

Operations of the main airport of Maldives was given to GMR for 35 years during Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)'s previous administration, under the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed. The contract was deemed damaging to the Maldivian state and terminated by Mohamed Waheed, who rose to presidency after Nasheed fell from power. Since then, VIA has been operated by Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL).

Amidst the strong and abrupt strengthening of relations with India within the short period after the current government was sworn in, the opposition has voiced concerns that the MDP-led administration meant to give VIA to GMR again. The allegations were fuelled after photographs depicting GMR officials at VIA circulated.

In response to a reporter's inquiry whether the GMR officials at VIA were linked to the government, Hood cryptically stated that as Maldives was a top tourist destination, the individuals in the photographs could have been visiting.

"[The government] has not decided to give the airport or any other place to GMR; there are no such agreements", he asserted, adding that the Indian government had not made any such requests either during the recent state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Singapore International Arbitration Centre had ordered Maldives to pay USD 271 million to GMR as compensation for breaking off the contract, which was settled during the administration of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Hood further refuted allegations that the current administration planned to hand over operations of the state-run, 25-storey Dharumavantha Hospital, which was developed by former President Yameen's government, to an Indian firm.

He declared that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration did not focus on maintaining ties only with India, but all of Maldives' diplomatic allies.

He accused the opposition of keeping silent on the previous government's close ties with India for political purposes.

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