President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the island council of Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal atoll are at odds over the domestic airport project in Kulhudhuffushi, with the president attributing its delay in development to the island council’s lack of cooperation, which the council rebuffed as blatant falsehood.
Speaking at the inauguration of Haa Dhaal atoll Hirimaradhoo island’s harbour on Wednesday, President Yameen announced that the domestic airport being developed in Kulhudhuffushi will be completed next year. Regarding the project which he had initially avowed to complete within the first two years of his regime, the president stated that airport development had been delayed due to lack of support and cooperation from Kulhudhuffushi Island Council.
“Had we received sufficient support from Kulhudhuffushi when we first began airport development, it would have been completed by now. But we didn’t receive that support from the council at that time,” President Yameen had declared, adding that the council, which boasts a majority of opposition political parties, is now in accord with the project.
The island council of Kulhudhuffushi had immediately denied the allegation of their lack of support, declaring it as blatant falsehood.
“There was a different council during the first three months of this government’s reign, but even they had not opposed the airport development,” said Ali Waheed, the island council’s chair and former member of Haa Dhaal atoll council.
“The president spoke a blatant lie.”
Waheed said that several government delegations had arrived in Kulhudhuffushi to conduct research for the airport over the years, and that the council had fulfilled their requests every time. He elaborated that the council had allocated and measured the land for the airport, collected sand and mud samples from the mangrove close to the airport location for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), and forwarded all information to the authorities as directed.
“We did all this on the government’s orders. So we, the citizens of Kulhudhuffushi, are very confused that he said we didn’t cooperate. It would’ve been appreciated if [President Yameen] had explained how we did not cooperate,” he said, adding that he hoped the president will take back his “baseless” words.
Meanwhile, President Yameen had avowed in his speech at Hirimaradhoo that his government will also develop a domestic airport in the island of Farukolhu in Shaviyani atoll. Adding that each airport project costs USD 14 million, the president nevertheless guaranteed that the government will complete Kulhudhuffushi airport by any means next year.
However, Kulhudhuffushi island council’s president Ali Waheed noted that despite the president’s promise, development of Kulhudhuffushi’s domestic airport has not made any progress so far.