Maafaru Council states that work on N. Maafaru airport has been stalled due to the negligence of the government.
Responding to a question posed by VNews regarding the issue, Maafaru Council’s President Mohamed Amir said that they had submitted complaints to the government numerous times about the delay. But the government had not paid much attention to the problem which is alarming, he said.
Amir said when they called the Regional Airports Department under the tourism ministry, the former claimed that all procedures to be done by the department has already been completed, and that since the government is yet to decide the course of action, they are unable to hand over the project to any other company.
Amir further says that in order to begin work on Maafaru airport, government had previously announced that the work be handed over to Sun Hotels & Resorts Maldives. Regional Airports had also said that they would sign the agreement with the government last September. Nevertheless, the government has not yet assigned any parties to complete the work, he said.
“We are very worried with the government's neglect on this issue. Previously the government had said that they would sign with Sun Hotel and Resorts but that was just a façade. The work has not been assigned to anyone until now”, he said.
The project had previously been assigned by the government to Millennium Capital Management (MCM) where former vice president, Ahmed Adeeb’s relative, famous businessman Haamid Ismail has a share. But when Haamid was arrested and jailed, agreement was cancelled on February 11, 2016, citing the company violated the terms.
Amir said that the citizens of Maafaru and the atoll had all been dreaming of the day the airport would be opened since 2007. And that when the government handed the work to MCM they had high hopes for its completion which was shattered when the government nullified the contract last year.
He said that the development and the economy of the island has suffered due to this.
“For instance, land is being rented in order to develop tourism in the island. But if the status of the airport is unknown, it would be difficult to progress with this as well. And if the airport is not built, we cannot build resorts on nearby islands. So, the development and economy of the island suffers heavily due to this.” Amir said.
He elaborated that upon request they had expanded the area which was given to build the airport and that it was worrying to see such a vast piece of land go to ruins.
Amir also said that though they receive numerous complaints from locals as work on the airport has been stopped, there is nothing that the council can say with regards to this issue.
Amir declared that if the airport is not completed before 2018, it would affect President Abdullah Yamin’s Maafaru campaign and that there would be no support from the locals.
“They have to go to the locals for the vote. If they neglect and disregard the feelings and dreams of the locals, they would not be willing to vote for them. Hence, I advise that the airport be completed soon” ruling coalition’s MDA member, Amir said.
Initially work on Maafaru airport began in the presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. On January 22, 2008 an agreement was signed with a company called N.Holdings. The company had also paid USD 7 million to the government. However, the agreement was cancelled by former president, Dr. Mohamed Waheed in 2013 on grounds that the company had violated the terms of agreement. N.Holdings is a joint venture between a Maldivian company and a Dubai company. The project was later handed to MCM.