Parliament approves to review Deebaja compensation

The parliament on Tuesday approved the Public Finance Committee's decision to request the Attorney General for the Supreme Court to review the compensation being given to Deebaja Investment Pvt Ltd over a terminated agreement.

Deebaja Investment was contracted to establish a transport network in N, R, B and Lh atolls in 2010 during former President Mohamed Nasheed's administration. However, the government during former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik's administration terminated the agreement in 2013 while the then Transport Ministry had failed to full their requirements in the agreement.

The government terminated the agreement claiming that the company had violated the terms of the agreement. The agreement stipulated that land must be issued to the company to develop a resort and a ferry terminal. However, the land was not issued by the government.

The company filed a lawsuit at the Civil Court which ended in their favour. The Civil Court ruling concluded that the government had violated the agreement by failing to provide the land to Deebaja Investment as mandated under the agreement. The Civil Court ordered the state to pay a compensation of MVR 348.10 million for damages. The verdict was later overturned by the High Court.

The High Court verdict was taken to Supreme Court by Deebaja Investments based on one point only; being that the state had appealed the case at the High Court after the period granted for appeal had passed. Based on the oversight, the Supreme Court ordered the state to pay MVR 348.10 to Deebaja Investments.

The company later went to the settlement committee established by President Solih, and it was agreed to decrease the compensation figure to MVR 174 million. President Solih approved the number as per the recommendation of the settlement committee.

However, several members of the Public Finance Committee have raised questions regarding the out-of-court settlement agreement between the government and Deebaja Investments, with many claiming foulplay. Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath has been summoned to the committee and questioned regarding the settlement.

The Attorney General has stated that he believes Deebaja Investment is entitled to compensation, and that he does not believe there is any benefit to the state in reviewing the case at the Supreme Court.

However, the committee has approved to request the Attorney General to send the case to the apex court for review, and to submit the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Auditor General's Office for further review.

It was evident from the debate that ensued regarding the committee report that members of main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were divided on the issue.

While some members said it is possible that the State may have to pay the full figure of MVR 348.10 million if the case is reviewed again, reviewing the decision of the Supreme Court can open up dangerous doors, they noted.

However, MDP members in favour of the committee's decision said even the Attorney General is of the opinion that the settlement figure is inflated. If this is the case, there is no reason not to review the issue, they said. It has been accused that the MPs against the review could be receiving part of the settlement funds.

The report prepared by the Public Finance committee was approved by the parliament with the agreement of all 65 members who took part in the vote.