Committee approves new offer on seaplane terminal

The parliament's Public Finance Committee has approved the current government's decision to disregard the decision made by the previous administration to handover the operation of the new seaplane terminal built at the country's main airport.

While Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) invested US$ 26 million to develop the new terminal at Velana International Airport (VIA), rumors that the government intended to handover the operation of the terminal to the country's biggest seaplane operator, Trans Maldivian Airway (TMA) became louder over the past couple of weeks. Amid the rumors, the government earlier this month announced that TMA will be allocated an area of 5000 square meters from the terminal for a period of two years, at the same rate at which land is currently leased to the company.

However, TMA insists that MACL had agreed to lease the company an area of 31000 square meters for a period of 15 years at the rate of US$ 10.35 per square meter. TMA spoke of letters exchanged between MACL and TMA that reflects the decision.

While a lot of controversy surrounds said letters, an MACL board member on Monday told the parliament's Public Finance Committee that the board was not aware of such a letter, and no such decisions had been passed by the board.

However, with allegations of deceit and corruption being involved in the TMA-MACL conflict, the dispute is becoming increasingly heated.

During the committee meeting held Monday night, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer said the government has revised its previous offer and revealed the government's decision to lease 6300 square meters to TMA at the rate of US$ 10.35 per square meter.

While space equivalent to the space currently being used by other seaplane operators will be issued to the companies at the same rate, the remaining 21,000 square meters will be leased through the tender process, said the minister.

At a committee meeting held Tuesday, the government's decision was approved by the majority of committee members. Dhaandhoo MP Yaugoob Abdulla and Felidhoo MP Ibrahim Fazul Rasheed refrained from voting.

While the committee has approved the decision, the Speaker of the Parliament during Tuesday's parliament sitting had stated that the new offer was the government's final offer.

"The President has revised the decision of the previous government who had attempted to give the terminal to TMA through corruption and deceit. The new decision was announced by the Finance Minister last night, and I believe this is the final and only way forward," said Nasheed.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the seaplant terminal dispute, alleging that the former government had attempted to lease the seaplane terminal to TMA below market rates in order to bring undue benefit to certain parties.