We are honouring the Singapore Court order, says GMR official
The Maldives government formally took charge of the GMR-operated Ibrahim Nasir International Airport here on Thursday midnight and handed it over to the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL).
At a ceremony organised by the government just before midnight, the project’s guarantor, the Finance Ministry, took over from GMR. “It’s a smooth transition. There will be no problems,” said Masood Imad, Media Secretary to President Mohamed Waheed.
“We are not handing over. They are taking over,” said GMR spokesperson Arun Bhagat. Asked to elaborate, he said a handing over would have been willingly carried out. This was not the case here. “We are honouring the Singapore Court order.”
GMR said there would be no disruptions despite the issues it had with the government. The process of taking over of an airport was complex and could not be completed in a day. MACL would require at least a month for complete control.
“There will be no disruption of services or flights,” Mr. Bhagat said.
Tourism is the largest revenue earner for the country and this is the peak season.
A scheduled runway re-carpeting work will be taken up as scheduled from around 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Saturday, and airlines have been given advance notice. A few flights have been re-scheduled owing to this. There have been no cancellations so far.
To maintain a seamless transition, MACL has offered to retain all Indian employees too, and stick to the payment conditions of GMR. Each month, GMR had disbursed 50 per cent of the salary of local employees in U.S. dollars. In a dollar-starved country, this was an additional incentive for Maldivians working at the airport.
Meanwhile, GMR continued to explore its legal options. “The legal position is not yet clear. The judge spoke about expropriation, which means compensation has to be given. But it is too early to talk about this,” said Mr. Bhagat.
GMR, which has a 77 per cent stake in the airport (Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad holds the remaining stake), was awarded the contract in 2010 to operate the airport for 25 years. Maldives terminated the contract on November 27. On December 1, it gave seven days to GMR to hand over the airport.