The Maldivian government has decided to sell of part of its gateway airport, the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, in capital Male, to its citizens. The airport was developed by Indian infrastructure major, GMR.

A government source confirmed the development, and added that the process will be set in motion “sometime next week”. Asked if the people will hold majority stake, the official said that the modalities had to be worked out, but the government will hold most of the shares of the airport.

Asked about the move of the Maldives government, a GMR spokesperson declined comment citing the arbitration proceedings in Singapore. GMR launched the proceedings seeking compensation, after it was evicted from operating the airport. One independent observer, when contacted, said that the sale is unlikely to go ahead as international arbitration was underway between GMR and the Maldivian government.

The official added that the move was to keep the airport from going to some foreign entity in the future. He was referring to a possible change of hands of the airport to the former airport operator GMR. The airport was re-developed by Indian infrastructure major GMR-led consortium. It was given the rights to operate the airport for 25 years from late 2010.

The Waheed government, which was formed in controversial circumstances after former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012, cancelled the contract in December 2012.

GMR handed over the airport to the Maldives Airports Company Limited on December 7, 2012, and launched arbitration proceedings in Singapore to the tune of $ 1.5 billion. Last month, Mr. Nasheed had declared that if elected President, he would invite back GMR, subject to conditions.