Magoodhoo Residents Protest Halt of Airport Development Project

Protests erupted on the island of Magoodhoo on Sunday after residents accused the government of halting an airport development project originally launched by the previous administration. The demonstrations drew a large crowd with protesters on foot and motorcycles calling for the project’s resumption and an end to perceived discrimination between islands.

Unrest emerged following the government’s announcement of a new airport development in Nilandhoo, located just seven kilometres from Magoodhoo, shortly after work on the Magoodhoo project was paused. Residents assert that protests will continue until work resumes, with demonstrations having taken place near the stalled airport site for several consecutive nights.

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Magoodhoo Council President Abdulla Waheed stated that the airport work stoppage occurred without the council’s consultation. He further expressed that letters sent to the President’s Office seeking clarification on the matter have been met with silence. “I sent a letter two months ago to clarify my concerns about the airport. I sent a letter last week. I have not received a reply yet,” he said.

Both the government and Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) deny the work stoppage allegations, although both the island council and residents confirm that there is currently no active construction at the site. MTCC is also handling the Nilandhoo airport project. Both the government and MTCC cite a broader policy of establishing an airport within 30 minutes travel time of every inhabited island, resort, and industrial island as justification for the new development. Travel between Nilandhoo and Magoodhoo fits comfortably within this time constraint.

The Magoodhoo airport, which has a development budget of MVR 230 million, includes plans for a hotel to accommodate jet flight crews along with other facilities.

Parliamentary Emergency Motion

The controversy over the Magoodhoo Airport project has prompted an emergency motion in Parliament. Bilehdhoo MP Ahmed Haleem put forward the motion, which received support from twenty-two members, while four voted against debating the emergency bill.

In his presentation of the emergency motion, Ahmed Haleem highlighted the previous government’s initiation of the Magoodhoo airport project with substantial upfront funding. He asserted that the project was 70 per cent complete when the current government took office.

Haleem also stated, “The President’s nephew has been announced as a candidate in the Nilandhoo constituency, which is about 10 minutes away from the island. This is a decision taken by the President for his family and political interests.” He framed the issue as prioritizing the President’s personal ambitions above the interests of the country.

The emergency motion calls for the government to reconsider its decision on the Magoodhoo Airport.

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