Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim yesterday said that he was not aware that Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed had been involved in any shady deals with Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) operator GMR, India and stressed that the rumors are intended to discredit his reputation.
Speaking during a press conference held in the JP office, Gasim remarked that though Dr Shamheed was representing JP in the government, the party had no influence over the Minister's legal obligation.
Gasim further expressed disappointment over the attempts made to discredit him and Shamheed in relation to the credit facility afforded by GMR to Gasim's own Villa Air.
He also dismissed rumors that Shamheed had been bribed by GMR and labeled it as intended to undermine his reputation. Gasim further highlighted the omission of Dr Shamheed from the three member team formed by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik to review the agreement made with GMR and alleged that the Ministers absence from the team was demeaning.
"I told Dr Waheed to think about his move to omit the Transport Minister from the three member team. I believe that the decision has belittled him. So there is no way I can accept it," Gasim who is also the Maamigili constituency MP said.
Gasim said that he could never accept the demeaning of a JP Minister and revealed that he himself had resigned as the Home Minister of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s cabinet as he had been treated in a similar manner. He further said that President Waheed would know exactly how it feels to be belittled, referring to his time as the Vice President before he was sworn in as President following the resignation of his predecessor.
In addition to the issue, Gasim during the press conference disclosed new information in relation to the behind the scene decisions made by the previous government to award the airport to GMR. To that end, he revealed that the then President Nasheed had scheduled a cabinet meeting on the second day of his presidency to discuss the awarding of the airport to a foreign company. That was the third meeting of the cabinet, he added.
“I informed them even that day that handing over such an important investment could undermine the stability, future, peace and sovereignty of our country,” Gasim explained.
“I made it clear that if he (former President Nasheed) does something like this, I would have no option but to take to the streets. Even if this government does this, I would be out on the streets protesting. The cabinet meeting adjourned once I made my statement.”
He added that the announcement to seek interested parties to develop the airport was made without the consent of the cabinet.
Gasim further said that if the government wishes to develop the airport, there were parties to offer USD300-400 million at a small interest rate. He revealed that he had suggested bringing in experienced foreign parties to manage the development of the airport much like in Singapore and Dubai.