Former president and ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has urged his party lawmakers to vote down a government proposed amendment to Tourism Act, which authorises the state to lease islands, lagoons and land plots for tourism projects without putting them up for bid.
Gayoom’s move to quell the government’s initiative further fueled rumours of a widening rift between the former strongman and his half brother incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
The ex-president had reportedly sent text messages urging PPM parliamentary group members to oppose the amendment in the government controlled parliament, insisting that it was clearly against the spirit of the party’s charter.
The first reading of the amendment took place during the parliament session on Monday. The amendment said that an island, a lagoon or a land may be leased with or without a bidding process. The bidding process may be bypassed only upon submission of a detailed proposal of the project to the tourism ministry.
Other conditions for bypassing the bidding process include the location being environmentally viable for the project, full advance payment of the acquisition fee to the tourism ministry, and an experienced and financially suited contractor for the project.
The Tourism Act currently states that islands and lands may be leased for development of resorts only to the best bid under the policy determined by the tourism ministry.
Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan stated that the objectives of the amendment are to lengthen the lease periods of islands and lands for tourism, and to propose a new period to pay the fee for lease extensions. He went on to say that the amendment also aims to introduce a service charge for the ministry’s services in the tourism sector.
According to the amendment, direct permission from the President’s Office is required to lease an island, lagoon or land, following which the details of the project will be handed over to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the auditor general.
The amendment further proposes the selling of government shares of the state-founded joint venture companies.