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Ruling party supporters threaten eviction over airport project

The government wants to do a test landing before a presidential election on September 23.



Ruling party supporters on Monday threatened to kick people out of their homes to make way for an airport on Kulhudhuffushi, after one man facing eviction confronted the president’s running mate during a campaign visit.

The government is scrambling to finish the runway to do a test landing before the September 23 election and developing an airport on Kulhudhuffushi, the main population hub in the northern atolls, was a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen despite an airport 25 minutes away on the island of Hanimadhoo.

The confrontation is featured in videos being shared on social media. It shows Ali Ismail, who lives in one of the 18 households to be moved, approach Dr Mohamed Shaheem to ask about relocation.

An eviction notice was sent to the families on Sunday, telling them to leave their homes before September 7.

Shaheem, who was visiting the airport project site with others from the Progressive Party of the Maldives, can be seen trying to reassure the disgruntled man over compensation and relocation.

“The president told us that a very fair amount of compensation will be given to us,” Ismail can be heard saying.

“If the president said it, it will be done,” Shaheem says.

“It hasn’t. It has not been done yet. Yesterday I got a message on my phone. Get out in five days! Where’s the money? Where’s the rent? Where’s the compensation? They haven’t given it. Can I move out before I get it?”

Shaheem appears unable to answer the questions before Ismail shakes hands with Shaheem and walks away.

The vice presidential candidate asks: “What do you think of building an airport?”

“Do it!” replies Ismail. “No problem, do it!”

As he walks away ruling party supporters shout: “We will kick you out tomorrow!”

– ‘Give us the money’ –

Last month Kulhudhuffushi magistrate court issued separate rulings saying the state has the authority to take the land of all the houses in the area upon the provision of adequate compensation. The rulings were issued by Mohamed Mausoom, a magistrate from the nearby island of Nolhivaram.

According to one ruling seen by the Maldives Independent, the state argued that “since the Kulhudhuffushi airport project is of special interest for the benefit of the Kulhudhuffushi people and the benefit of the Maldivian economy, the project being stalled because a house in the project area cannot be taken down is not acceptable.”

The court decided that despite the family’s objections to the compensation, the state was offering a fair amount because the land was public land to be used for “national purposes,” said the ruling for one household.

It asked the state to pay the amount to court within 20 days, at which point the family will be asked to collect it.

Many families have previously complained they are not being offered adequate compensation.

Amounts between MVR8,000 (US$516) to MVR10,000 are being offered every month as rent for the eight-month window the families have to build a house on the new plots offered to them.

People who spoke to the Maldives Independent said they were still looking for places to rent during that period.

Ismail’s son, Mohamed Ali, said: “What I’m saying is we can’t move out until the compensation and the rent is in our hands, until the new plot of land is registered in our name.

“Otherwise they might say there is no land for you. Even if it’s five days or 10  days (to move out)give us the money first. We need that guarantee. The government might change tomorrow.

“Even if it’s written down, even if it’s in a court ruling. We see that court orders are enforced only when they (the government) want to.

“We don’t have a problem with the airport, we don’t even have a problem with the relocation. But do it the right way.”