The Maldives’ national carrier’s plans to buy a new jet to cater to VIP passengers has fuelled rumours that President Abdulla Yameen, who recently escaped a blast on his speedboat, is seeking a jet for his private use.
The airline, Maldivian, has denied the claim saying the plans for a new jet was prompted by demand from tourists rather than a government order.
“In the past three to four years, we have continuously received requests for private luxury jets from tourists who are coming to the high end resorts. We now believe there is enough demand for a luxury private jet service in Maldives,” said Nashath Ali, a Maldivian official.
The airline is now inviting bids for a Dash8 Q300 jet with an “executive interior” and a seating configuration for six VVIP passengers and 20 VIP passengers. The bid closes on February 1.
The company would only make a decision after reviewing the bids, Nashath added.
On December 31, Yameen delayed his departure to Thailand after five young men were arrested from a Bangkok Airways Flight. The incident was unrelated to the first couple’s presence on the boat, according to the police. The five were released shortly after.
The Maldives National Defence Force has tightened security measures for the president after the September 28 blast, which the government insists was caused by a bomb. Yameen’s deputy Ahmed Adeeb is facing charges of attempted murder over the explosion.
Soldiers carrying rifles are now present at all of the president’s events. A special military unit to oversee the president’s security has now been set up.
Journalists are often barred from media events and asked to watch the president’s speeches on the public broadcaster. Road blocks are also set up for events the president is scheduled to visit, a move unusual for the congested city of Malé.
On November 29, police cleared out and shut down all of the cafes at the southwest harbour front for five hours because the president was scheduled to open a public park in the area.
Home Minister Umar Naseer has also announced plans to bring in dogs to detect explosives, following multiple bomb scares in the capital that resulted in Yameen declaring an unprecedented nationwide state of emergency in early November.
A new luxury speedboat was commissioned in early October for the president’s use. The MNDF and the president’s office declined to comment on matters of the president’s personal security and safety.