At a rare press conference in mid-July, President Abdulla Yameen declared that opposition leaders must take the blame for the failure to secure a touted multi-million-dollar investment from the Saudi royal family, indicating that controversial plans to sell an island have been scrapped.
The following is the full translation of a leaked audio clip of Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan saying that the constitution was amended to facilitate the sale of Himithi in Faafu atoll to then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman Al Saud.
The audio was leaked a day before King Salman cancelled an official visit to the Maldives.
This is basically something starting with 2012. Around December, he came to stay at One and Only [Reethi Rah resort], and had hired an air taxi to view the Maldives aerially. While he was travelling, he saw an island that Maldivians wouldn’t go to – without a reason.
The island is actually located this way geographically, I also only realized after checking later. There are 54 kilometers between the island and the closest inhabited island, the rest is the Indian Ocean. Meaning no Maldivians will encircle [go round] the area even when traveling.
I’m talking about Faafu Atoll Himithi.
Faafu Himithi is located on the very edge of the west-line [western edge of the Maldives], meaning that travellers wouldn’t have to pass through the area to go to those [atolls] above Himithi- Dhaalu, Alifu Atoll, they will travel from within. This means that Maldivians do not travel through this area, under any circumstance. This is why the people were relocated, it is an island like Makunudhoo [in Haa Dhaal Atoll]. No one will travel to the west of Makunudhoo, as they will get lost in the Indian Ocean. People will travel to the east from Makunudhoo, in the direction of Kulhudhuffushi. He has chosen such a geographic location. So this person is quite smart, thinking of a way which wouldn’t inconvenience Maldivian people.
So, he wanted to develop the island, according to my internal information. But when looking into it, he does not want the island for 99 years, as per the Constitution, after making such a fine investment. He knows he won’t be there. If we look at the normal human’s mortality rate [average life expectancy] is 70 years, he won’t be able to stay on the island for the 99 [years]. So, he requested an ownership that will allow him to leave the island to his next of kin, his heirs. We didn’t have the choice to change it to “99 plus one day”, we weren’t even able to give [him] that extra 24 hours. Which brings us here. This is the reason the constitution was changed, because we wanted him to own the land. Just under the same ownership – the land can be purchased for 500 years, but it would be kept in the [royal] family. We are sure of this, but the public won’t understand it.
The public will only find out on the day they know who this is.
[Listener: After everything has happened?]
Yeah, When they see that this person is the Saudi Crown Prince, then they will know [snaps finger] that’s the trap we laid. Mohammed had since then  paid for the acquisition of the island. The island was leased to some Maldivians. Anni [ex-President Nasheed] had given the island to some people to lay some pipes or something – actually not even to just one group but three different groups.
So [at the time] Adeeb was the tourism minister, Dr Waheed the President, and Waheed really wanted to seal the deal, and rushed into giving [Mohammad] the [island]. After making the deal, [Mohammad] said that 99 years was not enough for him and spoke about halting the project. If that was the case, the government would have had to pay him back, and would have to handle all those connected to him internally, in the deal.
However, he never lost interest.
He came again to in 2013, again to One and Only [Reethi Rah Island], with his father – now King Salman, not too long after Yameen assumed office. He hadn’t ascended to the throne then, at the time [Salman] was the crown prince. The current King was then crown prince, and as luck panned out, after King Abdullah’s passing, he quickly became the King. And with that, all the power would go to their family, right? Until he passes, then Mohammed will be King, that’s the likeliest person.
However, since they didn’t have the guarantee, they hadn’t commenced the investment. We even tried to penetrate this into [the Special Economic Zones law], whether this was what the SEZ was for… but even the SEZ can’t cross [violate] the Constitution, unless…until we amend it, which would have opened window for us, right. The reason for creating the window is because, this is a much designed, proper and planned [investor] that will not cause any harm to us, whether religious wise or any other way.
We can say this much, that we believe that this investor is… not China for sure, not India for sure, not the UK for sure, or America or Russia. They [the public?] are rattled thinking we are trying to get China to own land in here.
[Listener: that’s what the media is also….]
The real geopolitical interest is this, China is playing this game in the South China Sea, reclaiming lagoons, creating havoc there, taking islands from the Philippines… the Philippines won’t dare to mess with the Mighty China, after all, their radars will be on standby.
So, India was curious whether we were making such deals, and India’s data releases prove what [MP] Eva said, that the Chinese submarine had crossed the Maldivian waters. Actually, it did not even cross our waters. It crossed international waters. International waters begin 70 miles from the Maldivian shore. There is a tiny small passage line, half of it is taken by the Indian Ocean with Minicoy [on the other side]. There are only 72 miles Between Maldives and Malik [Minicoy], so it is hard to measure this. To claim those are our territorial waters, we’d have to create borders like there is between India and Pakistan. But we do not have the resources, to keep one of our vessels there 24/7, to say that this is within our waters. We can’t do that. After Minicoy ends, [Malik] is in the same continental shelf as Maldives. Malik is the portion at the very end of the [underwater] volcano that erupted to form Maldives. Then there’s the Laccadive islands, which is a different pattern to the Maldives.
However, Minicoy has the same circular pattern [as the Maldives], which means that this is one continental shelf until Addu Atoll. It goes on in the the same patterns to Diego Garcia, which is again 72 miles away. So, we have lost some of our [islands] within this shell. Like what the President said about Addu and Malik the other day, meaning Malik actually belongs to us, but that we lost it because we didn’t have the power then, for example, so those in power could not do anything. No one knows how long it remained with us. What we know is they speak in our language, which is the reason they made Anni declare that our language is part India, just so as to play this game. The dialect used in Minicoy has been declared an official language of India now, of which there are around 53 or 54 languages. In September 2011, they declared that the dialect used in Minicoy is the 53rd language in India. During the 2011 SAARC Summit, they had played this game and now we have lost it. Otherwise this language [Dhivehi] is unique, and dedicated only to the Maldivian people. There is no room to add this as a dialect of the Indian language, it’s true it does have Sanskrit, Singhalese, Tamil, but this language is our own.
So, if we look at what [Prince Mohamed] selected, he has made a very calculated decision. The closest will be Kuda Huvadhoo, which is 54 kilometers above [Himithi]. There will be no reason for anyone to travel around the area without a purpose. To the east [of Himithi] is a reef, a small rock-like island is in the middle, and then next to it is a 21-kilometer long reef. We estimate they will reclaim portions of that, at their own expense. This means that we will create a new land surface without spending anything, with 30 percent of the said land surface will given to the Maldivians, meaning some locals will make investments there, right, right next to them.
I estimate that right next to it will be their holiday homes, which they will create in different patterns. This is not something that’s happening for the first time, all countries in the world do this. It becomes a huge issue to us because of the way the Constitution is.
Another example:, if the government had declared that alcohol was prohibited in the country when tourism was introduced in the Maldives in 1972, and if we tried to allow that now, they would torch the parliament. Scholars will speak out, the religious people will come out saying that we are selling something forbidden, and the Maldivian people will come torch the parliament, or those parliamentarians who dared to talked about it. But it has been 40 years since, and [alcohol] is being sold here, but in the resorts. But if we tried to pass that now, the situation would’ve been much worse, that’s what I’m saying.
[Listener: So casinos would’ve been be okay then?]
They would still be open. No one would bother. Who cares? For example, we are always talking about the China’s interest market, there are other island nations which are exactly the same as Maldives, they only lack one thing. They don’t have this much visibility, from land to ten metres under water. It goes from bar to bar.
In the Maldives, in what we call the ten metre bar underwater, there is pure clarity. And the zoo plankton migrates from one end to the other. This doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world. Here it occurs because it is in the middle of the Indian ocean. Because there’s no current strong enough, it comes in, circulates and then can leave. That’s why the visibility is always clear. There’s no fog.
There’s sand like this in other places too, crystal sands,
[Listener: Bora bora right?]
Yes, Galapagos, too. They have beaches and palm trees just like these so why should someone give us part of the billions they have? We are talking about a total of 16 billion dollars here, this guy is going to dump 16 billion US dollars.
[Listener’s question: is it all going to be in this location or in various locations?]
No this is the location, specifically this is the location as far as I was [being] told, understand? It is not authentic information that is usually shared, that is why I am sharing this off the record for your brain information, to gauge what might happen, just scenarios.
Why? Why can’t they just go to Mo’orea, there is plenty of fish near Mo’orea, there is so much more fauna[s] there, in Bora Bora, near Tahiti, all over the French Polynesia, much more prettier, more vigorous, colourful fish. So even if that is what you want to see, Maldives would not be your first choice. One would have gone there. So why here? Because we are Islam – that’s why he is interested. It is because we are Muslim that he believes he will be tolerated here and that there will be no pressure towards him.
So when the Saudi princes come here on their jets and waste a weekend and leave, all the waiters and everyone else will have made a year’s wages. They wouldn’t have to work for another year! It is how they behave, that make us say this. We have seen their actions, we know how they spend, there is no lack of countries waiting in anticipation with their hands out, begging for a Saudi prince to visit them. What does Maldives have to show? A reef that will waste away slowly – people don’t even go here to collect shells!
The honest answer is the reef [around Faafu atoll] place has been here for over 3,000, 4,000 years – no one wants to go there, even to collect a shell. [Listeners: In Faafu atoll? …even near Nilandhoo?] Yes. When you look straight from here, that’s the west. There’s no where for people to go near here, even if they circulate the area. No one would come here. Absolutely, there isn’t even space for someone to go there.
[Explaining something on a map]
Look this is what happens. This is the location. I’ve got the [geographical] points ready on this. Ok?
This is South Alif Atoll. No one will travel from South Alif to Kuda Huvadhoo via this route, right? They will come this way instead.
[Listener: wait wait, is this Dhaalu?]
No, here this is Faafu Atoll. Himithi is here.
[Listener: Ahh, is this the reef?]
Yes, this is the reef. Himithi is here. Then, there is a small island near there [referring to Minimasgali]. This is the reef, the reef they are preparing to develop. There are no populated islands near here, and the next closest populated island is Nilandhoo 5.2 km away. So, there is no reason someone should come here. There’s no islands nearby. Then there’s where the four atolls converge. But that is very out of the way. They would go this way, it is the furthest atoll in the region, no one is going to travel by there. So he found a place where he could live as far away from locals…
[Over listeners who are discussing the map]
It is the small island next to it. People used to live there, people lived there until ’98. To go where the four atolls converge, they would travel inwards, not outwards.
[Listener: Mm, not out to open waters].
So when we look at the reality of this project, the government or yet President Yameen’s idea is going towards creating the 94,000 jobs that he had promised the youth– I mean he would stay awake, scratching his head, wondering how he can devise a way to create even that one more job for a Maldivian, in order to fulfill his pledges to the youth. Even a SEZ was created.
[Listener: You mean USD100,000 annually or monthly?]
I mean annually they [the Saudi princes] will give away that much, but locals wouldn’t have to come to work for that long, is what I mean. According a little research I conducted, studying how much they tip and the expectation of people’s salaries – for example they get 1.5 million rufiya as salary for locals in resorts per year. I mean they’ll meet that amount with their needs. And they’d each stay stay here for just a week or two. And that guy wouldn’t be back for a while. And his brother wouldn’t come with him, right? He’d come to his own [holiday home]. And then he shows up with his usual travel crowd…
…[Listener: is it a full buyout or is the payment year-by-year]…
In this case it’s going to be upfront payment, from the 15 billion, three billion has already entered the Maldives, now it is going to continue as a private venture…
[Listener: will there be additional investments under that bill…]
There are people, a lot of people, but we can’t give land to them. A Russian billionaire might want it immediately, they will have much more dirty money than this. But we won’t give it to them. Though because this has been created…the fear is about what those who might come after us do.
Like I said before. Because [the law is like this] anyone can potentially buy land. These people, the family we are negotiating with, don’t want their names to come up abruptly. Otherwise, the amendment will include their names. But we couldn’t have done that, as he also wouldn’t want to be involved in such a joke, this is a country’s Constitution we’re talking about, meaning don’t confirm or deny right now that it is actually the Saudi Royal family right now. I’m just telling you this for your information, I’m telling you the pros and cons.
There are seven Emirates in the Gulf, Dubai, Al-Ain, Sharjah, whatever. Oil is in Abu Dhabi. They were developing what’s in Dubai, whatever under Rashid in phases. The Burj Dubai was the original one. This is why I’m mentioning this story. This was a pet project of Rashid and Ibrahim. They sold off the hotel to Armani. Then came the financial crisis of 2009. They suffered immense losses and requested the senior Sheikhs for a loan. He agreed, on the condition that the Burj should be renamed to Burj Khalifa. That name will be there. This shows that if we cannot offer him something, then they would not invest. We’re talking about neighboring brothers. Dubai lends to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi lends to Dubai, it’s working superbly. In spite of this, he wanted his name on it. Mohamed Rashid wanted to ensure at whatever cost, that the Burj should remain as Burj Dubai. But that will never be the case ever again. No one will call it Burj Dubai. It will be called Burj Khalifa.
This is the technique used. They can say if the name is not there, then they will not invest. This is how we will invest. Pride is an Arab thing. Then it’s over, then we can put a padlock on it if we want to. More likely I will be happy when I can say that from this moment it will be over. I can put a padlock on it. I will jump on that bandwagon
I’m someone who talks about the country’s geography, language, culture in public frequently. I came onboard with this only when President Yameen convinced me 100 percent. He said “Nihan this project is like this, I want the PPM parliament to push this bill to the Parliament. I want you to directly put this bill in.” I took on the project from then on, despite knowing I would get criticised for this. But at the end of the day when all’s well, there’d be someone to thank me for daring to do something like this.
There are contemporary examples. The skyscrapers in some nations are not public property. Even in Singapore. But Singapore did something right. In Singapore, the building is theirs [investors] but the land is the nations. In places like London, Greater London, even including Tokyo, it’s extremely difficult to get land, London, Paris, New York. In the three places, people have bought the land. They’re buying it. And the value remains constant, remains same.
An apartment in New York, America, the one Donald Trump sold last week, for US$ 21 million, when he was about to contest for Presidency. He had some cash shortage sold it off. It immediately snapped up for US$ 21 million. A three bedroom one, with a large sitting room. Not that huge. Donald Trump bought it 25 years ago, for a very low amount US$ 500,000. He paid US$ 500,000 on it in 1986, when he was at the peak of his career, thriving.
Maldivians live there. I was stunned when I knew that former Health Minister Dr. Shakeela had an apartment in Dubai. I was stunned. It’s in Dubai Crown, Emirates Crown on the 52nd floor, the whole east side, Didi bought for 10 million. I went there twice. You don’t know when the rooms begin and end. But that belongs to a Maldivian. A Maldivian who eats and sleeps like us, owns an apartment there bought from their own money. So then why can’t we?
The opposition figures will criticize over this. The people who’re on social media over this, are not really right in their heads. This is their example. Leaching off of their parents, stay awake all night, sleep all day, then go to coffees, restaurants, then what [right] do they have to talk about the nation? Those who are like this are crazy people. They have nothing else to do in their lives. They’re writing all this just to get attention. That’s why I don’t respond to them. If there’s anyone who is even a little bit upstanding among them, among MDP, is Ibu Jaleel. He’s a project manager at Dhiraagu. Brother of Defense Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel. But he’s a hardcore member of MDP. There is no one else in MDP who is even close to that level. Then there are people like Mezzo Mohamed, the next guy and so on. [John Prescott] is Ismail Sodiq. Exactly.
Bro is the only one who doing this much even. I talked to him about this today too. If he says something, then even the MDP goes silent. From what he said yesterday, MDP went quiet. I called him, I said that it was quite impressive what you did. They don’t believe it when President Yameen says anything. They don’t believe when our Parliamentarians say anything. But the moment you say it, it’s OK.
When you move ahead with this, find some time to combat comments on papers like Haveeru. President is very concerned over this. There’s Asurumaa, other groups, but there is no uniform action on this. This is very sad.
Last night even someone tweeted something like this. I saw one thing has been tweeted over and over again by three, four, ten, twelve, fake accounts. It’s a confusion who owns this? One thing is repeated over and over again. From various accounts. That’s what I saw. They’re not real people.
Something Adeeb said, multiple accounts in twitter had sent out direct tweets on it. Same wordings, same type, same pattern, so we know that this is done by one person. It’s a copy paste. First one was made by Shumba (Ashraf). It’s followed by a series of twitter accounts, tweeting the same thing.
If [a tweet] is good, I will post it. I will not follow one group, or exclude the other. If its good, I will follow it.
They’re not many who have the guts. We have a bunch of MPs who put on ties, are very loud, hang out with the President. I told one of them, you were the person who had refused to stay at the last rally, saying that your wife needed you at home. [I told him] you’re not ashamed now. When we were trying to form PPM from DRP and during the 21 nights of protests, we had to force some MPs to the field. Only Mahey [MP Mahloof], who is no longer with us [PPM], Ali Arif, Ilham, I and Riyaz Rasheed will be there. Others won’t come. Then we have to beg them to come. If we succeed in bringing them, after a while they will be at the back, MPs like Ali Saleem. Now they’re very pro-PPM, pro-President Yameen.
I manage to hold this together. I don’t respond to twitter that much now. I don’t care that much now. Even today they are, MDP is, saying this is Thanksgiving Day for me or something like that. What happened in the morning was that I had spoken on the terrorism act. I made some comments on them. Then they went up against me. Not so anymore. they’re marking 3rd August as the day they give thanks to me. They even made a hashtag. They stopped after a while, when it did not pick up. Eva tweeted something, saying that I said it. I searched for it later on, but I couldn’t find it. Probably, [might have deleted it] I couldn’t find it. It’s not there anymore. Who’s tweeting as Sikka Mohoree?
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