Debates ring in parliament over establishing international airports

Parliamentarians pictured during a sitting. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Debates and points of contention have been observed between parliamentarians over international airports to be developed in different regions of the nation which are part of the amendments proposed to the Tourism Act. 

Some parliamentarians speaking on the matter in today’s meeting of the Whole House Committee, advocated establishing international airports in their constituencies. 

Speaking on the bill, Fonadhoo MP Moosa Siraj said that a transport system was very much necessary for tourism development. He noted that L. Atoll, where Fonadhoo is located, was far away from Addu International Airport, the nearest international airport, and had no international airport of its own. 

“We have a domestic airport, Honorable speaker, the airport is also a military airport. I believe that there is difficulty in bringing in guests if the airport is militarized. We are also wishing for a solution for this in the future. Bringing guests would difficult without an international airport.” Said MP Siraj. 

He also accepted that L. Atoll did not have a sufficient number of beds but called to remove the atoll from the Huvadhu Atoll category.

After MP Siraj’s statement, the Speaker and Chair of the Committee Mohamed Nasheed said that while he was not an expert in airports, it was obvious that airports could only be operated with a sufficient amount of people. He said that the location of airports and ports must be concluded with a national ideology. 

“Every island is not a nation, every atoll is also not a nation. We have to understand that our airports only receive about a million or two. That is the Male’ Airport. We are unable to develop the airport and break even with this.” Said Nasheed. 

He also noted that there came debt with the airport. 

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed. (Photo/People's Majlis)

“We are also expressing concern over the amount of debt we have to pay back and how we are going to do so, with the Hulhule’ Airport.” Said Nasheed.

He said that a forward-thinking was required to decide on locations to establish airports and ports and must not be done to satisfy voters. It must be done for the benefit of the nation, said Nasheed. 

Kendhoo MP Ali Hussain also agreed with this point when he said that instead of thinking about a specific island or atoll, the nation must be prioritized. 

Hithadhoo MP Ibrahim Naazil speaking on the matter said that it would be convenient for all MPs to have an airport on their doorstep. However, this was not how it should be, said the MP who took the example of Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand which are connected by domestic flights. He noted that the capital Wellington was not where all international flights operated to. 

“The man who travels to Wellington, is going via a domestic flight after his international flight to Auckland,” said Naazil.

South Thinadhoo MP Abdulla Saneef echoed the point of not establishing an airport on every doorstep. He noted that regional development could only be brought to where the economy and population existed. 

Gan International Airport, Addu City. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

“While there are 1,100 islands in the entire nation, Huvadhu Atoll is home to 225 islands. One-fifth of the population of the Maldives in Huvadhu Atoll. For example, we cannot develop an airport created by the British for their war, no matter how much we try.” Said MP Saneef who was speaking about the Addu International Airport, which used to be a Royal Airforce Base. 

Saneef noted that while Huvadhu Atoll had 12 resorts operational, Addu and L. Atoll had a combined three resorts which were all non-operational.  The MP then called for arrangements for international arrivals to be made to the Huvadhu Atoll which would then develop the tourism of the South. 

“We do not want to sacrifice the resources of Huvadhu and its people for anyone else.” Said Saneef.