The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation has ordered Villa Air to temporarily terminate its operations.
Villa Air is a domestic airline operator owned by Qaasim Ibrahim, the Maldives’ biggest business tycoon and Member of Parliament for Maamigili Constituency.
The Ministry’s order came through a Press Release, which said that the decision was made for the purposes of conducting an audit to look into an accident that occurred during a flight of a Villa Air plane on the 24th of this month.
The Ministry’s Press Release said that it had a statutory duty to ensure that all planes used for domestic air transport were in good condition, and to see whether all safety measures are taken by flight operators. The Press Release then said that Villa Air’s operations were ordered to temporarily be terminated in order to fulfill this statutory duty under 18(a) of the Act on Air Transport.
“An incident occurred on the 24th of December 2011 while a flight of Villa Air was in air. This Airline has provided services for a period of three months, and they use an aircraft that is not usually used in the Maldives, and Villa Air is a new airline. Based on these factors, the Civil Aviation Department has decided to stop their operations for the time and conduct an audit within three months”, read the Press Release.
Qaasim Ibraim, owner of Villa Air issued a Press Release too, in response to the decision by the Ministry. His statement said that the Ministry had faxed their order after official office hours, and that the Ministry had not acted in according to normal procedures and principles in making the decision and communicating it to Villa Air.
“I assure all the Maldivian citizens that I am a law-abiding Maldivian citizen, who respects and upholds the nation’s laws and Constitution. Each and every one of the business ventures with my interests in it has been organized and conducted with the highest standards of service and quality being maintained, and they are run in a way that would earn the country goodwill and reputation through them. I would like to tell the people that this government commits such acts against me because I have stood up in defence of this nation’s laws, because I have worked for the protection of the rights of the people, and because they want to silence me and bring an end to the work that I do for the people of this country”, read the statement of Qaasim.
The Ministry of Tourism has ordered the massage spas in Qaasim’s five resorts to be shut down, claiming that they had received reports of prostitution in them.
The government has taken these steps against Qaasim’s business ventures after he participated in the Mass Protest held last Friday to oppose the government’s continued mockery of and attacks on Islam, and after he warned the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party yesterday to stop continuously issuing threats against the judges of the Maldives and intimidating the judiciary.
In the Mass Protests held on Friday, the organizers of the Protest called the government to stop whorehouses in Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Many have said that the government’s order to close all massage spas in resorts owned by Qaasim is an attack on Qaasim for participating in the Protests.
Opposition sides have criticized the government's decision, saying that it is "politically motivated, but in a shameful manner and to a shameful degree, beyond anything that we usually see in corrupt regimes".