President Mohamed Muizzu is facing criticism for the alleged suspension of the airport development project on Magoodhoo Island, Faafu Atoll. The local community has initiated protests, accusing President Muizzu of using the project to influence the results of the parliamentary elections scheduled for 21 April.

The residents of Magoodhoo Island have pledged to continue their protests until the administration resumes the airport’s development. The project, which is close to completion, has been a source of concern for Magoodhoo council officials, who confirmed to local media that they had raised these concerns with the President’s Office months ago but have not received a response.

The council members suggest that the Muizzu administration has suspended the Magoodhoo Airport project to prioritise a new airport development on Nilandhoo Island, located near Magoodhoo. The two islands are separated by approximately seven kilometres.

Council President Abdulla Waheed, speaking with local media, alleged that President Muizzu’s decision was influenced by the upcoming parliamentary elections. The president’s sister, Fathimath Saudha, is contesting for the Nilandhoo constituency.

The project to develop an airport on Nilandhoo Island was contracted to the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) last week. The contract includes the land reclamation work required for the new airport on Nilandhoo.

Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, speaking on Saturday at a campaign rally of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), also raised similar allegations against President Muizzu. Solih accused the president of suspending the Magoodhoo Airport project to expedite work on the Nilandhoo Airport project, influencing the voters on Nilandhoo Island.

The MDP has been accusing President Muizzu of abusing state resources to support the campaigns of the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) candidates, alleging that this is done to influence the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

However, Abdulla Muththalib, the Minister of Construction and Infrastructure, has refuted these allegations. He confirmed to local media that the government did not instruct the contractor, MTCC, to suspend work on the airport development. “MTCC may have halted operations due to an internal matter. There was no explicit directive from the government to cease work on the Magoodhoo Airport project,” he said.

Abdulla Ziyad, the Chief Executive Officer of MTCC, also clarified to local media that the company had not received instructions from the government to suspend the Magoodhoo Airport development work. “The [Magoodhoo Airport] work remains on our project roster. No authoritative body has issued a directive to halt the project,” he stated.

Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding Magoodhoo Airport, the Muizzu administration contracted MTCC to conduct survey work for the proposed airport on Nilandhoo Island on 4 January this year.

The Magoodhoo Airport project, launched in October 2022 by the Solih administration, assigned MTCC as the contractor for the land reclamation and airport development project.

The project initially planned for a 1,500-metre runway, but in May 2023, former President Solih announced plans to extend the airport to 1,800 metres. In November 2023, the operation of the proposed airport was transferred to Regional Airports Company Ltd. (RACL).