Ahmed Haleem, the Member of Parliament for Bilehdhoo, has submitted an early-day motion to parliament, accusing President Mohamed Muizzu of suspending the airport development project on Magoodhoo Island, Faafu Atoll, for political advantage.

Residents of Magoodhoo Island have initiated protests in response to the alleged suspension of the airport project. They accuse President Muizzu of leveraging the project to influence the results of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for 21 April.

MP Haleem has raised questions about the government’s suspension of the Magoodhoo airport project and its simultaneous announcement of a new airport development plan for Nilandhoo Island, located just seven kilometers away in the same atoll, ahead of the parliamentary elections, where the President Muizzu’s sister, Fathimath Saudha, is a candidate for the Nilandhoo constituency.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-sponsored motion urges the government to reconsider its decision to suspend the Magoodhoo airport project, which the party alleges was made to benefit the president’s family and secure unfair political advantages.

MP Haleem revealed that the Magoodhoo airport project was suspended when US$22 million for the project had been secured through a cross-subsidy policy. He asserts that President Muizzu’s decision to “cancel” the project is unconstitutional and accuses him of using state resources for personal benefit and the advantage of his People’s National Congress (PNC). This decision could lead to social and economic challenges, he warned, and he called on the government to exercise good governance.

The motion was accepted for parliamentary debate, with 22 votes in favour and four lawmakers voting against. During the debate, Nilandhoo MP Ahmed Muhsin Hameed, from the ruling PNC, defended the government’s decision to establish an airport in his constituency. Situating the new airport in Faafu Atoll on Nilandhoo would yield significant benefits for the state, he said.

Nilandhoo, being the most populous island in the atoll, is the location of all state offices and institutions, he added. He contended that the development of the Magoodhoo Airport, which is already approaching completion, would result in duplicative expenses for the state.

Meanwhile, former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, speaking at an opposition MDP campaign rally, echoed similar allegations against President Muizzu. Solih accused the president of suspending the Magoodhoo Airport project to expedite the Nilandhoo Airport project, thereby influencing voters on Nilandhoo Island.

The MDP accuses President Muizzu of misusing state resources to support the campaigns of the ruling PNC candidates, alleging that this is done to influence the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

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

Following the alleged suspension of the airport project on Magoodhoo Island, residents have pledged to continue their protests until the administration resumes its development. The project 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 yet to receive a response.