The Gulhifalhu reclamation project, a significant infrastructure initiative initiated by the previous administration, has recently become the subject of intense debate after Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Dr. Abdulla Muththalib publicly criticised the project agreement, alleging it to be detrimental to the state. His comments ignited a flurry of diverse opinions and prompted calls for a corruption investigation.

Muththalib disapproved of the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration’s handling of the agreement. This public denouncement followed a stay order issued by the High Court, which suspended the reclamation work due to concerns about its environmental impact. However, the Supreme Court later overturned this interim order, which was issued in connection with an ongoing civil case filed by environmental activist Humaida Abdul Gafoor.

The High Court’s decision to suspend dredging work was met with criticism, with allegations surfacing of the Mohamed Muizzu administration’s involvement and influence in halting the project. Muththalib refuted these allegations on social media, stating, “Those attributing the actions of the [Muizzu] administration to ulterior motives are the very individuals who signed an agreement that, by its nature, is detrimental to the state. Individuals truly vested in the nation’s welfare would not have approved the Gulhifalhu reclamation agreement.”

Akram Kamaluddin, responsible for the project during the Solih administration, has challenged Muththalib’s claims. He posed a question to Muththalib, pointing out the lack of transparency regarding the specific detrimental effects the state was allegedly facing due to the agreement.

“You [Muththalib] have refrained from disclosing these purported detrimental effects, leading to potential public misconceptions. The absence of any mention of these effects suggests that there is no such harm to be found. I urge you to reveal why you believe it to be harmful!” Kamaluddin said.

Muththalib’s allegations also led to calls for an investigation. Ahmed Muizzu, the former Prosecutor General, has urged Muththalib to submit the agreement to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for investigation if he believes the deal is detrimental to the state.

The Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s interim order to suspend reclamation work after Attorney General (AG) Ahmed Usham filed an appeal. He stated that the state would incur significant financial losses every day the project was on hold.

Kamaluddin, who served as the State Minister for Housing in the Solih administration, confirmed that a delay or stoppage of work would incur a cost of US$300,000 each day the stoppage was in effect. He was one of the individuals who alleged the Muizzu administration influenced the High Court’s suspension order.

The project, which aims to reclaim 65 hectares of land from Gulhifalhu, was awarded without bidding to Royal Boskalis and Van Oord from the Netherlands on 17 October 2019. The current administration has since revised the project parameters to add another 85 hectares and an additional 150 hectares in a second phase.