The original Dhivehi article, by reporter Abdullah Jameel, was published on the Mihaaru.com website on 27 February, 2017.
The following is a loose translation:
What is going to happen to Faafu Atoll? Are they really going to sell the atoll? Or will some people bring in an investment ? These days, these questions have been lingering in the hearts of many people, and the natives of the atoll are uneasy. No answers to these questions are forthcoming. No official indication of what is going to happen or what the truth is has been revealed.
Not even the natives have been informed of what is going to happen in the atoll. Even among the atoll council members, information has been withheld from those councillors from the opposition parties. So some people have come to the conclusion that this is a project where “what lies beneath” is unknown. This is one reason why so many rumours about the project are being spread.
Why is the Government silent on this?
Something is about to happen in Faafu Atoll. President Yameen himself has said that the Saudi Arabian government is about to embark on a mega-project in the atoll without giving any details of it. Last month, when the President travelled to Faafu Atoll Magoodhoo, he revealed that with that project, the atoll will become open to the whole world and lots of jobs will be created. The project is to develop integrated tourism and that is a type of business rarely implemented anywhere in the world.
Vice President of Faafu atoll Council Umar Zahir earlier said to “ Mihaaru “ that to lease part of the atoll for tourism development is not an issue. But the natives are really very concerned of the rumour that the atoll is being sold to a foreign party.
“We are hearing that the entire atoll is going to be evacuated. That’s why people are concerned as we don’t know what is going to happen,” said Umar.
However, Faafu atoll MP Abdullah Khaleel has answered these concerns, saying that the government is not going to sell the atoll and instead is bringing in a big development project to the atoll.
Why is Faafu Atoll special?
Some people say that Faafu atoll is one of the atolls in the Maldives with the most picturesque lagoons. Land can be reclaimed in the atoll to facilitate large economic or tourism projects.
The only resort developed in Faafu until now is Filitheyo, which opened in 1999 with 125 rooms, developed by AAA Trading Company. Other than that, there is a high-end picnic island run by Platinum Capital Holdings named “ The Rania Experience”.
“While Faafu is as it is, in the neighbouring Dhaalu Atoll, several resorts are being developed and running. Even an airport is being constructed. Thus, Faafu has to have a project that is equal to the ongoing development in Dhaalu atoll. And a project of that scale cannot be undertaken by a normal company” a tourism expert said.
Some local media has reported, citing government officials, that, in the project that is planned for Faafu Atoll, along with the the integrated resort project, a mega-city to support a population of one million may also be built. If such a city is established, the economy of the country will see progress which it has never seen before. However, some people say that foreigners should not be given the chance to be settled to inhabit the Maldives in this way.
“Faafu Atoll will not be Sold”
There are some reasons why people are talking of Faafu Atoll being sold. When the then-Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited the Maldives in 2014, it is believed that he expressed an interest to invest in Faafu Atoll Himithee to develop tourism. Since then, the Constitution of the Maldives was amended by the Parliament to allow foreigners to own land. This was perceived to be a step taken by the government to facilitate this venture, according to some politicians.
Fisheries Minister and Economic Council co-chair, Mohamed Shainee, while speaking on TVM, said that the rumour that government is planning to sell part of the Maldives to a foreign party is not true. According to him, the purpose of such talk is to gain some “political leverage.”
Shainee said that selling part of the Maldives to a foreigner is not possible. And that’s why government will not grant such an opportunity to anyone. However, the amendment to the constitution to allow ownership of 70% of any reclaimed land was made for a purpose. Some people see allowing foreigners to own land in Maldives as selling off the Maldives. Thus, for exampl,e if two large lagoons in Faafu Atoll are reclaimed for a mega project, that land will be owned by the developers of the project.
Government has to clarify the plans for Faafu Atoll. What lies in the future for the natives of Faafu Atoll also has to be clarified. Some people are expecting that details of the project may be announced during the forthcoming trip of the Saudi King to the Maldives.
Original Dhivehi Source: Mihaaru