Local firm claims Maldives turning back on RM514m construction project after change of govt

The Maldivian presidential election last year saw incumbent president Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives being defeated by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (pic). — Reuters pic
The Maldivian presidential election last year saw incumbent president Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives being defeated by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (pic). — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — A Malaysian property developer has filed for arbitration against the Republic of Maldives over an alleged breach of contract, amounting to nearly US$30 million (RM124 million) of arrears for a project in the Hulhumalé reclaimed island there.

WZR Property Sdn Bhd group chairman Datuk Sazmi Miah told Malay Mail that his company filed the arbitration yesterday at the Asian International Arbitration Centre, which will then appoint professionals to handle the case.

He explained that on September 10, 2015, WZR Property was invited to submit its proposal along with six other international companies to develop a 25-storey office complex by the republic’s Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

WZR Property won the bid and was then awarded the contract on February 1, 2016, with the project amounting to nearly US$123 million (RM514 million).

The contract agreement was subsequently signed between the Maldives government and WZR Property on March 1, 2016.

The novation agreement was then signed by said ministry, its government-linked company Housing Development Corporation Limited, and WZR Property on March 7, 2017.

However, WZR Property claims that it had not received a single sen of the payment despite the fact that it has already completed 20 per cent of the total work, and 60 per cent of the pilings for the structure.

“What happened is that when they changed to the new government some time last year ... they have been shifting the goal posts in terms of whether they wanted to continue with the project or not,” said Sazmi, who is also the Kelantan Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia deputy chief.

“The agreement was signed with the previous government, the new government is kind of reluctant to continue. And our outstanding claim of US$29 million wasn’t being entertained.

“We have written them letters, went through our diplomatic channels through Wisma Putra to get them to reply to us and so on but there’s no effort from them except for several meetings with them but there was nothing in black and white whether they are continuing or not,” he added.

The archipelago nation’s presidential election was held in September 23 last year, and saw incumbent president Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives being defeated by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, of the Maldivian Democratic Party, who represented the opposition coalition.

Sazmi now claims that the new Maldives administration is trying to buy time by behaving in a non-committal manner, ignoring his numerous letters to the president, its Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, and Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulla Shahid.

He said the only high-profile meeting that was afforded to his team was with one of its two deputy finance ministers, Mohamed Firzul Hussain Firaz, and its High Commissioner to Malaysia Visam Ali.

When contacted by Malay Mail, Visam refused to comment and said that her government “has been in consultation and negotiation with the company”.

She added that anything she says will further “hinder the process”.

Sazmi claimed WZR should be compensated with an additional US$30-40 million, on top of the US$29 million owed, if the Maldives government decides cancel the project outright.

“We expect them to honour the contract, to see these things through no matter if you change the government; you still honour the contract and whatever that have been done with the previous government.

“We hope that they will take this matter seriously, as it involves our livelihoods, our good relations,” Sazmi said.

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