GMR-Maldives arbitration over Male airport to commence next year

Male/New Delhi:  Arbitration proceedings in the airport contract row between Maldives and GMR Group will commence in the middle of next year though an exact date has not been finalised yet.

Maldives' Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham, who represented the government in the preliminary hearing on the arbitration proceedings held in London on April 10, said both parties had agreed to commence proceedings by the middle of 2014 and were now waiting on arbitrators to confirm the exact schedule for when their respective cases would be presented, media reports in Male said today.

Asked about the meeting, a GMR spokesperson said in New Delhi that it was "the first meeting and primarily preliminary in nature. We await the procedural orders from the panel".

Haveeru, a daily newspaper in Maldives, reported that GMR had proposed to commence proceedings next April, while the government had proposed next September.

It quoted Mr Usham as saying that after deliberations, both sides agreed to start proceedings in June or July next year. "As arbitrators are really busy people, it will take a couple of days to decide on a final date to start the case. It has been agreed that the date would be in June or July of next year. The arbitrators will decide on the final date and inform us in the next couple of days," Mr Usham said.

He added that it was agreed to hold hearings in the case for a period of two weeks.

"After the hearings, the arbitrators will consider the arguments of both sides and decide on the outcome", Mr Usham said.

In addition, it was also agreed to give GMR two months to respond to the propositions of the Maldivian government, he added.

Singapore National University Professor M Sonaraja will represent the Maldives government while GMR's arbitrator is former Chief Justice of UK, Lord Nicholas Edison Phillips. Meanwhile, retired senior British Judge, Lord Leonard Hubert Hoffman is the arbitrator mutually agreed by GMR and the government, the report said.

The Maldives government had unilaterally terminated the 25 year contract with GMR Group last December to develop and operate Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

GMR had previously stated that it would seek $800 million as reparation from the Maldivian government. However, the Maldivian government had reiterated its claims that the airport operator agreement with GMR was "void ab initio" (invalid from the outset) and that the government does not have to bear any compensation for the termination.


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