The Information Commissioner’s Office has instructed the defense ministry to reveal information on the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement within seven days, in response to a request from the local news website Dhiyares.
Details concerning the agreement between India and the Maldives to establish a dockyard and port development project at Uthuru Thilafalhu for the Maldives Coastguard were requested by Dhiyares from the defense ministry, which denied the request.
Contrary to what the defense ministry claimed, Information Commissioner Ahid Rasheed concluded on Thursday that the information relating to the agreement did not represent a threat to national security.
The local news outlet requested details on six main elements of the Maldives-India agreement.
Details requested by Dhiyares:
- Which institution oversees “technical” Indian personnel who will be stationed in the Maldives as part of the agreement?
- How long would Indian personnel be permitted to stay in the Maldives under the terms of the agreement?
- How many “technical” Indian personnel will stay in the Maldives under the agreement?
- The interest rate, payback duration, and other terms of the USD 50 million loan made available under the agreement.
- Details on diplomatic immunity, if any, granted to “technical” Indian personnel as part of the agreement.
- Information on whether the Maldives is paying lodging, food, or other expenditures to “technical” Indian personnel.
The defense ministry claimed that specifics concerning the loan given by India’s EXIM Bank under the UTF agreement cannot be released since the deal was not signed by it.
According to the information commissioner, the defense ministry’s statement violates the Maldives constitution’s right to information. He further noted that the legislation specifies actions to be done if the defense ministry lacks such information, and he directed the defense ministry to acquire and release the information from the relevant institution.
The defense ministry earlier argued that providing the rest of the information requested by Dhiyares would violate armed forces regulations, but the information commissioner decided that the defense ministry could not offer adequate basis for their argument.