Despite the fact that the Information Commissioner’s Office’s seven-day deadline has passed, the Ministry of Defense has yet to reveal specifics concerning the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement requested by local news website Dhiyares.
Dhiyares requested information from the defense ministry on the agreement between India and the Maldives to create a dockyard and port development project at Uthuru Thilafalhu for the Maldives Coastguard, which was rejected. Following that, the news website filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
On October 14, the Information Commissioner’s Office concluded that the information pertaining to the agreement did not pose a threat to national security and told the defense ministry to release the information within seven days.
Even though the seven-day deadline has expired, Dhiyares claims the defense ministry has yet to release the information. The defense ministry has not released a comment.
With pressure mounting to release information pertaining to the UTF agreement, the Indian government stated yesterday that defense agreements signed between the Maldives and India after 2016 are based on the strategic action plan signed by former President Abdulla Yameen during his official visit to India.
If the defense ministry does not provide the information demanded by the Information Commissioner’s Office within 45 days, it will risk legal action.
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 Information Commissioner Ahid Rasheed, the defense ministry’s statement violates the constitutional right to information. He further noted that the legislations specify 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.