Friday 26th Feb 2021
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Indian military

Request for Information on UTF Lodged with Ministry of Defence

Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, has requested the Ministry of Defence for further information about the Uthuru Thila Falhu project.

The Maldivian government signed an agreement with India to develop a Coast Guard dockyard at Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF). The agreement had been titled "Development, Support, and the Maintenance of the Maldives National Defence Force Harbour Sifavaru at Uthuru Thila Falhu".

Dhiyares submitted a request for information through the Right To Information (RTI) Act. As per the law, the Ministry of Defence is obliged to provide Dhiyares with a response within 15 days of submitting the request. The law permits the petitioner to appeal to the Information Commissioner if the response was unsatisfactory; and likewise, the petitioner may also appeal to the High Court if the response of the Information Commissioner is unsatisfactory.

Dhiyares requested the following information from the Ministry of Defence:

1. The organisation to which the "technical personnel"; to be stationed at UTF as per the agreement; belong.

2. The duration for which the personnel may be present in the Maldives; the clause in the agreement which specifies the duration is also requested to be disclosed.

3. The number of "technical personnel" from India to be present at the location.

4. The interest rate of the USD$ 50 million loan, the maturity date, and other related information.

5. Whether or not the "technical personnel" would be receiving diplomatic immunity, and other related details.

6. The details of the costs of the food, stay, and accommodation of the "technical personnel", and whether or not the Maldivian government would be responsible for these costs.

Dhiyares had requested the Ministry of Defence for details regarding defence agreements made with India. Among the requested details were the number of Indian military personnel present in the Maldives. The Ministry of Defence had refused the disclose the information, and after an appeals process, the Information Commissioner had agreed that such information did not have to be disclosed. The case has been appealed at the High Court.

The case of the Dornier-228 had also been requested from the Ministry of Defence. After their refusal, and an appeals process after which the Information Commissioner had agreed with the Ministry of Defence's decision, Dhiyares has decided to appeal this case at the High Court, as well.