The Ministry of Defence announced that the disclosure of any information regarding the agreement titled, "Development, Support, and the Maintenance of the Maldives National Defence Force Habour Sifavaru at Uthuru Thila Falhu", made between the governments of India and the Maldives posed a threat to national security.
The Ministry of Defence made the statement at a hearing held by the Information Commissioner's Office following a request for information lodged by Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal.
Dhiyares had requested the following information from the Ministry of Defence:
- 1. The organisation with which the "technical" staff to be stationed in the Maldives; as per the agreement; are affiliated,
- 2. The duration permitted for the stay of Indian nationals; also the text of the agreement which specify these durations,
- 3. The number of "technical" staff stationed by India in the Maldives,
- 4. The repayment date, terms, and interest rate on the USD$ 50 million loan granted by India as per the agreement,
- 5. Details of any diplomatic immunity enjoyed by "technical" staff stationed by India,
- 6. Details of any costs of feeding and accommodating the "technical" staff stationed by India that may be borne by the Maldives
During a hearing held today at the Information Commissioner's Office, Information Commissioner Ahid Rashid had asked the representatives of the Ministry of Defence if disclosing whether or not the Maldivian State would bear the costs of feeding and housing "technical" staff posed a threat to national security. The legal team of the Ministry of Defence responded in the affirmative, that this was the view of the Ministry. They added that the disclosure of anything pertaining to the agreement posed a threat to national security.
Information Commissioner Ahid responded that the constitutional definition of a threat to national security signified danger to national sovereignty, independence, or to life or property. The Information Commissioner asked if disclosing any of the requested information could lead to such a situation.
Avoiding a straight answer, the representative replied that the decision to keep the information confidential had been made by the Military Advisory Committee and that the Ministry of Defence's Information Officer had no power over that decision.
Ahmed Azan, who had lodged the request for information on behalf of Dhiyares, responded that he wished to read the decision made by the Military Advisory Committee to classify the entirety of the UTF agreement. He had also requested that the matter be clarified, even if it meant summoning members of the Military Advisory Committee to a hearing.
The Information Commissioner has said that the case would be concluded at the next hearing. Commissioner Ahid had mentioned that he would confer with the Military Advisory Committee before that.
Earlier this year a draft version of the agreement was leaked online. However the government stated the draft was fabricated and the original agreement was very different from the draft.