Thursday 9th Dec 2021
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UTF Agreement

Ministry of Defence Fails to Disclose UTF Agreement Details As Per ICOM Verdict

The Ministry of Defence has failed to comply with the Information Commissioner's Office's (ICO) verdict that the information on the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) agreement requested by Dhiyares newspaper be disclosed within 7 days.
Dhiyares had requested the Ministry of Defence for specific information pertaining to the UTF agreement. On the Ministry's refusal to disclose the information, Dhiyares had then appealed to the ICO. On 14 October 2021, after a series of hearings, the ICO had ruled that the Ministry of Defence had 7 days to disclose the requested information to Dhiyares.
Today marks the seventh day since the ICO verdict, and the Ministry of Defence has failed to comply.
The Ministry of Defence's Information Officer said that the Ministry had not instructed him to disclose the information in any way. The Ministry of Defence has a period of 30 days to appeal the ICO verdict to the High Court. If the Ministry of Defence does not appeal or fails to comply within 45 days of the verdict, the ICO has the authority to press charges through the Prosector General's Office.
Dhiyares had requested the Ministry for the following information:
1. The organization or institution to which the Indian "technicians" to be stationed in the Maldives would belong,
2. The duration of time for which Indian personnel would be allowed to stay in the Maldives. (The text of the clause in the agreement that specifies this agreement is also requested for disclosure).
3. The number of Indian "technicians" to be stationed in the Maldives,
4. The interest rate and the repayment date of the USD$50 million loan granted by the Indian government as per the loan,
5. Details on any diplomatic immunity that may be granted to the Indian "technicians",
6. The costs of accommodation, food, and other costs associated with the stationing of the Indian "technicians".
The Ministry of Defence had claimed that the disclosure of any of the aforementioned information posed a threat to national security. The Ministry's Information Officer had been instructed to not disclose any information pertaining to the agreement.
A draft of the UTF agreement had been leaked earlier read that armed Indian military personnel would be stationed at the harbour. The draft also demands that the facilities be permitted for use by the Indian military. The government has declined to give a straight answer on either of these issues, and had alleged that the leaked draft was a "forgery".