The Maldives Journal has received credible information that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had misled the public with its announcement that Maldivian pilots had begun to fly the Dornier aircraft operated by the Indian military within Maldivian borders.
The MNDF held a special ceremony on 9 November to honor the first Maldivian pilots authorized to fly the Dornier aircraft. The ceremony had been closed to the media. The media had only been provided with photographs and video clips.
One of the photographs depicts a Maldivian pilot in the cockpit of the Dornier aircraft.
However, after the photograph had been taken, the pilot had been removed from the cockpit. The Indian military did not accept Chief of Defence Force Maj Gen Abdullah Shamal’s repeated requests to allow the Maldivian pilots to fly that day.
In the videoclip released by the MNDF, a Maldivian pilot is shown entering the cockpit, which is followed by a sequence showing the Dornier take flight. Although the Dornier aircraft’s homebase is in Hanimadhoo, both Maldivian pilots licensed to fly the Dornier remain in Malé.
One of the Maldivian pilots trained to fly the Dornier aircraft had left the MNDF citing the lack of any opportunity to fly the Dornier aircraft. The MNDF may have held this ceremony to as the remaining trained pilots had decided to also follow suit.
During a session of the 241 Committee, Minister of Defence Mariya Didi had said that though the MNDF had pilots licensed for the Dornier, the Indian military would still be active in flying the aircraft. She claimed that this was because the State lacked the financial capability to pay the salaries of MNDF pilots.
The MNDF official who spoke to The Maldives Journal said that it was unclear when the Maldivian pilots would be permitted to fly the Dornier. They said that the ceremony had been held as a show for the media due to mounting public pressure.