TMJ has learnt that Ministry of Defense filed appeal on Information Commissioner’s Office’s order to the Ministry to reveal details of the Uthuru Thila Falhu agreement, after the due date had passed.
Information Commissioner's Office (ICOM) ordered to disclose further information about the agreement titled "Development, Support, and the Maintenance of the Maldives National Defence Force Harbour Sifavaru at Uthuru Thila Falhu" signed between the Indian and the Maldivian governments last year.
At an ICOM hearing on January 17th, Defense Ministry was ordered to issue all the required information within four days.
However, four months had lapsed since the order. Defense Ministry had informed ICOM that they would not release the information, in spite of the order.
ICOM responded to the matter on February 7, 2022. In a letter to the Ministry, the Office instructed the Ministry to issue the information. The letter also informed the Ministry that refusal to issue details was being reviewed as a separate matter.
The Ministry had then revealed that they had filed an appeal with the Attorney General’s Office. However, AG office filed the appeal in High Court 30 days after the due date specified in the law. AGO had requested to review the matter, which the High Court had granted.
However, the appeal is yet to be submitted to High Court.
Generally, additional chances are not given when a case is not appealed in the set time frame, unless a valid excuse is given.
TMJ’s sister paper Dhiyares had requested for the following details;
- 1. Details on whether the Maldives could, without India's permission, permit another country to utilise the facilities developed at Uthuru Thila Falhu.
- 2. All of the powers of the Working Group established to supervise Uthuru Thila Falhu, as per the agreement; the Ministry is also requested to provide the relevant clause, verbatim.
- 3. The details and profiles of all members of the Joint Resident Team assigned to oversee the day-to-day management of Uthuru Thila Falhu; the powers of the Joint Resident Team; the Ministry if also requested to provide the relevant clause, verbatim.
- 4. Details on whether or not a runway for the landing and take-off of airplanes will be established at the base.
- 5. Details on if the Maldives may cancel the agreement without India's consent.
- 6. Details on if any member of the Indian military would be allowed to be present at Uthuru Thila Falhu for any reason and for any length of time. The Ministry is also requested to provide details on whether these Indian military personnel would be allowed to be armed.
Although the Ministry had provided answers to some of the above questions, some of the questions had been given incomplete answers. Defense Ministry had claimed that by revealing details on the agreement, national security would be at risk but had failed to specify what that security risk was.