Thursday 30th May 2024
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Right to information

Information Commissioner questions Foreign Ministry's application of Vienna Convention in information request case

During a recent hearing at the Information Commissioner’s office of the Maldives, the legal representatives of the foreign ministry claimed that the requested information from The Maldives Journal regarding world leaders asking for the "economic formula" used by President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih could not be given due to Article 27.1 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
They argued that the information requested is privileged and exempt from the Right to Information Act under Article 22 of the RTI law of Maldives. However, the Information Commissioner, Ahidh Rasheed, pointed out that Article 27.1 deals with facilitating communication between sending states and their diplomats, and has nothing to do with communication between the mission and the host country.
The foreign ministry’s representatives claimed that the article could be applied in this case and argued that all communication between diplomats and officials of two countries are classified. However, it was the Foreign Minister himself who announced that world leaders are asking him for the "economic formula" used by President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih, raising questions about the ministry's stance on the matter. During the hearing, Ministry officials also stated that they were unsure whether the requested information exists in writing or whether it was part of a verbal conversation. As a result, Ahidh scheduled another hearing for the next week to continue the investigation.
The case between The Maldives Journal and the Foreign Ministry highlights a culture of withholding information by the government institutions in the Maldives. The fact that the Foreign Ministry's officials wrongly applied the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations shows a lack of understanding of the law, which has further fueled criticism of the government's opaque practices. Moreover, it is not the first time that government officials have resorted to legal action, even to the Supreme Court, to hide information from the public. This behavior raises serious concerns about transparency and accountability in the Maldives, and underscores the need for a more open and democratic approach to governance.