In a landmark decision, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has instructed the President's Office to disclose the names of individuals who accompanied President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih during his nine-day official tour to Qatar and Germany back in March. The move comes as part of a broader effort to increase transparency and promote the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
President Solih, accompanied by his wife, First Lady Fazna Ahmed, embarked from Male' on March 6 to attend the fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) in Qatar's capital, Doha. Following the LDC conference, the President and the First Lady traveled to Germany for the world's largest Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin.
Upon their return on March 12, The Maldives Journal invoked the RTI Act to obtain details regarding the full list of attendees on the international trip. In response, the President's Office acknowledged that a delegation of 21 individuals, including the First Lady, took part in these diplomatic travels but declined to disclose their names, citing privacy concerns.
However, the ICO, championing transparency, ruled that the identity of these individuals could not be deemed private information. The order for disclosure marks a significant decision that reaffirms the primacy of the RTI Act in ensuring government accountability.
These diplomatic trips, which aimed to bolster Maldives' international standing and nurture strategic relationships, amounted to an expenditure of MVR 7,097,210.62 ($459,234.12). However, the public remains in the dark about who constituted the President's entourage during these high-profile international visits.
This case further underscores a persistent trend of opacity from the President's Office, which has often been reluctant to reveal information, even in the face of orders from the ICO.