Saturday 24th Feb 2024
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Right to information

Information Denied : Supreme Court Receives State Request to Keep President Solih's US Visit Receipts Confidential

The Supreme Court received the state's plea to withhold information from Dhiyares; seeking receipts of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's visit to the UNITED States in 2021 to address the UNITED Nations General Assembly.
The government refused to disclose the information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2021, seeking travel receipts to verify the authenticity of the accounts of those who attended President Ibrahim's visit to the United States in 2021. When Dhiyares appealed, the information commissioner decided that the information should be disclosed. If there is anything that needs to be omitted while disclosing the information, ICOM has been asked to disclose it after removing it.
ICOM's decision was challenged by the President's Office in the High Court.
When the case ended against the state in the High Court, the state moved to the Supreme Court. The registrar of the court was the first to conclude that the state did not give any reason to state that the high court's decision was wrong in filing the case and hence it should not be entertained. However, after reviewing the decision of the Registrar of the Supreme Court, the court judge panel decided that since there was a legal question to be raised in the matter, the matter should be looked into by the Supreme Court.

What makes this legal wrangle all the more perplexing is President Ibrahim's earlier commitment to transparency. During his electoral campaign, he championed the cause of openness and promised a government that would operate without veils. Yet, in instances like these, the government has sought judicial avenues to keep certain information under wraps. It leaves one questioning whether the initial promises were mere political rhetoric or if there are legitimate state concerns that need to be shielded from public scrutiny.
In conclusion, the tension between Dhiyares and the President over President Ibrahim's travel receipts is not merely a legal squabble. It is emblematic of a larger question surrounding transparency, governance, and the trust citizens place in their elected representatives. How the Supreme Court adjudicates this case will send a strong message not just to Maldivians but to the global community watching keenly.