DNA movement calls to disclose UTF agreement

Former Home Minister Umar Naseer and former Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon.

The Dhivehi National Action (DNA) has called to disclose the agreement signed by the government with India for the development of the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) dockyard. 

The agreement has caused controversy with many critical of the government and expressing mistrust that the agreement favors and grants India too much power. However, this has been refuted by the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and the Defense Ministry. 

Former Home Minister Umar Naseer and former Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, who lead the DNA movement, spoke on the matter last night expressing the concern of the movement over the matter. Umar has also been accused of causing alarm and unrest, by leaking a draft of the agreement for UTF. MNDF has since stated that the draft of the agreement contained untrue clauses. 

Umar, last night said that if the agreement was indeed a civil one, it should be disclosed to the public. He said that if the agreement was a military one, it should be sent to the parliament. 

The document disclosed by Umar, grants India full access to the dockyard and allows the nation to stage armed military personnel at the dockyard, a clause which led to immense public outrage. The draft also grants Indian military personnel full immunity and requires the permission of India if the agreement was to be terminated as well.

Umar, speaking on the leaked draft of the agreement, said that it was something sent by India around June 22, 2020. He said that in 2019, after the second defense dialogue held between the two nations, Maldives had sent the terms of references to India in September of that year.

“The agreement floating currently is the one sent by India based on those terms of references in June 22, 2020. It is exactly as how the Indian government sent it to the Maldivian government,” said Umar. He added that only government officials would know the changes brought about to it. 

“I am calling to disclose the current agreement to us. What is on the internet, is exactly what the Indian government sent on June 22,” said Umar. He noted that the agreement was sent during a time when the Maldives was in a dire situation economically due to COVID-19. 

“They (India) hoped that by sending this at such a difficult time, that the Maldivian government would accept and sign it. That’s what they wanted. That is why they sent it at such a dire time for us,” said Umar.  He admitted that the dockyard being developed in UTF would be very useful to the Maldives but that the MNDF needed to be a self-empowered military. 

He repeatedly called on the government to disclose the agreement if any changes were brought to the agreement. 

MNDF, in a press conference earlier yesterday, denied that India had exclusivity to the dockyard and that no armed military personnel would be based at the location.

Chief of Defense Force General Shamaal said that the document circulated on social media was a baseless one to which a lot of changes had been made. He repeatedly called to stop the spread of misinformation regarding the army. Chief Shamaal also warned that all options would be explored to stop the spread of such rhetoric. Other senior army officials in the presser also called to stop using the MNDF for political purposes. 

"The dockyard will be operated by the state of Maldives. No one else will be operating the dockyard. The ownership of the dockyard will also be with the state of Maldives. Any technical officials who come to the dockyard will also come with the permission of the state of the Maldives who will also determine how long they stay," said Chief Shamaal, before stating that the Maldivian government had the power to terminate the agreement at any time.