President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s letter to the Mauritian prime minister with respect to the Chagos archipelago has been leaked on social media – proving allegations raised by the opposition had been false all along.
The letter sparked a huge controversy when it became public knowledge. However, its content up till the leak, had been just speculations.
For decades, Mauritius and the United Kingdom have been in a dispute over ownership of the Chagos, after Mauritius claimed the Chagos archipelago as Mauritian territory when Mauritius gained independence from the UK in 1968. Maldives became involved in the dispute as the country's exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Chagos.
Mauritius lodged the case with the ITLOS under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on August 23, 2019.
Maldives had voted against a 2019 resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for the UK to relinquish claim over Chagos and hand the islands over to Mauritius within six months.
During verbal proceedings of the ITLOS case, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath said Maldives had decided to vote in favor of the Chagos decolonization resolution in the UN General Assembly, when put forth again, and that the Maldivian president had informed his decision in a letter to the Mauritius prime minister.
Following these remarks, the opposition raised allegations of the government shifting its stand with respect to the maritime border dispute.
The President’s Office’s Spokesperson Miuvaan Mohamed has confirmed the leaked letter as an original document to Sun, adding a probe was underway to identify the leak.
“We are investigating the leak of the letter,” he said.
Contrary to the allegations, the leaked letter from the president, affirming Maldives decision to vote in favor of the decolonization of Chagos, emphasized no changes to the government’s legal position in the ITLOS case.
The government had always denied the opposition’s allegations with respect to the letter, and in a press conference following the ITLOS ruling said the government decided to recognize Mauritius’ sovereignty over ITLOS in light of the tribunal’s earlier decision affirming Chagos archipelago is part of Mauritius rather than the UK, while concluding the delamination of the disputed maritime area with Maldives can be proceeded separately.
ITLOS, on April 28th, concluded that the conflicting Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Mauritius and Maldives would be divided between the two using the equidistance formula as argued by Maldives in the case.
Thus, Maldives gains 47,232 square kilometers from the 95,563 square kilometers of maritime territory in dispute while Mauritius gains 45,331 square kilometers.
The government has argued that Maldives loses no maritime territory by the ruling while the opposition claims Maldives is entitled to the entire 95,563 square kilometers of maritime territory in dispute.