Government should not have involved MNDF in UTF case: Adam Shareef

Former Defence Minister and current MP of Maduvvari Constitueny Adam Shareef Umar | Photo: Defense Ministry

Malé, Maldives – Former Defence Minister and current MP of Maduvvaree constituency Adam Shareef has said that including MNDF in the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement was a mistake of the government.

MP Shareef’s remarks on the issue come while MNDF generals held a press conference debunking various accusations which came following the leak of the allegedly ‘fake’ draft agreement of the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) naval base harbor project by Former Home Minister, Umar Naseer.

Following the leaked documents, a local online news outlet had accused MNDF generals and top government officials to have accepted USD 20 million in bribes by India to favor the terms proposed by India in the UTF agreement.

The accusations of bribery against MNDF which questions their honor, is concerning. The government made a big mistake in involving MNDF in the UTF agreement case. As a result, their honor and integrity are being questioned now.

Adam Shareef, Former Defense Minister and current MP of Maduvvaree constituency

While MNDF and Defence Ministry have debunked all claims, general public have been calling out for the government to publicize the actual agreement as the allegedly ‘fake’ draft agreement had worrying terms presented by the Indian government. 

According to the leaked ‘fake’ draft agreement, armed Indian forces would be stationed at the Uthuru Thilafalhu area, which is will be developed as a harbor and dock yard for the purposes of Coast Guard. The agreement period was dated for 30 years, with an additional 30 years to be added by default given no objections from either party.

Leaked unsigned draft agreement between the Maldivian and Indian governments to develop a harbour and dockyard for the purposes of Coast Guard had revealed that all Indian personnel, contractors and services to be exempted from duties and taxes and also that all official Indian documents would be exempted from Customs inspection.

The draft agreement also gives immunity to Indian personnel from any suits or proceedings for implementation of the agreement in Maldives except if those personnel are found guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct. In addition to this, the Maldivian government is to give full immunity to the personnel deputed by the Indian government and their papers and premises from legal and judicial process as to other diplomatic personnel in Maldives. 

Addressing concerns over the agreement during the time the agreement was signed, MNDF had previously reassured the public that no armed personnel would be stationed at the site. 

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) had denied any such allegations before and had reassured that no military force will be based at the harbour, detailing that it would only be used to dock and repair Coast Guard vessels.

While Indian Military presence in Maldives has been a great cause of distress to the current opposition, who have even launched an “#IndiaOut” campaign, the development of this harbour and dockyard in Uthuru Thila Falhu was included under the Defence Action Plan signed between India and Maldives in 2016 – when the opposition was in power and the country was led by former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom.

The project will be carried out in two phases, with the construction of the harbour and dockyard expected to be completed within the first three years. The site will also have a naval harbour with communication equipment and resources, radar services, along with training facilities.