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Action to be taken against unauthorized attempt to enter UTF

26 September 2023, MVT 12:45
Ongoing work at Uthuru Thila Falhu.
26 September 2023, MVT 12:45

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has submitted the case of "Dhiyares" journalists' unauthorized attempt to access Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) area to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) for investigation.

Journalists of "Dhiyares" attempted to get on to the MNDF controlled area on UTF on Sunday, after president Solih's announcement about granting land plots for housing from the UTF area. The president made this announcement while speaking at a campaign event held on Saturday night.

Security officials guarding the MNDF controlled area did not allow the journalists to disembark on to the reclaimed premises, as they entered the harbor on a speed boat.

MNDF issued a press statement after the incident, stating that prior authorization is required to access centers under MNDF, and that the journalists who entered the harbor of UTF and recorded a video at the premises did not have such authorization. The statement released on Sunday night detailed that 4 people on a speed launch attempted to get on to the reclaimed area of UTF, and MNDF security official at the premises holding the rank of Staff Sargent First class prevented them from doing so. The statement noted that this was within the bounds of legal powers vested in the official.

The press statement further said that the opportunity to view the premises had been facilitated for media on their request. The statement reiterated that attempting to get on the area without authorization violates existing rules and regulations, and noted that some nations even use weaponry to prevent unauthorized access into areas under their defense forces.

The statement read, "To try and enter into a centre of the MNDF without prior authorization is extremely irresponsible and a very serious matter. We will submit the matter to the relevant authorities to take legal action against these people."

The MPS have started investigating this matter which was submitted to them by MNDF yesterday. A media official confirmed that MNDF submitted a case regarding an attempt to enter the UTF without authorization. The official did not provide any further details.

Journalists that were allowed in to the UTF premises to view the area.

Following President Solih's announcement regarding the allocation of land plots for housing, the government made a detailed chart available to the public. This chart, outlining the residential area, clearly indicates that the region currently under MNDF control is not part of the residential area. The land plots are set to be provided from another section of the lagoon that has yet to be reclaimed.

The agreement with the Indian government to develop a special harbor for MNDF coastguard vessels was signed in February 2021. The project was awarded to Rail Vikas Nigam, an Indian company, at a cost of USD 186 million (MVR 2.9 billion) in December last year.

The opposition alleges that UTF is being developed as a base for Indian soldiers. The government has repeatedly denied these allegations and said that the area has always been under the full control of Maldives.

MNDF has repeatedly said that the UTF is being developed with a dockyard to moor vessels of the coast guard. Furthermore, MNDF highlights that the the dockyard will not have the capacity to cater to large ships such as those used by foreign naval forces.

In another press statement issued by MNDF, they provided some details stating that "As large ships used by naval forces would be much bigger than 500 tonnes, it would be impossible to moor and repair them at the UTF dockyard."

The statement highlighted that the dockyard is being constructed to accommodate larger vessels owned by the MNDF coastguard, addressing the existing challenges from a shortage of space for coastguard vessels. Furthermore, the statement noted the significance of this project in enhancing the overall operational capabilities of the MNDF.

Coastguard vessels of MNDF are currently moored in an area 270 metres from Hulhumalé harbour, and MNDF statement highlights the the UTF development would have a 300 metre jetty as well as a slipway and repair center for the vessels. The facilities would cater for vessels below 500 tonnes.

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