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Foreign Minister Shahid addresses UTF-related rumors

Mohamed Rehan
29 September 2023, MVT 17:42
Development works at Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF)--
Mohamed Rehan
29 September 2023, MVT 17:42

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid has responded to allegations by the opposition coalition regarding Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF).

Minister said that the rumors about UTF, where Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is developing a harbor for its coastguard with the aid of the Indian government, is similar to the rumors spread regarding Addu City Police Academy.

Opposition places severe allegation on the current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih-led government's close ties with the Indian government. The coalition claims that MNDF do not have control over the 'Ekatha' harbor developed in UTF, and was controlled by the Indian military who were present on site.

Responding to this, minister Shahid who spoke with Mihaaru News said, that the rumors were akin to the fallacies related to the Police Academy in Addu.

"There were rumors that the academy was developed specifically to accommodate Indian military personnel, and that Addu would be fully under their control," he said, noting development of the academy was executed during Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed's tenure as Minister of Home Affairs.

"Is that the reality? Today, they do not speak about it. It is in the past, today they are talking about UTF," he added.

According to the minister, the coastguard harbor project's discussions first began in 2015 during former president Abdulla Yameen's administration. Yameen had visited India and signed a defense action plan with the then Indian government, minister Shahid said.

"But things suddenly changed in front of them. After that the narrative changed, and [UTF] was described as an Indian military and navy base," he said.

The initial plan involved development of an airport, but the project's scope was shrunk for a harbor and dockyard for coastguard vessels to berth and dry-dock for repairs.

The minister further said that completion of the harbor will enhance Maldives coastguard's efforts in policing the country's waters, and enhance their vigilance.

He also noted that the allegations made on senior MNDF officials, who spent their entire lives in the army, regarding UTF was disheartening.

"We need to set aside our political differences for this, don't bring our security forces into our political rivalry," minister Shahid said.