Chief of Defence Forces Abdulla Shamaal. Photo/President's Office

Army says won't allow false propaganda to disturb peace

Shamaal said the armed forces will always be ready to defend the country

30 April 2023

Chief of Defence Force Major General Abdulla Shamaal said on Saturday that MNDF will not allow the country's stability and security to be compromised due to misinformation and propaganda being spread that a part of the Maldives has been lost from the country's territory.

The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on Friday sided with the Maldives in the dispute with Mauritius surrounding the delimitation of the maritime boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the Maldives and the Chagos archipelago, awarding a bigger portion to the Maldives. 

ITLOS noted that the size of the relevant area is calculated to be approximately 92,563 sqkm. The delimitation line allocates to Mauritius 45,331 sqkm and to the Maldives 47,232 sqkm.

With this, for the first time, the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been officially demarcated from the southern part of the country.

"Misinformation and propaganda are being spread by various quarters [following the demarcation]," Shamaal said while speaking at PSM's 'Raajje Miadhu' programme Saturday night.

He said that while the onus of establishing a safe and secure environment in the Maldives has been placed on the national defence forces legally, the armed forces will not allow the spread of misinformation to disturb the peace and security of the country.

"A place that does not exist cannot be lost, we believe... It is very clear that the location that has existed for so many decades is now known and received," Shamaal said.

He pointed out that some people were spreading rumours that "a part of the state territory has been cut off, separated and given to others".

"It's a very serious story, very sensitive. I appeal to people not to spread such rumours. And if this is being propagated, it is a show that we are not able to discharge our duties," Shamaal said.

Shamaal said the armed forces will always be ready to defend the country and that the military will not sit and watch while a piece of the country's independence and sovereignty is being given away. 

MNDF also discussed the management of the designated sea area in the southern part of the maldives. MNDF said the delay in formal separation from the southern part of the country has posed challenges in the past to the coast guard's role.

"We did not have much power to go from the south to the extent of the economic zone, if we’re being honest," Shamaal said.

"It's a place where we don't have much access or power, especially when it comes to ensuring these sovereign rights of our exclusive economic zone." 

Chagos is under British control as a British Island Ocean Territory and operates a U.S. military base in Diego Garcia, or Foalhavahi, Chagos's largest city. Shamaal, therefore, pointed out that it was difficult to maintain and use the southern waters.

He said the US military had been stationed there and regular patrolling was being carried out, and that the sea area from the southern waters toward Chagos was "not accessible to anyone – let alone, our fishermen."

He, however, pointed out that due to the current separation, the fishermen also know where they can go and not very well.

Following the demarcation, senior MNDF officials also outlined what the military plans to do to ensure that the EEZ is best maintained in the south of the country. Thus:

  • A 50-metre patrol vessel will be operational in the near future; it will be the largest ever to be used by the Coast Guard

  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other equipment to strengthen surveillance will be sought

  • Army deployment in the area will be strengthened, border guard and law enforcement will be taken care of.

There have been concerns in some quarters that Mauritius-approved vessels could enter the country's economic zone and fish. However, coast guard commandant, Col. Ibrahim Hilmy, assured on Saturday night that no one would be allowed to do so.

"We've been able to have our territory marked. So, we will take full care of the area. We will also take necessary legal action against anyone found violating our laws in the area," he said.

Shamaal pointed out that since there was no specific area demarcated before, it was not possible to take action against vessels entering the zone illegally. 

"Now that the demarcation is official, we will be able to take all the necessary steps," Shamaal said.