Parliament OKs emergency motion seeking letter to Mauritius

Maduvvari MP Adam Shareef Umar. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

The Parliament on Monday approved an emergency motion submitted by the opposition seeking the contents of a letter sent by Maldives to Mauritius regarding the territorial dispute between the two countries over Chagos.

The motion was submitted by People’s National Congress (PNC) deputy leader Adam Shareef Umar.

The territorial dispute between Maldives and Mauritius is over an area between the Maldives and Chagos Islands - a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers south of the Maldives archipelago.

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 International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on August 23, 2019.

The letter in question was sent by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth acknowledging Mauritius’ sovereign claim over Chagos on August 22, 2022.

With ITLOS set to make its decision regarding the dispute on Friday, Adam Shareef has demanded the Maldivian government explain the reason for the shift in their stand in the dispute.

Speaking during the debate, Adam Shareef said the Maldivian government failed to seek the opinion of any of the top legal experts in Maldives before making its decisions in an issue of such significance. He accused the government of failing to protect the best interests of the country.

“The seas in southern Maldives, especially the Chagos area, has significant fishing points such as Sathoarahiya and other points. The territory we are losing will result in an irrevocable loss to the Maldivian fisheries sector and the country as a whole,” he said.

Adam Shareef also accused the government of making secretive deals with Mauritius. He demanded an investigation into the alleged deals.

The motion passed with a majority vote of 23 out of 42 MPs.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has called the claims by politicians regarding the Chagos dispute “misleading”. He said that President Solih did not promise anything in exchange for Maldives’ vote for the Chagos decolonization resolution in the UN General Assembly.