Minister of Defence Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon has called for the enactment of a confidentiality act aimed at safeguarding government secrets, while addressing the scrutiny surrounding the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) procurement of military drones,

This call was made during Ghassan’s appearance before the parliament on Monday, initially intended to answer questions from lawmakers regarding two separate incidents in which armed Indian naval officers boarded local fishing vessels inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which occurred on 31 January and 1 February.

The discourse, however, swiftly pivoted towards the contentious acquisition and commissioning of military drones under the MNDF’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) service, which was officially commissioned by President Dr Mohamed Muizzu on 15 March. While some drones were purchased, others were received as part of a grant from Türkiye, a detail that has been at the centre of an escalating debate over transparency and governmental secrecy.

Responding to questions from MPs, Ghassan advocated for the state’s right to withhold certain military details from the public domain. He underscored the necessity of a confidentiality act that would legally categorise state secrets according to their sensitivity, thereby protecting them from being exploited for political propaganda.

Ghassan’s proposal for the confidentiality act envisions a legal framework where divulging sensitive information would constitute a criminal offence, with law enforcement authorities being responsible for the preservation of such classified information. 

This initiative, which has been discussed with the parliament security services committee, also known as 241 committee, aims to facilitate the secure dissemination of confidential data to parliament, ensuring that state secrets are not misused for political gains.

Despite the public acknowledgment of the drones’ arrival and their operational status within the MNDF, specifics, including the exact number of drones, have remained undisclosed. Ghassan expressed willingness to discuss these details in a closed session of the 241 committee.

This call for a confidentiality act emerges against a backdrop of intense scrutiny and allegations of opacity surrounding the drone procurement process. President Muizzu has previously defended the secrecy, citing national security concerns and advice from senior military officers as justifications for not disclosing specific details about the drones.