In the evolving saga of the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) acquisition of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), recent revelations have intensified scrutiny over President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s dealings during his official visit to Türkiye.

Initially, the President’s Office denied any meetings with businessmen during the visit, a statement now contradicted by President Muizzu himself, revealing engagements with key figures in Türkiye’s defence industry.

The heart of the controversy stems from President Muizzu’s maiden trip to Türkiye on 26 November last year, following his inauguration. Public speculation and allegations suggested that the visit involved discussions on military procurement, fuelled by social media photos purportedly showing meetings with Turkish defence contractors. 

A media request for transparency, filed under the Right to Information Act, sought to clarify these allegations, specifically querying the identities of any businessmen met during the visit.

In response, the President’s Office firmly stated that President Muizzu “did not meet any businessmen” during his trip, a claim starkly contradicted during a recent ceremony inaugurating the MNDF Air Corps. 

President Muizzu disclosed interactions with Selçuk Bayraktar and Haluk Bayraktar, executives of Baykar, the Turkish defence company that manufactured the UAVs acquired by the MNDF. This discrepancy raises questions about the transparency and consistency of official communications from the President’s Office.

Baykar, a prominent defence manufacturer with close ties to the Turkish government, is at the forefront of UAV and drone technology, with Selçuk Bayraktar, a key figure in Türkiye’s military advancements and son-in-law to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, playing a pivotal role in the company’s successes. 

The admission of these meetings, particularly with individuals deeply integrated into Türkiye’s political and defence fabric, has sparked concerns regarding the motivations and methods behind the drone procurement process.

The Maldives’ sudden allocation of approximately MVR 560 million from the state contingency budget for the drone purchase, coupled with the absence of any formal announcement or social media disclosure of the agreement with Baykar, further complicates the narrative. 

The lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest inherent in the dealings with Baykar executives—given their political and familial connections—suggest a complex interplay between diplomatic relations, personal networks, and national defence procurement.

This incident underscores a broader issue of governance and accountability in the Maldives, particularly in matters of national security and expenditure. While the enhancement of the MNDF’s capabilities is a legitimate goal, the process by which these capabilities are augmented must withstand scrutiny to ensure that it serves the nation’s best interests without succumbing to opaque dealings or external influences.