The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for a comprehensive investigation into what it describes as “shocking corruption” in the procurement of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Türkiye by the administration of President Mohamed Muizzu.

Ahmed Easa, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kendhikulhudhoo and the party’s campaign spokesperson, made these allegations at a press conference. While he affirmed the MDP’s full support for strengthening and expanding the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) capabilities, he expressed concerns about the transparency of the deal to purchase three ‘Bayraktar TB2’ drones.

“The use of taxpayer money necessitates transparency. The public must be privy to the details of such expenses. Otherwise, it paves the way for corruption. We believe that this deal [related to the purchase of the UAVs] has been tainted with shocking levels of corruption,” Easa stated.

President Muizzu disclosed on Friday that one of the three drones was received as a grant from the Turkish government. Easa questioned the rationale behind the government’s investment of US$39 million to acquire two UAVs and called for the specifics of the deal to be made public.

“Initially, they announced the purchase of four drones but then procured two drones, with the third being free. However, we remain in the dark about how the government expended US$39 million. The most significant concern is that this allocation was not accounted for in the budget, but the government used the contingency budget for the purchase,” Easa stated.

Easa also alleged that the government had suspended 1,720 infrastructure development projects in the outer islands to accommodate the payment for the drones, emphasising that these projects are crucial for providing essential services and ensuring the people’s right to access them.

The ‘Bayraktar TB2′ drones, procured under an agreement with the Turkish government, represent a significant advancement in the Maldives’ military capabilities. With an operational range of up to 300 kilometres and the ability to carry out precision strikes, these UAVs are expected to bolster the MNDF’s ability to conduct surveillance and, if necessary, engage in attack missions.

The MDP had previously accused the current government of engaging in a “huge scam” by purchasing military drones at “high prices.” The party characterised the government’s acquisition of the drones as a scheme to funnel funds into the upcoming parliamentary election campaign.