The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed serious concerns over the lack of transparency by President Mohamed Muizzu’s administration in procuring Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Türkiye. The exact quantity of drones procured remains undisclosed, but the acquisition was aimed at enhancing the capabilities of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), particularly for surveillance of the country’s expansive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Ahmed Easa, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kendhikulhudhoo and the spokesperson for the MDP’s parliamentary campaign, raised questions on Monday regarding the financial aspects of the procurement. He pointed out that while the market price of a single ‘Bayraktar TB2’ drone is approximately US$2 million, the government has yet to justify its expenditure of US$39 million on the acquisition.

President Muizzu commissioned the MNDF Air Corp. and three military drones on 15 March. The president stated that while some drones were purchased, others were received as part of a grant from Türkiye. This detail has sparked an escalating debate over governmental transparency.

Easa referenced a news article detailing the recent acquisition of ‘Bayraktar TB2’ drones by the Kuwaiti government from Türkiye. “The article clearly states that Kuwait disbursed US$2 million for each drone. Identical brand, identical features, and originating from the same country [Türkiye]. Kuwait procured each drone for US$2 million, whereas the Maldives acquired two for US$39 million,” queried Easa.

While the government has yet to disclose the number of drones it acquired from Türkiye, it is believed to be three. Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon confirmed to parliament on Monday that some defence equipment was granted from Türkiye. However, he declined to disclose specific details of the acquisition, stating, “I am not at liberty to discuss the details here. However, I am willing to share details at a closed-door meeting of the 241 committee [Parliamentary Committee on National Security Services].”

Easa clarified that while the government remains secretive about the drone deal, the MDP is not seeking to pressure the government to disclose details of the MNDF’s military prowess. Instead, the MDP wants the Muizzu administration to be transparent about the deal’s financial aspects, he said, asserting that the public has a right to know how taxpayer money is spent.

“If there is no financial impropriety involved, why shouldn’t the government disclose the cost of each drone? We don’t perceive any threat to national security by unveiling the price of the drones. If that were a threat to national security, the Kuwaiti government would not have disclosed the prices, as it would have posed a threat to their national security too,” Easa contended.

The 241 committee has since passed a motion to question Maumoon over the acquisition of the drones. West Henveyru MP and leader of The Democrats, Hassan Latheef, proposed the motion to the committee.