The 2024 National Budget, approved by Parliament Budget Committee, revealed a diversion of MVR 10 million from the MVR 400 million, which was allocated in the initial proposal for the Fuishidhiggaru lagoon project, towards the legal work concerning the appeal of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruling on the delimitation of disputed maritime territory between the Maldives and Mauritius. 

The allocation provides for the new government’s strategy to reclaim an area of the country’s southern maritime territory, which it deemed lost following the ITLOS decision. The decision to reallocate funds was confirmed during the Budget Committee meeting held on Thursday evening. The total budget presented to Parliament for the upcoming year amounted to MVR 49.5 billion before revisions by the committee.

President Muizzu has been vocal about his commitment to appealing the ITLOS ruling, which resulted in the Maldives gaining a larger portion of the disputed waters but losing approximately 45,331 square meters from its traditionally claimed Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

A pre-appeal review of the case is currently underway, led by the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Muizzu promised to appeal the decision during his first 100 days in office, a pledge that was a focal point of his presidential campaign.

Legal experts, however, have raised questions about the feasibility of appealing the ITLOS decision. Interpretations from legal commentators suggest that ITLOS rulings are final and binding, with no provisions for appeal under international or Maldivian law. This sentiment was echoed by legal professionals on various social media platforms, indicating a challenging path ahead for the government.