President and Commander-in-Chief of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Dr Mohamed Muizzu, has defended the opacity surrounding the procurement of military drones from Türkiye, citing national security concerns. In an exclusive interview with ‘Mihaaru’ News, the president elaborated on why complete details regarding the newly operational drones through the MNDF Air Corps have been withheld from the public domain.

Addressing inquiries about the reticence on the specifics of the drone acquisition, President Muizzu argued that the particulars of military assets are inherently sensitive and traditionally not disclosed by nations. 

According to President Muizzu, the advice from senior military officials, including the Chief of Defence Force and other generals, was clear: the specifics of military assets, such as the count of drones, are matters of national security and thus, not subject to public disclosure.

This explanation, however, has not quelled public curiosity or scepticism, especially in light of the president’s previous admissions of meetings with Turkish defence manufacturers and the subsequent revelation of drones being part of a grant from Türkiye. While attempting to allay fears of financial mismanagement by highlighting the grant assistance and discounted purchase, President Muizzu’s assurances have done little to address the core concerns of transparency and accountability.

President’s commitment to openness and action against any corruption within his government contrasts sharply with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s allegations of overpriced drone acquisitions. The opposition claims to possess details suggesting the drones were bought at rates significantly higher than market value, raising suspicions of financial irregularities.

The drones in question, described as medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles, possess sophisticated capabilities, including support for laser-guided missiles and the ability to operate autonomously or via remote control. Their technical prowess and potential military application underscore the significance of the procurement process being scrutinised.

President Muizzu’s appeal to national security concerns in withholding information echoes a common refrain used by governments worldwide to navigate the delicate balance between transparency and protecting sensitive information. However, this approach also raises pertinent questions about the threshold for such secrecy, especially when it intersects with public funds’ use and the integrity of government procurement processes.