MPs clash over maritime agreement with Sri Lanka

MPs clashed today over a motion without notice calling on the government to terminate a reported agreement with Sri Lanka to allow its vessels passage across Maldivian waters, raising fears of increased illegal fishing in the country’s economic zone.

The motion was proposed by MP Ali Saleem of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in the wake of reports in the Sri Lankan media about the maritime agreement and contradictory statements by Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi and President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair in the local media yesterday.

“Parliament has to look into what is hidden behind this,” said Saleem in his opening remarks. “Did you know that even if Sri Lankan fishing vessels traveling to the Arabian sea are carrying sharks or fish catch, there is no way to know because of this agreement signed yesterday?”

The motion states that there was room to suspect “the beginning of hidden deals” behind the agreement and asks to clarify which maritime law facilitated the arrangement of vessels informing the Sri Lankan embassy 48 hours in advance to ensure safe passage.

In the ensuing debate, MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suggested that “it would be better for us to find out accurate information on the matter” if fears of illegal fishing had resulted from misinformation.

DRP MP for Mathiveri Hussein Mohamed called on the government to inform the public  of “measures to protect Maldivian fishing areas and incomes of local fishermen if this [maritime agreement] is going forward.”

DRP MP Ali Arif argued that Maldivian foreign policy should remain “non-aligned” and neutral as “a small authorisation like this” could threaten “hundreds of years of independence.”

“Because the Sri Lankan government authorised many MDP activities in that country before the 2008 election when MDP was formed, I believe this is a gift to them in return for that,” claimed Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muttalib.

The government’s foreign policy was threatening sovereignty and independence, Muttalib continued: “We heard recently that from now on we will vote the way India wants at the UN. This is slavery, this is enslavement,” he said.

MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz meanwhile concurred with other MPs that the Maldives did not have the capacity to monitor foreign fishing vessels. All MDP MPs agreed with the consensus view that unmonitored illegal fishing posed dangers to the local fishing industry.

DRP MP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali noted that Sri Lankan trawlers had been found fishing illegally in Maldivian waters in the recent past.

“And it is a fact accepted by all our fishermen that our country, our government, does not have the capacity to identify, locate and stop foreign vessels illegally fishing in our seas,” he said, warning that the new maritime agreement would further complicate monitoring of the economic zone.

Thasmeen added that Sri Lankan fishing vessels were known to engage in shark fishing, which results in dwindling fish stocks.

There must be “broad consensus” before such a maritime agreement was signed, the opposition leader said.

MDP MP for Billedhoo Ahmed Hamza however pointed out that previous government in 1982 had acceded to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which stipulates that foreign vessels must be granted passage across territorial waters for sea travel.

While the convention allowed “innocent passage,” said Hamza, fishing by such vessels was strictly prohibited.

Hamza urged MPs to continue the debate after seeking official documentation to determine whether the maritime agreement with Sri Lanka was required by the UN convention.

“Why are we concerned about passage across Maldivian waters? [Because] we are talking about at least 424 nautical miles [of territory from the shore],” said DRP MP for Kelaa Dr Abdulla Mausoom.

While innocent passage was not an issue, said Mausoom, “history shows for certain” that Sri Lankan vessels would fish in Maldivian waters as trawlers from the neighbouring country had been detained by the authorities in the past.

MDP MP Ilyas Labeeb meanwhile accused the previous government of “selling the EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]” to enrich senior officials of the regime.

“We do not want to do anything that could harm Maldivian fishermen,” he said. “Before this government, fishermen got Rf3 or Rf4 for a kilo of fish. Now fishermen are glad that they get Rf20 or Rf30 [for a kilo].”


12 thoughts on “MPs clash over maritime agreement with Sri Lanka”

  1. Maldives have to honor bilateral agreements signed with UN and also with other countries.
    Some of our distinguished members are so ignorant that they talk just rubbish in Majlis chambers.
    I think it is better to import Bangalhis as Majlis members so that the state would not spend huge amount of money as salaries for the members.

  2. I have to agree with you Hassan. Since when did the EEZ become 400 miles from the shore?
    But all this is our fault for electing these imbeciles to the Majlis.
    All Maldives need to do is to keep a decent size Coast Guard vessel in the North and since they have access to satellite imaging now, they could track any ship that passes by too.Furthermore, the gap these boats have to pass are between India and Maldives and if India is not making any issues out of this why all the fuss in Male now?

  3. Trust idiots like Ilyas to bring up "the last 30 years" bullshit even into this. And as for the comment about fishermen earning only 3 or 4 rufiya per kilo fish, that's what the market price was, and if you ask anyone from the fisheries industry, that much per kilo still earned a fisherman more than a fair amount of money cos those were the glory days of abundant fishing. Heck, if we're gonna make empty accusations without any basis, might as well say it's cos of MDP that the level of fishing has gone down in Maldives. Yeesh.

  4. Fisheries Minister Didi and Foreign Minister Naseem have now denied that any such agreement had ever been signed.

    I guess this whole gossip became credible due to the reply given by the the Press Secretary Zuhair which contradicts with what both Naseem and Didi say.

    Access of innocent passage to foreign vessels (including fishing vessels) can only be given under the relevant rules and regulations of the Fisheries Ministry. Sri Lankan fishing vessels should not be allowed to fax a request to THEIR embassy in Male and just sail through.

    The Press Release from the Fisheries Ministry is quite clear on the rules that protect our vital economic interest.

    Under no circumstances must they be compromised for any reason. I am glad to hear that there is no truth to this.

  5. @ Maniku on Mon, why can’t the zombies in the Majlis think the way you think?
    Maybe these morons have no brains and even the small brain they have is under their ass!

  6. @ hassan ahmed

    you are sounding a bit like a moron with no brains as there are 70+ parliamentarians and I doubt they are all useless yet you had to put this on every single one, be more precise, like I think Reeko is a retard or Mustapha is a lunatic scumbag etc , this goes for all the other commentators as well, makes for better reading dont you think?!

  7. What's wrong with these opposition parties? Don't they know that we mdp members came here to sell our sunken country and get the hell out of here to UK!!!!!

  8. Please friends, it is largely apparent that Hassan Ahmed is not expressing his opinion but rather executing a duty he was assigned to do.

    The MDP in recent days has acquired new recruits of such questionable intelligence, moral fiber, level of formal education and nutrition that it would make charity organizations weep to see them.

    However, these young persons that are being paid handsomely by the MDP repeat outdated slogans that most original members of the MDP have forgotten and provide a false sense of volume to party crowds at gatherings organized by the MDP. Therefore their utility have given them protection, status and priority that most members who joined pre-2008 do not enjoy anymore.

    The downfall of a party, ideology or person begins with the weakening of its followers. I am sorry to see the day when young persons who were stringing up pictures of Qayyoom on their bedroom walls run around pretending to have formed the MDP themselves.

  9. Arif would know what the foreign policy should be. Afterall he was the driver of the London High Commissioner for a long time.

    when wud the parliament stop wasting time and money....

  10. @ Inda

    the answer to your question is when the powers that be (ie the MDP) gets put in its place, when its cut to size, and when it stops flexin its scrawny muscles, when the status quo is in effect, then only will we have such a parliament.

  11. @ Inda

    your comment actually sheds light on your shortcomings as Arifs rise and success as I would call it as I respect people who work their way up to become something, as your judgement on him without stating the reason behind such a claim would have me believe that you know less about foreign policy and therefore is just baseless drivel

  12. Except for a handful, I am sure members of our majlis will know nothing about an International Maritime Organization or a Convention on Laws of the Seas. Leave alone the term “innocent passage” in maritime law!

    "Innocent Passage" had never been an issue in the previous government!


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