The Maldives “will not entertain” private arms depots, Home Minister Umar Naseer has declared, after it emerged that a Malta based maritime security firm was planning to set up an armory in the remote north.
In a tweet on Tuesday night, Naseer said: “On behalf of the govt I confirm that there is NO arms depot in Uligamu. Govt will NOT entertain such a deal involving arms.”
A spokesman from Malta-based Marshall Consultants Group, the parent company for Safety at Sea Logistic (SASL), confirmed to The Maldives Independent plans to set up an armory on Uligan Island in Haa Alif Atoll. The depots will be supervised by the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) and is aimed at catering to the demand for maritime security for ships transiting the Indian Ocean.
Operations will begin “as soon as we get permission. We haven’t got all the permissions yet,” the spokesman said.
The MNDF declined to comment while the Uligan Island Council stopped responding to queries.
Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s office spokesman, in a tweet, also announced: “There is no foreign armory in the Maldives, and there has been no agreement with anyone to set up such a place.”
He also denounced speculation that the deal had been reached after Vice President Ahmed Adeeb carried a letter from President Abdulla Yameen to Maltese President Marie-Loiuse Coleiro Preca in August.
“In the letter to the President of Malta, President [Yameen] did not make any mention of an armory or anything related to that,” Muaz tweeted.
SASL is registered at the economic ministry in Malé and permitted to sell imported goods, according to publicly available records.
According to the company’s website and documents obtained by The Maldives Independent, SASL intends to set up both a floating armory and a land armory in Uligan. They are to be overseen by MNDF, and secured by 20-30 armed guards.
At present, ships transiting through the Maldives register with the MNDF in Malé and deposit any weapons with the state armory.
An expert said Uligan is better suited for transiting ships than Malé. As the Arabian Sea is prone to piracy, private maritime security services in the Maldives will be a lucrative trade.
SASL’s documents indicate it has been promised a monopoly over the services, while the MNDF would only have a limited role, the expert who was reluctant to give his name said.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) labeled the deal a “national security threat,” and called on the government to clarify if any negotiations had taken place on the deal and if the national security council that advises the president had deliberated on the matter.