First 100 days: Appeal to be lodged to recover maritime area

15 Nov 2023 | 22:21
President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu during the unveiling of the first 100 days plan

President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, who is scheduled to be sworn in on Friday, has announced appealing the ruling by International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in the maritime dispute between Maldives and Mauritius as part of his plan for the 100 days of his administration.

After 58 years of disputed maritime boundary dispute between Maldives and Mauritius, ITLOS decided this year at Maldives's request. The ITLOS ruling on April 28 sparked outrage among the then opposition PPM/PNC. Opposition also accused the sea of ​​"selling" some and repeatedly called for an appeal against the ITLOS decision.

The new government plans to appeal the case within its first 100 days.

Appealing the border issue is a presidential promise. One of his biggest talks during the campaign was the withdrawal of Indian troops from Maldives and the recovery of lost sea territory.

The new government has also decided to send Indian troops  back to  India on the first day.

ITLOS  decided to divide the  sea conflicting part on an equal distance basis.

The difference of opinion between the two countries on the division of the economic zone arose when Mauritius asked to measure from the Blenheim Reef, which is only visible in dry water.

However, Maldives argued that it was not part of the coast of Mauritius. ITLOS also ruled that Mauritius' offers were unacceptable. With this decision, Maldives gained an additional 4687 acres. If the case ends as Mauritius advocated, the territory will belong to Mauritius.

Chagos is an island south of Addu atoll. The island, which is closer to Maldives than Mauritius, is now under British rule. There is no general population, and the British use it for commercial purposes.

Mauritius and the British have been at odds over the independence and ownership of Chagos for many years.

Mauritius was under British colonial rule, and in 1965 the British seized Chagos from Mauritius. The British then captured the Chagos and vacated it, forming the British Indian Ocean Territory.

But,  after they regained their independence,  Mauritius has sued for the return of Chagos.

Mauritius does not have full independence as Chagos is still under British colonial rule. UN said in 2017. And, the British were to leave Chagos as soon as possible. UN has issued an advisory opinion, giving a six-month deadline. But, the British did not follow that decision.

In 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion that the British occupiers of Chargos would not have jurisdiction over the territory, which is under Mauritian jurisdiction. However, Maldives has argued that ITLOS cannot deal with the border issue.

However, ITLOS rejected Maldives's defense and ruled that both countries should be given a 200-mile continental shelf as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Mauritius recognizing Mauritius' sovereignty over the Chagos. Although Maldives recognizes the Chagos as part of Mauritius, it has not changed its policy of secession.