Ex-pres to send letter to ITLOS regarding Chagos claim

The opposing PPM-PNC coalition has decided to send a letter to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) expressing its concerns on the dispute between Maldives and Mauritius over territorial waters.

The letter will be signed by currently jailed opposition leader and former President Abdulla Yameen, PNC President Abdul Raheem Abdullah told reporters on Wednesday. Before the letter is sent to ITLOS, other political leaders will be invited to sign the letter, he said.

The opposition coalition's decision to send a letter to ITLOS comes while a ruling is scheduled for Friday in the disputed territorial waters case between the Maldives and Mauritius.

The Chagos Archipelago, or Chagos Islands, is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean, about 800 kilometers south of the Maldives. In 1965, while planning for Mauritian independence, the UK constituted the Chagos as the British Indian Ocean Territory. Mauritius gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and has since claimed the Chagos Archipelago as Mauritian territory.

The current maritime dispute between Mauritius and the Maldives came after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in September 2019 declared the Chagos Archipelago south of the Maldives a sovereign territory of Mauritius. The ICJ ruling came after Mauritius submitted for an ICJ recommendation on whether Chagos was under its jurisdiction.

According to the ICJ's 2019 ruling, the UK's occupation of the Chagos is illegal. ITLOS ruled last year that Britain's control of Chagos was illegal. According to international court decisions, Chagos is a sovereign territory of Mauritius.

No previous Maldives government has recognized Chagos as part of Mauritius. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's government, too, did not recognize Chagos as part of Mauritius until recently. Late last year, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath revealed that the Maldives government had decided to recognize Chagos as part of Mauritius, citing its support for full colonial recognition of countries. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has also sent an official letter to the Mauritian government recognizing the Chagos as part of Mauritius.

Many political parties and political leaders in the Maldives have expressed concern that the government's new stand on the Chagos issue could result in the loss of a sea area in the south of the Maldives. However, the Maldives government has said that it has not changed its policy on the issue or any of its claims except to recognize Chagos as part of Mauritius.

The current dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius in ITLOS covers 95,000 sqm of sea area.