Defence Minister's comments on choppers an insult: Ex-Home Minister

Former Home Minister Umar Naseer has heavily criticized Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi for stating that the country does not have the financial capability to operate helicopters on its budget.

The Indian government gifted two helicopters to the Maldives in 2010 under a mutual agreement. While one helicopter is stationed at the southernmost Addu, the second helicopter is kept at L. Gan. Both choppers are operated by Indian military personnel, a fact due to which the opposition continues to reprimand the administration.

Speaking on a local TV channel, Minister Mariya had stated that the country suffers no loss due to the helicopters gifted to the archipelago by neighbouring India, and that it only reaps benefits. While the helicopters are used to locate missing people and transport patients, it contributes human services, said the minister. However, the financial circumstances of the country and the unavailability of certain resources do not allow for the state to operate the helicopters on its own, said the minister.

Describing the minister's statement as an insult to the country, former Home Minister Umar, who leads the campaign against the Indian helicopters took to his personal Facebook page to express his sentiments on the Defence Minister's comment. In his post, Umar said Maldives National Defence Force had a special wing named 'Aircraft operation section' 45 years ago. At the time, Maldivian defence personnel had been in charge of the maintenance and operation of helicopters and airplanes, said Umar.

"During the administration of President Nasir, helicopters and airplanes were obtained for the state under late Koli Ahmed Manik's leadership. Retired pilots from Sri Lanka were brought to the Maldives to train Maldivian defence personnel in the operation and maintenance of the aircraft," said Umar.

The name was later changed to National Security Service Airwing, the defence force continued to operate the aircraft with the assistance of local pilots and engineers, said Umar. Maldivian military pilots had operated five different brands of aircraft and two helicopters, he added.

"In 1992, the aircraft, pilots and engineers were transferred under Air Maldives [then national airline]," Umar, who served on the defence force for a long period explained.

Therefore, it is a huge insult when the minister states that the country with the world's largest seaplane operation is incapable to operate helicopters, said Umar.