The Housing Ministry has written to Male’ City Council (MCC) informing it that Sultan Park and the Artificial Beach areas of Male’ have been reclaimed by the government.
These areas represent two of the 32 land plots transferred from the Housing Ministry to the MCC after its establishment as part of the previous government’s decentralisation policy in 2010.
Dr Mohamed Muiz, Minister for Housing and Infrastructure, informed Sun Online that it was only the development rights that had been removed from these areas, insisting that the MCC would still be responsible for municipal services such as cleaning and maintenance.
Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem said that this was “proof that [the government] are politically motivated in other takeovers.”
“They are trying to take all the things handed over to the city council,” said Kareem.
The ongoing stand-off between government and MCC, which is dominated by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has been growing in intensity over the past two months.
The removal of these two areas from the council’s jurisdiction follows disputes over a number of areas in the capital which the MCC had allocated to the MDP for an ongoing series of protests. The reasons given for the jurisdictional challenges have varied in each instance.
- March 19 – Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu, “Justice Square” – The MDP camp was dismantled by security forces after a day of unrest in the capital. The government claimed illegal activities were being conducted in the area. It also claimed that the leasing of the land for political purposes was in contravention of the decentralisation act. The case remains stymied in the courts.
- April 17 – Dharubaaruge Conference Centre – MCC informed that staff working at the centre would be transferred to the Housing Ministry. Police reopened the centre after the MCC locked the doors. The centre is currently still under the MCC’s jurisdiction.
- April 18 – Huravee offices – The Housing Ministry informed the MCC that its staff were being evicted from their offices in the Huravee building to make way for two newly-created government ministries. The second of these ministries was been officially introduced today. The MCC says the centre is still under its control.
- May 9 – Usfasgandu – A letter in April informed the MCC that the land would be removed from their power if the MDP activities on the site were not stopped. The ministry again used the breach of the decentralisation act’s stipulations as justification for these breaches. Yesterday, the Home Ministry instructed the police to seize the area. Today, the police announced their intention to obtain a court order before taking further action.
- May 21 – Artificial Beach – Government cites reclamation in order to develop the area.
- May 21 – Sultan Park – Government cites “reasons of national security”.
The MCC has consistently denied the legality of these reclamations. Kareem said that the council will go to court to challenge the legality of the process of reclamation itself, rather than with regards to the individual cases, as he believes the government would prefer.
The reasons Muiz gave for today’s takeovers were the receipt of multiple requests to develop the artificial beach area and the importance of the Sultan Park area for national security.
Contrary to the development arguments cited by the Housing Ministry, Kareem argued that the MCC had intended to develop the area, something that the government did not want to see happen.
“They are trying to frighten investors”, Kareem alleged.
The importance of the area surrounding Sultan Park, mentioned as reason for the government’s takeover of this area, was highlighted by independent MP Mohamed Nasheed last month when speaking to Minivan News about a freedom of assembly bill entering the Majlis.
Nasheed stated that the unusual nature of the country meant that the area surrounding the state’s vital institutions must remain free from static protests, lest the security force’s ability to operate be jeopardised, reports Sun Online.
Dr Muiz was unavailable for additional comment when contacted by Minivan News.
Sultan Park lies on a short distance from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters and the Maldives Police Service (MPS) headquarters in Republican Square.
Both the MDP’s original “Justice Square” camp as well as the one currently threatened at Usfasgandu were leased to the party by the MCC.
Interim MDP Chairman Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik was today reported in the local media as saying that the MDP would make all of Male’ its base should the Usfasgandu area be cleared.
Kareem also reported that a petition, signed by 60 people was handed in to the Local Government Association (LGA) today criticising the MCC’s provision of services. Kareem argued that the MCC was in fact delivering services to thousands of people every day on a small budget.
Sun Online has reported that the petition criticised the council’s policy of not permitting certain religious speeches, which it argued was biased. The petitioners were also reported to have criticised the city’s maintenance of streets.
The MCC asked police to break up a speech given by Sheikh Ilyas Hussain on Friday which they argue had not been authorised.