The body assigned to monitor the work and activities of the councils created under the 2010 decentralisation act has urged Male’ City Council (MCC) not to allow its facilities or equipment to be used for political purposes.
The Local Government Authority (LGA) has reported several complaints about the use of council offices for political purposes and has released a statement on its website warning the council that such activities could undermine public confidence in the MCC.
“[The LGA] believes that this could disrupt the system by which these services are provided to the people. Hence, we advise all councils and council offices to refrain from leasing council property and equipment for political gatherings,” read the statement.
Under the terms of the 2010 Decentralisation Act* the LGA was created to “monitor the work and activities and coordinate the work of the councils.”
The act also commits the LGA to “ensure the work and activities of councils created is functioning in accordance with the constitution, this act, and the other laws.”
The LGA statement did not elaborate on its position concerning the legality of the use of MCC facilities for political purposes. Minivan News was informed by an LGA staff member that there was to be no further comment given today.
The legality of the use of council land has become the focal point in the dispute between the MCC and the central government.
The most recent development in the long-running dispute came on June 7 when the government filed a request with the Civil Court, requesting an order for the MCC to hand the Usfasgandu area over to the Housing Ministry.
The ministry first announced its intentions to reclaim the site on April 9 should the MCC fail to dismantle the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) protest camp.
The government argued that the leasing of the land to the MDP for political purposes was in contravention of the decentralisation act. After the MCC refused to accept this interpretation of the law, the cabinet informed the MCC on May 9 that it was entrusting the Housing Minister to reclaim the area.
The situation escalated once more on May 29 after the government obtained a warrant from the Criminal Court to search the area after the Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed had alleged complaints of illegal activity in the area. Among the purported misdemeanours listed on the warrant was “suspected black magic performed in the area”.
The security forces began to dismantle the camp before the MDP obtained an order from the Civil Court to halt the process.
The MDP, which enjoys a majority of seats in the MCC, has also been using Male’ City Hall, the council’s main office, for party press conferences in recent weeks.
Under the Decentralisation Act, the LGA is empowered to file suit with the High Court to dissolve the council. One of the situations detailed as warranting such action is the misuse of council’s faciltities.
Article 140 of the constitution states that a member of the cabinet must be assigned responsibility for each of the non-independent government authorities. The Home Minister currently fulfils this role.
*These details have been taken from an unofficial translation of the act.