Two narrow lanes in Malé pedestrianized

The housing ministry has pedestrianized two narrow lanes in the capital Malé city.

The Embu goalhi and Gul’alaa goalhi in central Machangoalhi ward were closed to traffic as part of a campaign to make Malé city friendlier to pedestrians.

The housing ministry has also barred vehicles from parking in the lanes.

Malé is one of the most congested cities in the world.

The housing ministry in February pedestrianized two lanes, the Heenaa Goalhi and the Raivilla Magu. However, they were opened up for traffic within days after residents in the area complained.

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Seismic survey underway for Malé – Hulhulé bridge

A Chinese team of scientists is conducting a seismic survey of the ocean basin between capital Malé and the airport island for a planned bridge.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu last week said the bridge will run from Malé’s surf point, Raalhugandu, to the southwest corner of Hulhulé island’s airport runway.

The Chinese team is to drill 29 boreholes, 59 meters deep, in the ocean basin to see if it can hold the bridge’s foundation pillars.

Designs for the six-lane bridge is expected to be completed by the end of June this year, the government has announced.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

It is expected to cost between US$100million to US$150million.

Construction of the Malé–Hulhulé Bridge, first slated to begin in 2014, will now start by the end of this year, and will be completed within two years.

The bridge, a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, will also connect Malé to its suburb Hulhumalé, an artificial island located behind Hulhulé and connected by a short causeway.

In March, 227 hectares of land were reclaimed in Hulhumalé for a planned ‘Youth City.’

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New city council office infested with rats and fungus

New office space offered to Malé city council office by the government is infested with rats and fungus, says deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed.

The housing minister ordered the opposition-dominated council last week to vacate the city hall building at Galolhu Billoorijehige and move to smaller offices at the Huravee building within seven days.

Shifa told Minivan News today that the council has shared numerous concerns regarding safety and hygiene with the civil service commission.

“There is fungus on the walls of the building. The building has a pungent smell and there are rats and rat holes everywhere,” she said.

Nearly 60 civil service staff at the council have filed a petition at commission, saying the building is unfit for office work.

The city hall takeover was the latest incident in a long-running power struggle between the ministry and the council. Earlier this year, the ministry transferred a third of the council’s employees to the ministry.

Shifa said the council has asked the ministry for an extension of the seven-day deadline for the move, but is yet to receive a response.

“The ministry is not responding to any political staff at the city council,” she said.

Services provided to the public could be interrupted if the ministry does not grant an extension, she added.

Local media observed cracks on the walls, several rat holes and waste leaking onto the carpet floor of the new office.

Civil service commission president Dr Mohamed Latheef declined to comment on the state of the building until the council officially requests for assistance.

“We do not want to get involved with the matter,” he said.

However, he assured assistance and an inquiry as soon as the council officially files a complaint.

The letter evicting the council from city hall was signed by acting housing minister Thoriq Ibrahim.

The ministry also ordered the council to hand over the compound building the Billoorijehige building and the local market.

Thoriq said the cabinet had decided on April 19 that the building was better suited for government offices.

The housing ministry did not consult the council on the issue before the decision, and Shifa claimed the lack of communication “was enough proof that the cabinet’s decision was political.”

In November last year, the council was shut down after police confiscated several hard drives and documents saying the council was using the documents to gain “unlawful advantages.”

In October, masked individuals wielding machetes uprooted all of Malé City’s Areca palms. When the council attempted to replant the trees, the cabinet announced the council no longer had power over the city roads.

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was ‘destroying decentralisation’ after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, the artificial beach, the carnival area, the south harbour area, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and the area near the T-Jetty.

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Housing ministry feeding pigeons in three areas

The housing ministry has said its staff have been feeding pigeons at three designated locations in Malé after a ban on feeding pigeons at the republic square sparked public outrage.

The ministry posted pictures on its Facebook page today of staff feeding pigeons at the artificial beach, the tsunami monument area, and a park near the southwestern harbour.

Executive coordinator Abdulla Shahid told the state broadcaster that the ministry imposed as a temporary measure while renovation work, including repairing a water fountain and replanting grass, was ongoing at the square.

The government is renovating public spaces in the capital in preparation for the upcoming golden jubilee of independence on July 26.

The ban drew strong criticism on social media after numerous pigeons died of apparent starvation. Hundreds of children and adults gather at the square in late afternoons to feed raw rice to the pigeons.

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Malé City council thrown out of city hall

The housing ministry has taken over the Malé City hall and its compound from the opposition dominated city council, in an attempt the deputy mayor says is designed to “wipe out” local governance.

Acting housing minister Thoriq Ibrahim in a letter today ordered the council to vacate the city hall at Galholhu Billorijehige within seven days, and move to a smaller office at Huravee Building. 

The opposition Maldivians Against Brutality coalition has been using the city hall and its compounds for rallies in recent weeks, following the housing ministry’s refusal to lease public spaces for opposition activities.

The housing ministry had taken control of all of Malé City’s public spaces, parks and roads from the city council last year.

According to Thoriq’s letter, President Abdulla Yameen and his cabinet on April 19 decided the city hall and its compounds were better suited for other government offices, which they say are suffering from a lack of space.

The housing ministry today declined to comment on which offices are to move in to the city hall.

In addition to the city hall, the housing ministry also seized control of the local market and a plot of land reclaimed for a new fish market in the northern Malé.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said that the cabinet’s decision violates the Decentralization Act.

“The government does not know how to operate within a decentralized system. They don’t want to give even an ounce of power to the people,” Shifa said.

The housing ministry had not consulted the council on the issue, and Shifa claimed the lack of communication “was enough proof that the cabinet’s decision was political.”

The city hall takeover is the latest blow in a long running power struggle between the ministry and the council. Earlier this year, the ministry transferred a third of the council’s employees to the ministry.

In November, the council was shut down after police confiscated several hard drives and documents saying the council was using the documents to gain “unlawful advantages.”

In October, masked individuals wielding machetes uprooted all of Malé City’s Areca palms. When the council attempted to replant the trees, the cabinet announced the council no longer had power over the city roads.

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was ‘destroying decentralisation’ after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, the artificial beach, the carnival area, the south harbour area, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and the area near the T-Jetty.

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University allowed to use Jamaaludheen building until June

The President’s Office has said students will continue to use the Jamaaludheen building until June in order to protect the interests of the students.

In a tweet posted last night, President’s Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that President Abdulla Yameen had decided to extend the deadline given to vacate the building used by the Maldives National University (MNU).

Muaz announcement came just hours after the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure announced that the building was structurally unsafe, explaining the government’s previous request that police vacate the premises.

The decision had prompted concern from the university, the student union, and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who suggested that the lack of an alternative building would disrupt students’ education.

Muaz told Minivan News today that there are no contradictions in the matter, as the government still believes that the building is unsafe even though the deadline has been extended.

Housing minster Dr Mohamed Muizzu yesterday shared pictures from an assessment of the building done in 2013 with the media, showing severely corroded and damaged columns in the building, which is currently used by over 1,300 university students.

“Cosmetic work has been done in the building to cover up these damages,” he said.

“It is very irresponsible of certain individuals to say that the building is safe when it clearly is not. The building is not structurally stable from an engineering perspective.”

After ministers yesterday said the university had been unresponsive to offers of alternative teaching space, the President’s Office said today that the university would be given no more chances regarding the matter.

“President Abdulla Yameen is concerned for the education of the students,” said Muaz. “This government is not one which would forcefully strip the students from the building.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of MNU and former Permanent Secretary of Housing Ministry Dr Mohamed Shareef had said that the university has been informed of the president’s decision and is looking into alternatives for after the deadline.

Dr Shareef refuted the government’s claims that the university has been provided with alternatives to vacate the premises.

“The government spoke about land in Hulhumalé and Gulhifalhu. However, these plans were very vague and not written down on paper,” he said.

The deputy vice -chancellor also said that the university is trying to get an independent third party to do a risk assessment of the building to determine the safety of the students.



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Jamaaludheen building unsafe, says Housing Minister

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Malé City says Police and Housing Ministry impersonating council staff

Malé City Council (MCC) has alleged that police officers and some housing ministry staff are impersonating city council supervisors and unlawfully trying to confiscate items at the local market.

According to an MCC press statement released today (February 8), the local market falls under the jurisdiction of the city council as part of the Decentralisation Act.

However, the council said it had been receiving complaints from market traders saying that police and housing ministry staff are pretending to be council supervisors and attempting to confiscate items.

Repeated removals of the council’s powers by central authorities has led to suggestions that the government is trying to “destroy decentralisation”.

The removal of lands formerly under the council’s jurisdiction in December last year saw the city mayor admit that his council now oversaw only construction, issuing death and birth certificates, and cleaning mosques.

Later the same month, the housing ministry transferred over one third of the council’s employees to its own offices.

The council today condemned the acts of the officials accused, saying that this activity was being carried out without consulting the council in order to defame it.

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City council dismisses allegations of MDP favouritism at City Hall

Malé City Council (MCC) has dismissed suggestions made by the housing minister that it favours the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when renting out Malé City Hall.

An MCC press statement released yesterday (January 11) said the council rents out the hall in accordance to the constitution, laws, and relevant regulations, and that the council does not give preference to any party or individual when renting out the public space.

In a tweet posted on Saturday (January 12) housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu alleged that the council premises were “not being used to serve the public”, but instead as an MDP headquarter.

The council’s response condemned the remarks, assuring the public that all private and public events were held at City Hall without discrimination.

The council – dominated by MDP members – also noted that in 2014 alone the council received MVR158,150 (US$10,300) from renting the hall, and that the entire sum has been transferred to the finance ministry to be added to state reserves.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, Malé City Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said that the “government is coming up with lies and excuses to take over the building from where MCC is run, after it has already transferred all public spaces and roads under the Council’s authority.”

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was plotting to “destroy decentralization” after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbor, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and land near the T- Jetty.

With the removal of road maintenance duties in the capital late last year, the council has said it remains in charge only of facilitating construction, issuing death and birth certificates, and cleaning mosques.

Last month, the council expressed concern after 377 of its employees were transferred to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure without prior notice – constituting over a third of its workforce.

Speaking at the time, Mayor Mohamed Shihab said that the council has only been operating within the powers granted to it by the Decentralisation Act, adding that the government has been persistently making its work difficult.

In November 2014, nearly all services at the council came to a halt after police confiscated important documents and several hard drives, including the server system necessary for daily operation.

Police searched and confiscated the council’s office on the night of November 26 after a search warrant was requested from the Criminal Court regarding a corruption case against council staff.

However, the council denied the corruption allegations, which had alleged staff had used documents sent by the housing ministry to gain unlawful advantages.

Speaking at the time, Maafannu Hulhangu Constituency Councillor Shamau Shareef said the incident was one of many intended to intimidate the council and to prevent it from providing the services to the people of Malé.

October also saw masked individuals wielding machetes cut down over 30 council-owned areca palm trees along the capital’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu  – an attack former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged was carried out by off duty special operations officers.



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Over one third of Malé City Council staff transferred to Housing Ministry

Malé City Council close to shut-down after police confiscate documents and server system

Malé City Council helpless as housing ministry takes over all land, public services staff

Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

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Malé City Council helpless as housing ministry takes over all land, public services staff

The housing ministry has taken control of 13 plots of land belonging to the opposition dominated Malé City Council, and transferred the majority of the council’s public services division staff to the ministry.

According to a housing ministry announcement, all of Malé City’s streets, the Artificial Beach area, Plot 211, Usfasgandu, the T-Jetty area, Dharubaaruge Convention Center, Sultan Park, Maafannu round-about, Adi Park, Alimas Carnival, Fishermen’s Park and all other parks now belong to the ministry.

Any individual wishing to make use of these lands must now seek permits from the ministry. The State Electric Company (STELCO) and Maldives Police Services would not provide services for any events unless a housing ministry permit is obtained, the announcement said.

The move continues a steady removal of powers from the council, in what has been characterised by its officials as an attempt to destroy decentralisation in the country.

Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab has condemned the government’s systematic abrogation of the council’s powers and said it constituted a breach of the powers afforded to the council under the Constitution and the Decentralisation Act.

“We are now only in charge of facilitating construction in Malé, issuing death and birth certificates and cleaning mosques. But the constitution clearly states the Maldives must be administered through decentralised councils,” he said.

The government must respect Maldivian laws to attain development, he contended.

“The powerful are now abusing their powers in the Maldives. This is very sad. Ultimately, it is the ordinary Maldivian citizen who will suffer the most. Investors will not invest here. No one knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after. We have to uphold the law if we want to develop at the same levels as developing countries,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said the council has challenged the transfer of council staff to the housing ministry at the Civil Court.

In addition to transferring council staff, the ministry had also illegally taken over the council’s assets, including dustbins and trees for a greening programme, in the public services section, she said.

Shifa has described the government’s actions as a plot “to destroy decentralization”.

On November 26, the council declared it was close to shut-down after the Maldives Police Services confiscated documents and computer systems at the Malé City Council offices under a court warrant on allegations of corruption.

The warrant, signed by the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, said that “some council staff had shared and gained unlawful advantages from some PDF files sent to the council by Maldives Land and Survey Authority.”

The survey authority and the land registration project fall under the authority of the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The council has denied receiving such files, stating that any surveys on Malé lands would have originated from the council.

The cabinet in early November announced it had removed the council’s jurisdiction over the city’s roads after disagreements over the replanting of vandalised trees.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has said the trees were uprooted by masked policemen. Police have dismissed the claims.

Local media have since reported that the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives believes the trees were being used to curse President Abdulla Yameen.

The roads are now under the control of the housing ministry and the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) which has started cleaning the drains, bringing some alleviation to persistent flooding.

The government had suggested that the council had failed to adequately maintain both Dharubaaruge Convention Center and the roads of the capital, though the council has maintained that state funds allocated for the work was not released by the finance ministry.

The government in October also scrapped an agreement made with India–based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in the capital Malé and nearby areas.



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Malé City Council close to shut-down after police confiscate documents and server system

Newly planted areca palms uprooted on housing ministry orders

Government terminates Tatva waste management deal

Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

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