Construction work began last Thursday (August 21) on 300 flats for police officers in Hulhumalé.
According to police media, the project was inaugurated at a ceremony on Thursday by Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Sodiq.
Award letters were presented to recipients of the flats last year, who have since been making down-payments.
Down-payments would have to be paid for two years, police explained, and ownership would be transferred to the selected officers after monthly rent is paid for 25 years.
Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes.
In September 2013, the previous administration awarded 300 flats to police officers under a housing project to be carried out jointly by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO).
Under the MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project,’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments are to be constructed in Hulhumale’.
In addition to the housing project, then-President Dr Mohamed Waheed awarded 50 flats to senior police and military officers.
The awarding of 300 flats to police officers was criticised by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as a continuation of the patronage system established during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News at the time.
Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively instead of teachers, doctors and other civil servants. He also questioned the selection process for awarding flats.
While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in the alleged “coup d’etat” on February 7 had been rewarded with flats, Ghafoor claimed.
Since the controversial transfer of presidential power that brought Dr Waheed to office in February 2012 – in the wake of a violent police mutiny instigated by officers of the Special Operations (SO) command – more than 1000 police officers were promoted, 110 new police officers were hired, arrangements were made for cheap accommodation in Sri Lanka for police officers and their families and a loan scheme was set up for police officers.
In February, President Abdulla Yameen had assured police officers that the construction of the flats would begin in March.
In a visit to the police barracks at Iskandhar Koshi, Yameen said resolving housing issues for police personnel in Malé and the atolls was a high priority of his administration.
The president also said he has personally witnessed the “difficult conditions” that officers were working in the atolls, adding that the government would “prioritise finding an adequate solution” and would strengthen police welfare mechanisms.