The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure today brought City Park and Fini Park under its jurisdiction, although Malé City Council has said they were not informed of this decision.
In a pressed statement released to the media, the ministry said the two parks were taken in accordance with a cabinet decision made on March 25, and requesting that those who conducted any transaction regarding the parks inform the ministry of the details before June 26.
While the ministry has said the parks were taken due to the council’s violation of the original handover agreement, the city council has denied this allegation.
Both the parks were developed in by Malé City Council in 2012 with cafeteria services under a public-private partnership.
City park has two food outlets while Fini park has one run by private parties. The council earlier revealed that private parties develop and maintain the parks in return to forty percent of the lands being leased for them to do business.
The city council today said they were not informed about that the parks being taken over by the ministry. The press statement issued by the ministry was also not published on its website.
Speaking to Minivan News today Mayor Mohamed Shihab said that they were asked to hand over the two parks along with other lands, but that the process of transferring documents and the official handover was not yet complete.
“We are not aware of that. Their [the ministry’s] procedure for transferring lands seem to be taking over with police assistance,” said the mayor, noting there were still contracts between the private parties and the council regarding those lands.
In a separate statement, the ministry has also announced that eight other areas have been taken under its jurisdiction – including the Artificial Beach, Block 211, Usfasgandu, lands at the south west harbor, Dharubaaruge convention centre, Sultan Park, and Maafannu Buru.
President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration handed over several lands previously owned by the government to local councils under the 2011 ‘Regulation on handing over state-owned lands falling under the jurisdiction of local councils to the councils” – part of the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010.
The regulation allow the cabinet to take back land in order to implement the government’s economic, social, and national security related policies. This provision has also been backed by a Civil Court ruling in May 2014, the verdict of which also declared that third party agreements thus affected will result in government compensation for the tenant.
The Housing Ministry appropriation of council lands began with the controversial power transfer of 7 February 2012, and has since led to several conflicts with the council – the most recent being the ministry’s forceful take over of Dharubaaruge in May.
The council has described the ministry’s efforts as an organised attempt to discredit the council, and to destroy the decentralisation system.
“When taking back lands [from the city council] is among the very the first decisions of the cabinet, it can also be seen as a revenge against people living in Malé, and people from all over the country who are living in the city,” Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told Minivan News following the Dharubaaruge takeover.
“I dont think Malé citizens deserve this spirit of revenge from the government for voting for the MDP,” she added.
Mayor Shihab recently expressed his view that the only lands which were expected to remain with the council after the ministry takeovers are completed would to be city’s streets and its graveyards.