Security forces last night began the dismantling the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s camp at Usfasgandu in Male’, shortly before being ordered to halt by the Civil Court after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.
The police search of the area, which began at around 9:00am, was performed after police obtained a search warrant from the Criminal Court on the grounds that the MDP had been using the area as a hub for criminal activity and black magic.
The warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and that, on May 25 “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”
The order did not, however, provide legal basis for the dismantling of the demonstration area, a point made by the MDP to the Civil Court.
“We submitted a case against the Maldives Police Service saying that they cannot ask the MDP to stop any political activities and they cannot act to evacuate the place,” said MDP lawyer Hisaan Hussain.
Deputy Mayor of Male’ City Council (MCC) Ahmed Falah said he had seen the court order and that it did not give the police scope to dismantle the area. Minivan News also saw the warrant and can confirm Falah’s assertions.
“This proves that they don’t care about what the court says. The police didn’t go to the Civil Courts because they knew they would lose,” said Falah.
Both the MCC and the Criminal Court had referred the government’s previous complaints to the Civil Court.
“The new [Civil] court order says neither the police, nor any other parties, can dismantle the area,” he continued.
Police announced on Tuesday that they would begin to dismantle the camp at 10:00pm in order to preserve public order.
Hisaan reported that, at 10:15pm, the Civil Court instructed the Attorney General (AG) to tell the government forces to halt their activities.
Hisaan said that this instruction was given in order to allow the judge time to consider the MDP’s complaint. Subsequently, the judge issued an injunction at 10:40pm, halting the polices activities until the Civil Court reacheda verdict on the case, she explained.
In a statement released late last night, police confirmed the receipt of the Civil Court order and announced they had ceased its activities. The statement did say that that the operation was close to being completed by the time the warrant to desist was received.
Minivan News witnessed Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel working in the area at around 11:30pm, although they seemed only to be moving benches around the site. Nothing that could be described as dismantling was witnessed at this time.
Hisaan said that although the case was submitted against the police, it stipulated that all parties cease dismantling activities in the area.
Sun Online has reported that some items were returned to the camp after the Civil Court order was received. All the seating had been removed from the raised area and the stage had been fully dismantled.
Hisaan claimed that the dismantling of the camp continued after the court had ordered it to cease “in violation of the court order”, and that police were in contempt of court. She said that the MDP intended to make the courts aware of this.
The police statement said that it would take the 48 hours granted to it by the Criminal Court in order to complete its investigations. The area remained sealed off to the public at
The original Criminal Court order was shown to MDP MP Mariya Didi before the search commenced yesterday morning.
Members of Male’ City Council (MCC) were left furious, having themselves received no court order, nor any notification of the impending search.
When approached for comment during the police’s search, MCC Mayor Ali Manik said that he was “too angry to talk”.
Hisaan said that Mariya had asked to see the court order, but that legally speaking this did not amount to the warrant being officially served to the MDP.
The Usfasgandu area was one of 32 plots of public land handed over to the MCC as part of the decentralisation act in 2010. Recent months have seen a running feud between the council and the national government, which has made repeated attempts to reclaim a number of these plots.’
The leasing of the area to the MDP for its political activities has been used by the government as justification for its attempts to reclaim the area, alleging violation of the decentralisation statutes.
After having had a request for a warrant to clear the site turned down by the Criminal Court, the Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told local media on May 27 that, in the period since the court had rejected the police’s request for a warrant on May 20, he had received several complaints regarding criminal activity in the area.
A Criminal Court order was obtained by the next afternoon – May 28 – and the search conducted early on May 29.
The details of the warrant, however, included incidents which allegedly occurred before the original request for a court order was made. Jameel told Haveeru on May 27 that no “No complaints of any criminal activities had been raised with us at the time [the police were asked to take the area – May 20].”
At a meeting of the MDP’s legal team today, the decision was made to send a letter to the police, asking them to respect the court order and to return any property removed from the site by 10:00pm tonight.
Hisaan added that the MDP, despite its requests, had still not received the items confiscated from the Rahlugandu camp on March 19.