Male’ City Council has refused to comply with a cabinet decision last week authorising the Housing Ministry to take control of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) second protest site before May 14.
In a letter informing the ministry of its decision today, the city council insisted that the ‘Usfasgandu’ area was “temporarily leased” to the former ruling party in accordance with the Decentralisation Act, contending that the ministry did not have legal authority to reclaim council property.
The land plot behind Dharubaaruge (convention center) was leased to MDP in light of the current state of affairs, the letter explained, as there was “a need to find a way for large numbers of people to gather and conduct political activities” without inconveniencing residents of Male’ City.
As plans were in the pipeline to seek interested parties to develop the area, including “a swimming pool”, the letter continued, reclaiming the property, which was among 32 plots of land under council authority, would be “irresponsible”.
If criminal or unlawful activity was going on at the site as alleged by the government, the council suggested an investigation by the relevant authorities or litigation to resolve the issue.
The city council also sent letters to the Maldives Police Service and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) requesting that no action be taken to evict the protesters pending a ruling or judgment by a court of law.
Meanwhile, Deputy Housing Minister Abdul Muttalib told local media today that a decision had not been made over reclaiming the area as Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz was presently overseas.
The ousted MDP’s first protest site at the tsunami memorial area was controversially cleared out by the security forces on March 19.
Two days later, the city council leased the Usfasgandu area to MDP until the end of June. However on April 10, the Housing Ministry informed the council of its intention to remove the party from its new base.
The government contends that the council was in breach of its parent legislation in leasing the land to MDP. In a statement last week, the President’s Office said cabinet deliberations concerned “the breach of agreement by the Male’ City Council (MCC) in utilising the land plots and other properties handed over to the City Council by the Ministry of Housing and Environment.”
The cabinet had therefore decided “to entrust the Minister of Housing and Environment with the authority to reclaim the properties from the City Council when required.”