Malé City Council (MCC) has said that attempts by the Housing Ministry to evict it from offices in the Huravee Building would affect public services.
Speaking at a press conference today, MCC Mayor Ali Manik said: “We are running a small government here. We oversee the pre-schools, look after the primary health care in all districts of Male’. We provide registrations to local businesses. These services will be obstructed because of the Housing Ministry’s actions”.
The eviction notice has come amidst an escalating dispute between the MCC and the Ministry of Housing and Environment this week.
The Housing Ministry yesterday informed the MCC that the council had until 3:00pm on Thursday to vacate its offices. This led to police today attempting to prevent council members from entering their offices in the Huravee building.
Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem claimed that it took two hours for MCC employees to be allowed access to the building this morning due to the police’s “interfering”. He also complained that the MCC was not being allowed to take anything in or out of the building.
Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that police were checking to ensure the building remained secure after receiving a complaint from the Housing Ministry that property was being removed from the building.
Minister for Housing and Environment Dr Mohamed Muiz had previously told local newspaper Haveeru that the council had been asked to vacate the offices in order to accommodate two new government ministries.
A similar dispute between the municipal council and the Housing Ministry took place this week concerning control of the Dharubaaruge conference centre and the Usfasgandu area. The MCC has leased the Usfasgandu area to the MDP for use in serial protests calling for early elections.
“If we play this around politically, only the people will suffer,” Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) council member Ibrahim Shujau said, agreeing with the Mayor.
The damage that the political dispute could have on the people of the capital was made clear by Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem : “They are not disturbing the MCC, they are not disturbing the Maldivian Democratic Party, they are disturbing the citizens of Malé.”
Local media this week reported Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz as claiming that the MCC would be able to move their Huravee operation to Male’ City Hall.
However, Kareem told Minivan News that the move “is not possible. The place is congested here [at the City Hall] already.”
“If we vacate [Huravee], services will be stopped,” he said.
Kareem added that the council therefore wished to cooperate with the government in finding a solution. He claimed the MCC had not yet received any invitation for a discussion.
Shujau added that the Housing Ministry’s actions suggested they were “not willing to negotiate”. The DRP councillor claimed that the Housing Ministry wished to “overrule the Decentralisation Act” by preventing the council from providing services stipulated in the act.
Earlier in the week, the Housing Ministry informed the MCC that staff working at the Dharubaaruge conference centre were to be transferred to its department. The MCC subsequently locked the facility and sent staff members home.
Housing Minister Dr Muiz declared the act “unlawful”. Consequently, police arrived on the scene to re-open the building. Today a solitary policeman kept watch at the front of the building.
A member of the office staff on duty at Dharubaaruge today, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was an MCC employee who had been drafted in to ensure services were maintained. She declined to comment further on the site’s staff situation.
The MCC has also announced its intention to challenge the legality of the Ministry’s letter giving notice of the staff changes.
When asked whether the dispute was expected to have any negative impacts on the provision of public services by the council, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Hassan Fahmy said that both the Ministry of Housing and the MCC had sufficient human resources to maintain services.
Fahmy added that the CSC had tried to talk with both parties to find an “amicable” solution to the Dharubaaruge dispute. However, the body’s chairman said that neither the Ministry of Human Resources or the MCC were willing to give ground. “I think this will have to be settled in the courts,” he added.