Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said that a High Court ruling to uphold a Civil Court order preventing the dismantling of a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest camp at Male’s Usfasgandu area is not a “setback” to efforts to reclaim the land.
The camp was raided last Tuesday (May 29) by police after they obtained a Criminal Court search warrant to search the area under suspicion that criminal practices were performed on the site, including the practice of “black magic”. Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area had on May 25 thrown a “cursed rooster” at MNDF officers.
Shortly after the raid, the Civil Court ordered a halt to the ongoing removal of the camp with a temporary court injunction, after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation. The Civil Court decision was later appealed by the state.
The temporary injunction was upheld today though by the High Court, which said there had been no grounds to amend the Civil Court’s order, according to local media.
However, Dr Jameel maintained that the Usfasgandu site, which was leased to the MDP by Male’ City Council (MCC), was in fact the property of the government, a position he claimed would ultimately be supported by the law.
“I am confident that a claim to [Usfasgandu’s] vacant possession will be granted by the courts as it has a clear position in law,” he told Minivan News.
Jameel added that it would not be his responsibility or decision to appeal against the High Court verdict.
“The decision to appeal is a matter for the attorney general to make,” he added.
During the police raid of Usfasgandu last week, police collected evidence reported to include pieces of paper with Arabic inscriptions, incense, a box of unused condoms, a discarded ‘Tiger’ beer can, and a laminated sheet containing photos of police officers marked with ‘ticks’ and ‘crosses’.
Questioned on whether the evidence gathered by police from Usfasgandu – including the alleged black magic paraphernalia – was sufficient to support the legal case to ultimately dismantle the camp in its entirety, Dr Jameel said it was a matter for the police to decide.
“We will have to wait and see for their conclusion on the matter,” he said, also addressing the concern of authorities about black magic being practiced by anti-government protesters: “I do not know whether anybody is more concerned about black magic than those who indulge in such outdated activities.”
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
The fate of Usfasgandu represents an ongoing stalemate between the Home Ministry and Male’ City Council.
The Housing Ministry initially sought to repossess the area from the Council, which refused to cooperate. The Home Ministry then instructed police to retake the area, who approached the Criminal Court for a warrant. The court initially denied this warrant, stating that the repossession was a civil matter and not within its jurisdiction.
The Home Ministry has argued that leasing the area to a group for political purposes contravenes the deregulation act under which the land was granted to the MCC.
In a precursor to this issue, the previous area at Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu used for the staging of the MDP’s operations, dubbed ‘Justice Square’, was dismantled by police and the MNDF on March 19. The subsequent court case was dismissed on a technicality and, after being re-submitted, has recently been delayed once again following for a similar reason.
The MCC has remained defiant, last month writing to the Police, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and the Housing Ministry, arguing that the area was fulfilling a pressing need for large numbers of people to conduct political activities without inconveniencing residents of Male’ City. It also dismissed the legal right of the government to claim the area.
The Housing Ministry has recently removed Sultan Park and the artificial beach area from the municipal council’s jurisdiction.