A group of islanders on Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll gathered outside the island council office this morning to protest plans to sell plots of land from the reclaimed area of the island.
The protest was organised in response to the Kulhudhufushi Development Corporation putting up 20 plots of reclaimed land for sale through a bidding process. Plots measuring 1,000 square feet were to be sold at a rate of Rf300 per square foot.
Speaking to Minivan News, Ibrahim Ahmed, 43, a resident of Kulhudhufushi who participated in the protest said that islanders gathered outside the council office at 8:00am this morning and were met with police officers in riot gear.
“We prepared a petition or a letter expressing our concerns with the plans to sell land and were going to submit it to the chair of the island council,” he explained.
The gathering was peaceful until two protesters attempted to enter the council office, he continued, alleging that police used force and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
“They used pepper spray without any warning and took away people in handcuffs,” he claimed, adding that police used disproportionate force against the protesters.
“It was a completely peaceful gathering before that,” he added. “But that was how it turned into a protest.”
The islanders then met with Council Chair Jamsheed Mohamed, who asked for a three-day period to discuss with the relevant government ministries.
The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) made a clean sweep of the seven-member Kulhudhufushi island council. The island is the largest population hub north of Male’.
Ibrahim said the MDP councillor assured the protestors in writing that the council would seek to find a solution in the next three days.
The Kulhudhufushi resident explained that the main concern of the protesters was the decision to register the reclaimed plots under the Kulhudhufushi Development Corporation.
“We want that land to be registered under the council,” he said. “We don’t mind if it leased for 99 years, but selling the plots is completely unacceptable to the people of this island.”
Islanders were not consulted before the land use plan for the reclaimed area was drawn up, Ibrahim said, adding that the people of Kulhudhufushi would prefer the area to be used for industrial or business purposes.
Meanwhile, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom, the party’s deputy parliamentary group leader, held a press conference this afternoon and called on the government to “not test the people to see how much their blood will boil.”
The protest in Kulhudhufushi today was the result of the government’s failure to consult with the public before formulating policy, Mausoom argued.
Island development plans should “come from the people” and not from the central government, Mausoom said, adding that the government’s actions were defeating the purpose of the landmark Decentralisation Act.