Male’ City Council (MCC) has denied receiving any notice from the Housing Ministry requesting it hand over the Usfasgandu grounds, which it continues to lease to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for campaign activities and rallies.
Male’ Mayor Ali Manik said this evening that despite hearing rumours Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz had given the council ten days from tomorrow (June 18) to clear and hand over the plot of land, he had not received any information on the matter from the government.
“I can’t say anything about something that I haven’t even received.” he told Minivan News. “The only things I have heard on the issue have been from the lips of other people.”
Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz however told Sun Online today that a notice had been sent to the MCC today for them to clear and vacate the area by June 27 – or else police would be requested to assist in clearing the area.
The housing minister was quoted as saying that the state would not be taking responsibility for any damage caused to items of equipment left on the site after the requested handover date.
Dr Mohamed Muiz also told local media today that the MCC had previously been sent a notice on February 25 requesting it hand over Usfasgandu to his ministry within seven days, a request that was not made following a court ruling.
The ministry sent the notice in February just a day after the High Court overturned a Civil Court ruling backing the government’s order that the land be handed over to state authorities.
The High Court claimed at the time that the lower court had not followed legal procedures in the case.
Usfasgandu was handed back to the MDP by the MCC in March of this year. The council claimed at the time that no other party had requested use of the land at the time.
Muiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
MDP claims intimidation
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that the party had not received any official notice from the housing ministry regarding calls to clear the site within ten days.
He alleged that the reports of the Housing Ministry seeking to reclaim Usfasgandu reflected an attempt by the state to intimidate political rivals such as the MDP and its supporters ahead of an election in an attempt to destabilise the country ahead of September’s presidential election.
Ghafoor refused to speculate at present on whether the MDP would hand back the land should an official request be received.
He responded that authorities had previously sought to take Usfasgandu back from the MDP in the past, but had been unsuccessful due to what he claimed was “public pressure”.
“Our thinking is this is not a valid government, it therefore has no authority and this is why we are advocating in parliament for a transitional government ahead of the election,” he said. “Otherwise, how can we go through an election like this.”
A media official for the Maldives Police Service (MPS) told Minivan News that it had received no request or notice from the Housing Ministry for assistance in clearing the site.
Male’ City Council leased the Usfasgandu area to the ousted ruling party in March 2012, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area on the grounds it was being used for criminal activity, including the practice of black magic.
The MDP had moved to the area after a previous protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted by police and military on March 19, 2012.
On May 29,2012, police raided the Usfasgandu site after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court, ordering the MDP to vacate the area. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) then began dismantling the protest camp.
The Housing Ministry filed a case with the Civil Court after the MCC refused to hand the land plot to the ministry.