Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik has claimed a lease extension providing the ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) until December was agreed before the Civil Court issued an order blocking such a move.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Manik claimed that unless a further court order was issued that directly prevented the lease extension, which comes into effect later this month, then the opposition MDP would be permitted to continue using the area for their activities up until December 2012.
According to local media, the Civil Court has issued a ‘interim order’ prohibiting the long-term lease of the area by the council or any construction of buildings on the site. The order was granted amidst an ongoing Civil Court case filed by the Ministry of Housing that questions the legality of the MCC’s decision to lease Usfasgandu.
The Sun Online news service reported today that the Civil Court’s interim order would remain in place until a ruling on the issue of the legality of the MCC’s decision to lease the area had been finalised.
However, Mayor Manik told Minivan News that once the present lease agreement finished on September 19, a new agreement said to guarantee the opposition party’s use of the area for an additional three months would come into place.
“The extension was agreed by the council before the court order came into place. The court would otherwise need to send an additional order concerning this extension if they want it stopped,” he claimed.
Minister of Housing Dr Mohamed Muiz said today that he did not wish to comment on the case as it was still being heard at the Civil Court. When questioned as to whether a date had been set for the next hearing of the case, Dr Muiz added that he would need to check with the Attorney General’s Office.
Last month, the Housing Ministry alleged through the Civil Court that the MCC was in violation of both articles five and six of its agreement to lease the land – charges that it contended were proved in documents submitted to the court.
The state also contended at the time that the MMC was deliberately attempting to delay the ongoing case by claiming the charges “were not clear”, according to newspaper Haveeru.
The MCC claimed in response that the Housing Ministry had no evidence to back its claims that its provision of the lease was illegal.
The Civil Court case is the latest development in ongoing legal wrangling between the MCC and the Ministry of Housing over the Usfasgandfu site.
Back in August, the Civil Court ruled that the Maldives Police Service did not have legal authority to order the MDP to vacate Usfasgandu on May 29.
The court noted the same day that the a wider dispute between the MCC and Housing ministry over guardianship of the Usfasgandu area could only be settled once the Civil Court reached a verdict on the legality of providing the land to the MDP. The case was filed by the Housing Ministry, which requested the MCC be ordered to hand over the plot.
On May 29, police raided Usfasgandu with a search warrant from the Criminal Court and ordered the MDP to vacate the area before 10pm, after which the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) began dismantling the protest camp.
The Civil Court however issued an injunction ordering the security forces to halt the dismantling after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation. The injunction was to stand until the court reached a verdict and was later upheld by the High Court.
Police had obtained a warrant to search Usfasgandu on the grounds that the MDP was using the area as a hub for criminal activity and black magic. MDP lawyers however argued at court that the warrant did not provide a legal basis to dismantle the demonstration area.
Following the dismantling of the MDP’s protest camp at the tsunami memorial area on March 19, the Male’ City Council (MCC) leased the Usfasgandu area to the former ruling party for three months, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area.
The MCC – which has nine MDP councillors and two government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) councillors – refused to hand over the area to the Housing Ministry despite a cabinet decision authorising the Housing Ministry to reclaim the plot.