Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik has maintained the state has failed to provide clear examples of any laws or regulations violated in the leasing of the ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Manik told Minivan News that the state’s allegations, presently the basis for a Civil Court case against the MDP-majority MCC, were politically motivated and had failed to take into account the site was being used by the wider public regardless of politics.
“We have not broken any rules or regulations on this matter,” he said. “Even if somebody takes this area away, people will instead take to the streets to have their voice heard.”
The mayor’s comments were made following the latest hearing on Tuesday (August 14) of a Civil-Court cased filed by the state against the MCC to hand over the ‘Usfasgandu’ area. The case concerns allegations that the municipal authority had acted illegally in leasing the protest site.
Local media reported that the state had responded in the Civil Court by claiming the city council was in violation of both articles five and six of the agreement to lease the land – charges documents submitted along with the case were said to prove.
The state also alleged that the MMC was deliberately attempting to delay the ongoing case by claiming the charges “were not clear”, according to newspaper Haveeru.
Addressing the case, Mayor Manik claimed that no specifics had been given by the state as to where the council had violated its agreement in providing the land.
The case was reportedly adjourned Tuesday in order to provide the state time to respond to the MCC’s allegations. Manik claimed that a date for the next hearing of the case had not yet been set.
Minister of Housing Dr Mohamed Muiz was not responding to inquiries from Minivan News today regarding the case. President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media Secretary Masood Imad were also not responding to calls at the time of press.
The case is the latest development in ongoing legal wrangling between the MCC and the Ministry of Housing over the Usfasgandfu site.
Earlier this month, the Civil Court ruled that the Maldives Police Service does not have legal authority to order the MDP to vacate its ‘Usfasgandu’ protest camp 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 case being heard this week, which was filed by the ministry requesting 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 – however refused to hand over the area to the Housing Ministry despite a cabinet decision authorising the Housing Ministry to reclaim the plot.