Housing Ministry orders police to clear MDP protest site at Usfasgandu

The Housing Ministry has sent a letter to police instructing them to clear the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest site at Usfasgandu, the plot of land in the south of the city behind the State Electric Company (STELCO) building.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today confirmed to Minivan News that police had received the letter.

‘’We are currently reviewing the case. We haven’t decided [to act] on it yet,’’ Haneef said, refusing to comment further on the matter.

On January 20, 2013, Male’ City Council was ordered by the Civil Court to “hand over” the land used by the MDP for its political rallies to the Ministry of Housing within a period of seven days.

The Civil Court’s ruling also states that the city council’s current use of the area contradicts the agreement made between the council,  the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

However, Male’ City Council has appealed the ruling in the High Court, which has yet to reach a verdict in the appeal case.

Male’ City Council Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik today said that he had not officially heard about the issue and would not like to comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not been informed about the letter sent by the Housing Ministry to police.

Male’ City Council (MCC) leased the Usfasgandu area to the ousted ruling party for three months, 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 moved a few dozen metres down the road to the site after its protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted on March 19 2012 by the police and military.

On May 29, police raided the Usfasgandu site after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court, ordering the MDP to vacate the area before 10:00pm. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) then began dismantling the protest camp.

The Civil Court however issued an injunction ordering security forces to halt the operation after the MDP challenged its legality. The injunction was to stand until the court reached a verdict and was later upheld by the High Court.

In August 2012, the Civil Court ruled that the police did not have the legal authority to order the opposition MDP to vacate the area. The government has since tried to transfer the land from the council – dominated by MDP councillors – to the government-controlled Ministry of Housing and Environment.

Male’ City Council refused to hand over the land and insisted that the area was “temporarily leased” to the former ruling party in accordance with the Decentralisation Act, and contended that the ministry does not have the legal authority to reclaim council property.