The police have dismantled a youth hangout hut in Villingili and taken six people into custody for “disobeying orders” and “obstructing the police duties”.
Maldives Police Services (MPS) has confirmed the incident in the suburb of the capital yesterday, saying that all six were released after bring given advise on future conduct.
According to police, the hangout was dismantled due to the prevalence of crimes at the spot and because it has been setup unlawfully.
“Police have received reports and observed prevalence of criminal activity at that spot, including drug abuse and fights,” a police official told Minivan News, adding that no unlawful substance or tools were discovered during the operation.
One person involved in the incident has alleged that police refused to show a council order before dismantling the area, while a local resident suggests that similar community leisure areas can be found across the island.
While police claim the operation was carried out “after discussion with the city council”, Malé City Council – under whose jurisdiction the land currently is – has denied authorising the move, or being officially informed of it.
“They discussed the issue of [dismantling] the place in Villimalé, but we told them to take all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé,” council member Shamau Shareef explained.
Police refused to comment on the alleged discussions to remove other hangouts around Malé.
The council has previously expressed concern over lack of police cooperation in providing security services, including requests to dismantle all such hangouts and to provide security for the recently held street market in Malé.
Councillor Shamau said that, in a similar incident, police had refused to remove an illegal ‘gaadiyaa’ street vendor’s booth recently.
“They [the vendor] are not paying any lease fees, and there is a court verdict against them. But the police said a court warrant would be required to remove it,” said Shamau.
Local media CNM has reported that some young people at the hangout confronted police demanding a city council order to dismantle the hut, which was not delivered to them.
“We were hanging out there at the joali when they started dismantling [the place] using hammers and other things. We asked them to show the city council’s request to dismantle the place. They said they don’t have to show it and then they handcuffed us in a very brutal manner and beat us up,” CNM quoted one of the youth as saying.
A Villimalé resident told Minivan News that there are many similar hangouts setup in public spaces by the community.
“They are well made and decorated even. Some of the places even have television sets,” he said.