The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has decided to dismantle huts in public spaces in Malé used exclusively by gangs in the capital.
Police said that huts and other sheltered areas in Malé used as makeshift dens by gangs “facilitate the assaults happening in Malé as well as the drug trade”.
Police have decided to clear out the huts and “bring an end to the areas being used to plan criminal offences,” it was revealed in a statement, which also noted that violent assaults in the past week have occurred in such areas used exclusively by gangs that were off-limits to the public.
As part of the efforts, police have been confiscating weapons and drugs from parks and other open spaces in the capital, Chief Inspector Ismail Naveen told the press on Sunday (August 3).
Areas where weapons have been found included the Henveiru Park – the scene of three violent assaults last week – as well as the park on Alikilegefaanu Magu and the open space near the State Trading Organisation’s head office in Maafanu.
According to police media, discussions initiated by police took place today with the Malé City Council, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Both ministries and the city council assured cooperation with police efforts to clear out the huts and open the public spaces for sports and use by the general public.
The authorities informed police that the huts were not built with permission, police noted, adding that some areas were being used for business enterprises.
Moreover, police have found that sports facilities have been set up in areas which were being leased or used exclusively by certain groups.
The ministries and city council agreed that public spaces should be open for use by “any youth and people of all ages,” police said.
In May, police dismantled similar huts and hangouts in the suburb Vilimalé following reports of criminal activity, including drug use and gang violence.
Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef told Minivan News at the time that the council had asked police to clear out “all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé.”
The move drew criticism from Villimalé MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – who told Minivan News that destroying the huts without providing alternatives would only create more social problems.
The Malé City Council meanwhile passed a resolution on Tuesday (August 5) calling on law enforcement authorities to redouble efforts to combat gang violence in the capital, which has created an atmosphere of “fear and panic”.
Speaking at press conference yesterday, Mayor Mohamed Shihab stressed the need for long-term measures to ensure security in the capital, noting that unemployment and lack of entertainment and sports facilities for youth were factors that contributed to gang activities.
“One of the biggest problems faced by citizens of Malé is the lack of housing,” he said, adding that youth often lacked space in their homes to “hang out with friends.”
Meanwhile, speaking at a scholarship awarding ceremony of the Trans-Maldivian Airways’ youth pilot training programme last night, President Abdulla Yameen said it was “about time that youth come to their senses with what they are doing.”
“Maldives is not a country that is infested with stabbing, Maldives is not a country that is infested with these kinds of juvenile delinquencies or crime. These are isolated incidents,” he said.
“Whatever foreign media writes about Maldives, what can clearly be said about Maldives today is that after all the political difficulties we have had in the past, and thanks to some of the foreign interventions in these – that certainly did not make our lives easier – but that is a story of the past.”
“Today we have a strong government, we have the support of the public and we also have a strong support in the parliament.”