Government revokes 24 hour licenses for shops and cafes, “for national security”

The Ministry of Economic Development has temporarily revoked the 24 hour licensing permits issued to businesses across the country, citing concerns over national security.

Deputy Minister for Economic Development Adam Zalif said the revoking of permits – which will affect 44 businesses in the capital Male’ – was a temporary one, the duration of which was yet to be determined.

“It has been done for national security reasons. Crime is increasing daily and Male’ is awake 24 hours a day,” he added.

Deputy Minister for Economic Development Shiham Waheed confirmed that the policy would come into effect as of tonight, with shops able to stay open until 11:00am and cafes until 1:00am.

A Male’ restaurateur told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that the move would create difficulty for businesses which had employed additional staff in order to cover extended opening hours.

He said that people had become used to the current hours, which were particularly useful for many Maldivians who worked unsociable hours. He also questioned the security benefits.

“Whatever people are doing, they will do anyway. People will still be in the streets,” he said. “[The government] don’t know what to do – they have no plans at all,” the restaurateur claimed.

Concerns about crime levels, particularly in the capital, have been heightened in recent weeks following the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali on October 2.

Afrasheem’s killing was the tenth in the country this year, following previous high profile cases such as the murders of prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb and policeman Lance Corporal Adam Haleem.

Following Afrasheem’s murder, parliament’s ’241′ Security Committee summoned Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz to discuss issues including the MP’s murder and politicians’ safety.

Last week saw the cabinet urge President Waheed to take immediate steps to improve safety and security in the country with some MPs issuing a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Less than 48 hours later, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill to the People’s Majlis in order to guide the implementation of the death penalty – a sentence last carried out in 1953 against a man accused of practicing black magic.

President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad acknowledged at the time that the government was coming under “enormous pressure” to reduce the crime rate.

Religious NGO “Muslimunge Gulhun” has meanwhile stated that it would organise a demonstration calling on the state to implement and enact the death penalty on October 19 – a move it believes will reduce crime.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) also announced that – after requests – it was to provide personal security to half of the cabinet, although Minivan News was informed that this was unrelated to the Afrasheem case.

Police spokesman Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that in order to reduce crime the police would also be conducting increased vehicle searches between the hours of 6:00pm to 6:00am.

Police crime statistics – last updated on October 15 – show that recorded incidents of theft and robbery have already exceeded last year’s annual figures.

However the current figures for assault suggest that 2012’s recorded incidents will be similar to the previous year’s.

Much of the capital’s criminal activity is blamed on local gangs, the activities of which were recently documented in a recent report commissioned by the Asia Foundation.