Civil Court issues injunction against Male City Council’s public referendum on the reopening of Fantasy Bakery

The Civil Court has issued an injunction to halt a public referendum planned by the Male’ City Council concerning the reopening of Fantasy Bakery, which was closed by health inspectors in October 2011 for selling expired food products.

The court’s injunction said if Male’ City Council held a public referendum that was not stipulated in any laws or regulations, it will hurt the business as well as making the public lose confidence in any verdict the court may deliver in Fantasy’s countersuit.

The Bakers Fantasy Private Limited had requested the court issue the injunction to halt the referendum, the Civil Court said.

The Civil Court’s injunction was delivered by Judge Abdulla Adheeb and a copy of the injunction was sent to Male’ City Council, Bakers Fantasy Private Limited and the Maldives Food and Drug Authority.

Male’ City Council was sued by Bakers Fantasy Private Limited following a decision of the council to withhold the license of the company to sell food products.

The company has claimed that they have paid the Rf 6500 (US$420) fine imposed on the company and have corrected issues noted by the council.

When Minivan News contacted Bakers Fantasy, the receptionist said no one was present who could speak with the media and would not provided a contact for management.

Last year when the issue came to light, police conducted an operation to close down the bakery and remove expired items from the store.

Police involvement came after the store disregarded orders from Community Health Services which had the legal authority to close food outlets.

The police at the that time went to the administrative office with a search warrant, but the staff refused to open the door stating that they did not have the authority to do so, according to police. Police called senior management, but they did not answer calls. Police waited outside for two hours before Fantasy management came to open the doors.

The Fantasy store was popular among locals as well as foreigners living in Male’, and was widely patronised.

Bakers Fantasy was closed by Male’ City Council on October 28. The council subsequently inspected three storehouses and Aioli Restaurant, which is also owned by Fantasy Pvt Ltd.

Male’ City Council’s head of health section Hassan ‘Jambu’ Afeef told local media at the timethat  expired products were found in two of three storehouses, and that storehouses were not properly lit. All expired products were destroyed, he said.


Plastic bag import clampdown leading to local manufacture

High government import taxes on plastic bags, intended to reduce their use, has prompted some businesses in the country to manufacture their own plastic bags.

While a 200 per cent duty import duty is levied on plastic bags, the import duty for raw materials is 25 per cent.

The manager of a popular bakery in Male’ told Minivan News that the store had a machine able to produce 45,000 to 50,000 plastic bags everyday.

He added that the bags were produced for their own use and were not for sale.

“We cannot use paper bags to pack bread,” he said. ”I do not think that it is done anywhere in the world.”

Moreover, he said, the bakery had been producing plastic bags for ten years now.

”We do not have any permission from the environment ministry,” he said. ”We did not ask for permission because we use it for our own purpose,”

He said the company imported raw materials needed to produce plastic bags.

“We sometimes produce blue color plastic bags also, we can do any color we want,”‘ he said. “We import the raw materials mainly from Dubai and Saudi Arabia.”

However, an employee in an office located behind the bakery told Minivan News that he and his colleagues were “unable to work” whenever the machine was being operated, because of the toxic fumes.

”When they turn it on, a smell like paint thinner spreads through the whole area,” he said. “We get headaches, feel like vomiting and experience difficulty breathing when the fumes reach us.”‘

Everyone in the area faced the problem, he claimed.

”The substances they uses are very toxic,” he said. ”That’s why we feel ill when the fumes are released.”

Deputy Environment Minister Mohamed Shareef said that there were two companies permitted to produce plastic bags in the Maldives.

‘There will be no company permitted in Male’,” Shareef said. ”We give the permission after conducting an environment inspection survey.”

Shareef said that the government was trying to completely ban plastic bags in the Maldives.

”We are trying to make a law to ban the importation and production of plastic bags,” he said.

Shareef concurred that the fumes released when producing plastic bag contained toxic substances.

Head of Environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ali Rilwan, said that although the government’s 200 per cent tax on plastic bags was intended to discourage people from using it ”now they have started to bring in raw materials and establish factories.”

Rilwan said that the manufacture of plastic bags in a residential area poses health risks.

”People living near the bakery complain that they can’t breathe when the machine is on,” he said.