Planning department appeals to public to cooperate with census

The Department of National Planning (DNP) has called on all citizens to cooperate in a”national effort” for the 2014 census after suggestions that some groups would refuse to participate.

Assistant Director Fathimath Riyaza said that, while the department has not received any official indications from any persons of intention to boycott the census, it is aware of such sentiments.

The census – scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27 – will be the first time such national data has been collected since 2006.

Locals from the island of Vilufushi in Thaa Atoll have announced that they will be boycotting the census, due to the failure to provide permanent residents for those left homeless after the 2004 tsunami,

President of the Villufushi Island Council Ibrahim Shafiu stated that, while the decision to boycott the census was not taken by the council, it understands the reasons behind citizens’ refusal to participate.

“The general spirit among the people of Villufushi is that it is pointless to participate in the census when for years the state has failed to provide us something so crucial as a permanent address,” said Shafiu.

“We are living in 309 houses built for us by the Maldivian Red Crescent in 2009 after the tsunami disaster, but so far the government has failed to register these houses in our names,” he told Minivan News today.

Shafiu explained that the matter is currently under the jurisdiction of the ministry of housing and infrastructure after a 2012 council document outlined procedures for registering residents.

After sharing the document with the Local Government Authority, the Thaa Atoll Council, the housing ministry asked the council to halt the process while it sought advice from the attorney general, providing no other feedback.

“Over a year and a half has passed since then, and there has been no progress on this matter. I fear that this may lead to the beginning of multiple social problems on this island,” he stated.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Infrastructure Abdulla Muhthalib said that the delays in registering the houses is being caused by the “complex nature” of the matter.

According to Muhthalib, the Maldives Red Crescent (MRC) agreements state that each of the houses belongs to a number of persons who often do not share any familial relationships.

“If we register every house to the random collection of people who as per the agreement owns a part of it, it will only give raise to further problems. This makes it hard and so we have to find a way to avoid possible complications that may arise if we register the houses in this manner,” he explained.

He stated that the issue has been discussed with the Attorney General, but was unable to share details of current progress on the matter.

Fathimath Riyaza of the DNP said noted that the census was very important for the nation, and so individuals should offer their full cooperation.

“What we are conducting is a national effort done for the purpose of updating statistics, I therefore call on all citizens to cooperate with our work,” she stated.

Riyaza noted that the department had discussed the matter with the Vilufushi Island Council.

She also addressed comments on social media suggesting a boycott of the census in response to the perceived inadequate response to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

“We, too, are extremely concerned and saddened by the journalist’s disappearance. However, it is not our job to look for and find any particular person. I call on the people to refrain from connecting these two things and to give us information about themselves.”