Piles of garbage left on Malé streets

Piles of garbage have been left to rot on the streets of Malé days after a housing ministry organized waste disposal program ended.

The housing ministry on June 14 announced it will pick up trash from households between 4pm and 10pm on June 15. The program was announced ahead of the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Officials said households must register to get trash cleared out.

Five days later, several houses are continuing to leave trash on Malé’s narrow and congested streets.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has accused the opposition of deliberately thrashing the streets of Malé. On June 18, the first day of Ramadan, Muizz said the waste disposal program was over and said that the opposition has been “throwing out garbage in different areas” of the city to hinder government efforts to “keep Malé clean.”

On the same day, the housing ministry released a statement saying it had cleared trash from some 430 registered households on June 15.

“We regret to inform that the ministry will not be throwing out any of the trash being thrown out on the streets from now on.”

However, the ministry on Friday said some 50 staff had helped clear 68 truckloads of “illegal garbage.”

Malé City’s deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed said the housing ministry’s waste disposal program was poorly planned.

“First they say they will throw out the trash a day before they start the program. Two days later, they say not anymore. That is not how people’s behavior works.”

Not everyone is up-to-date on the ministry’s latest announcements, she said. “Some people took out trash they have been keeping inside their homes for more than 8 years.”

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has meanwhile announced that it will fine the households that have left garbage on the streets after June 15.

“Throwing out trash in this manner, is illegal under the waste management regulations enforced by the EPA,” read the statement.

Article 11 of the waste management regulation prohibit waste disposal on streets and parks.


Vendors turn Malé’s surf point into trash dump

Vendors have turned Malé’s surf point Raalhugandu into a waste dump after the biannual street market.

The two-week long market ended on June 13, but vendors left plastic, wood, cardboard boxes and pipes at Malé’s water front. The market organizer Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has not picked up the trash two days after the market ended.

Some 500 stalls were set up for the market.

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The dumping of trash at the surf point sparked outrage on Twitter.

The MNCCI’s Vice President Ismail Asif told Raajje TV that the clean-up effort had been slowed by difficulties in transporting and offloading the garbage onto barges that would carry the trash to the dump on Thilafushi island.

The Malé City Council is cleaning up the mess now. Councilor Shamau Shareef appealed to the public to join him in the clean up with “brooms, gloves and garbage bags.”

As the sun set, only migrant workers staff were seen cleaning the area. Much of the garbage has been cleared on the outermost Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu, but adjoining Ameenee Magu is yet to be cleaned.


New city council office infested with rats and fungus

New office space offered to Malé city council office by the government is infested with rats and fungus, says deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed.

The housing minister ordered the opposition-dominated council last week to vacate the city hall building at Galolhu Billoorijehige and move to smaller offices at the Huravee building within seven days.

Shifa told Minivan News today that the council has shared numerous concerns regarding safety and hygiene with the civil service commission.

“There is fungus on the walls of the building. The building has a pungent smell and there are rats and rat holes everywhere,” she said.

Nearly 60 civil service staff at the council have filed a petition at commission, saying the building is unfit for office work.

The city hall takeover was the latest incident in a long-running power struggle between the ministry and the council. Earlier this year, the ministry transferred a third of the council’s employees to the ministry.

Shifa said the council has asked the ministry for an extension of the seven-day deadline for the move, but is yet to receive a response.

“The ministry is not responding to any political staff at the city council,” she said.

Services provided to the public could be interrupted if the ministry does not grant an extension, she added.

Local media observed cracks on the walls, several rat holes and waste leaking onto the carpet floor of the new office.

Civil service commission president Dr Mohamed Latheef declined to comment on the state of the building until the council officially requests for assistance.

“We do not want to get involved with the matter,” he said.

However, he assured assistance and an inquiry as soon as the council officially files a complaint.

The letter evicting the council from city hall was signed by acting housing minister Thoriq Ibrahim.

The ministry also ordered the council to hand over the compound building the Billoorijehige building and the local market.

Thoriq said the cabinet had decided on April 19 that the building was better suited for government offices.

The housing ministry did not consult the council on the issue before the decision, and Shifa claimed the lack of communication “was enough proof that the cabinet’s decision was political.”

In November last year, the council was shut down after police confiscated several hard drives and documents saying the council was using the documents to gain “unlawful advantages.”

In October, masked individuals wielding machetes uprooted all of Malé City’s Areca palms. When the council attempted to replant the trees, the cabinet announced the council no longer had power over the city roads.

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was ‘destroying decentralisation’ after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, the artificial beach, the carnival area, the south harbour area, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and the area near the T-Jetty.


Civil court rules against Yacht Tours over West Park dispute

The Civil Court has issued a sentence stating that the Malé City Council is not liable to pay damages to Yacht Tours Pvt Ltd after the company filed a case accusing the council of breaching the terms of the West Park Cafeteria lease.

The sentence issued today (January 13) said that “as it was not proved to the court that the city council had breached the agreement between the council and Yacht Tours, the court does not find the council liable of any damages to Yacht Tours.”

Yacht Tours – owned by former Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir – filed the case after the city council leased out West Park to former professional tennis player Amir Mansoor in September 2012.

Jabir accused the council of breaching a contract made in 2005, when the city council was known as the Malé Municipality.

The company had accused the council of breaching Article 11 of the contact which stated that the company should be granted the opportunity to extend the contract before it expires, while requesting the court to issue a temporary order prohibiting it from handing West Park to another party.

However, the court sentence today stated that the company was unable to prove it had formally requested an extension to the contract six months prior to the termination as required under Article 11 of the contract.

The Civil Court had previously thrown out the case after the then Yacht Tours Lawyer Mohamed Anil refused to accept a chit handed to him by the court, in which the council accused the company of trying to drag out court proceedings in order to garner profit from the café.

Speaking at the court the second time the case the was filed, former Attorney General Diyana Saeed – also Jabir’s wife – represented Yacht Tours, saying that Anil had refused to accept the chit without consulting the company.


Economic ministry takes over approving night market from city council

The Ministry of Economic Development has taken over authorising the annual night market from the opposition-dominated Malé City Council.

The ministry announced today that permission or approval for holding carnivals, fun fairs, promotional fairs, and night markets should henceforth be sought from the ministry.

Application forms would be available from the ministry’s website.

The move follows the cabinet’s decision to take over maintenance of the capital’s roads from the city council.

Earlier this week, the housing ministry signed an agreement with the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) for maintenance of drains of the capital’s roads and resolve persistence flooding during heavy rain.

The project involves cleaning the pavement drains as well as cleaning and repairing water pipes.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-majority city council has been at loggerheads with the executive since the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Corruption Commission alleged corruption in the awarding of a contract by the city council to Go Media for the organisation of the annual night market.


Malé floods made worse due to poor condition of roads, says Malé deputy mayor

Malé City Council Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed says that controlling today’s floods (October 30) is made more difficult with the current condition of the capital’s roads.

Shifa told Minivan News that poor planning and a lack of maintenance had exacerbated the floods occurring across Malé City today (October 30) after heavy downpours in the morning and the afternoon.

“The drains on the sides of the roads have not been properly emptied for over 25 years. There are all sorts of junk in the drains which is clogging up the drainage system leading to floods with the slightest bit of rain,” said Shifa.

Many major roads in the the capital are currently flooded disrupting transportation with much of the south-west of the 6km sq island under water – rising a foot high in many places.

Te department of meteorology has explained that 58 millimeters of rain were recorded in the capital during two hours this morning.

The MET office predicts heavy rain in the next two days. However, wind speeds are expected to be moderate.

Local media reported that police vehicles were being used to transport students, left stranded across the city, to and from the schools.

Communications were also affected, with heavy thunder this morning damaging Dhiraagu and Television Maldives equipment, leading  to network problems and delays in the broadcast from of the state television channel.

Shifa said that the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is assisting the council with draining the water by setting up pumps at locations most severely affected by the floods.

“We have also diverted half of our waste management team to assist the MNDF in controlling the floods and requested assistance from the National Disaster Management Centre,” explained Shifa.

The deputy mayor accused the government of having misplaced priorities, referring to the planned Malé-Hulhulé bridge project. Shifa argued that the residents of Malé do not need a bridge connecting them with the airport while the roads are in such a condition.

She also stressed the importance of reaching a mutual understanding with the government and the city council regarding the roads, urging collective efforts to repair the roads.

Malé City Council – dominated by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – was  formed by the 2010 Decentralisation Act – has experienced fraught relations with the central government since the fall of the MDP government in 2012.

Mayor Mohamed Shihab has complained that the main difficulty facing the council is obtaining the resources required to manage the rapidly expanding city.

Last week the council complained that is had not been informed before the cancellation of an agreement with Indian firm Tatva to to provide waste management services in the capital Malé and nearby areas.


Government plotting to “destroy decentralization,” says Malé Deputy Mayor

The Housing Ministry’s efforts to appropriate lands and property under the Malé City Council is an organized effort to discredit the council, destroy the decentralization system and punish Malé citizens for voting for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed has said today.

Since the takeover of the Dharubaaruge Conference Center, the ministry has asked for the hand over of two additional parks developed by the council, Shifa told Minivan News.

“This is an organized joint effort by the ministry and the government to discredit the council and destroy the decentralization system. When taking back lands [from the city council] is among the very the first decisions of the cabinet, it can also be seen as a revenge against people living in Malé, and people from all over the country who are living in the city. I dont think Malé citizens deserve this spirit of revenge from the government for voting for the MDP,” she said.

The ministry’s official reason for taking over the parks is “unlawful activity” taking place at the parks, but Shifa said the ministry failed to provide details of such activities.

The council had developed the two parks – Fini Park or Bondibai Park and City Park – with cafeteria services in 2012 in order to prevent drug dealing and criminal activity, Shifa said, accusing the government of taking back the parks to reverse gains.

President Abdulla Yameen’s administration is preventing the council from serving the people of Malé, she added.

“Even earlier [with Dharubaaruge and other lands] they could not give a valid reason or explanation. They just said it was based on the Attorney General’s advice which no one has ever seen. This time they say are saying unlawful activity without telling us what these activities are,” she said.

Police involvement

Council Member Shamau Shareef told local media yesterday that the Maldives Police Service was not cooperating with the council to clear out gang hangouts in Malé City’s public spaces. The police are “afraid to touch” such areas, Shamau claimed.

In response, the police said the council had not issued an official permit requesting action.

The council yesterday sent a letter requesting Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed to stop police participation in Dharubaaruge takeover without a court warrant, and asked him to investigate the incident.

No plan for development

In an official statement released yesterday, the council said the government is appropriating lands and property under the council without any plans for development and said the ministry has confirmed the absence of such a plan to the council in writing.

Regulations on transfer of lands between the local and central government states the government is authorized to take over land from the councils on a cabinet decision for socio- economic purposes and national security purposes.

The ministry also intends to take over the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbour area, lands near the T-Jetty and Usfasgandu area on the city’s southeast.

The council condemned the “unlawful takeover,” noting that the police and housing ministry officials who entered and changed Dharubaaruge locks yesterday had done so without a court warrant or any official document indicating the center had been transferred to the ministry.

The council called on President Yameen and senior members of the government to take action against such unlawful actions and asked the government to ensure the implementation of its policies would not harm the citizens of Malé City.

The statement also explained that the Ministry of Finance and Treasury rejected the council’s request in December 2012 for funds to repair a badly damaged and deteriorating Dharubaaruge.

According to the council they were asked to utilize funds allocated for the council in 2013, and the council informed the ministry the funds were insufficient for repair. However, the ministry refused to release additional funds, the council claimed. Copies of the letters was shared with the media.

When funds were denied, the council handed over the maintenance and development of Dharubaaruge to a private company, under a public-private partnership agreement through a public bidding process.

The council statement also said the ministry’s actions were “without any respect to the legal contract between the council and a private party” and without considering  how the action may affect members of the public.

Although MDP dominates the council, a council member from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Zaidul Ameen has also condemned yesterday’s incident.

The MDP has on several occasions accused the ruling PPM of opposing decentralization and said their policies reflect the party’s founder President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s centralized policies.


Housing Ministry authorised to withdraw land owned by Malé City Council: Civil Court

The Housing Ministry has the authority withdraw lands under the Malé City Council if the cabinet decides such lands are required for social, economic and national security purposes, the Civil Court has ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling came in response to a request temporary injunction by the owners of Lemongrass restaurants after police forcibly halted construction of a new restaurant in Malé’s carnival area last week.

The plot had been leased to Lemon Grass restaurants by Malé City Council.

But the Housing Ministry decided to take the plot back and ordered the police to halt ongoing work. Owners of Lemongrass restaurants told local media over 80 percent of construction had been completed.

The Civil Court ruled that when lands leased to people under third party agreements are withdrawn the government would have to pay compensation to the tenant.

On March 27, following a cabinet decision, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure decided to take over all major lands in Malé City from the city council.

The Housing Ministry and Malé City Council have clashed periodically over the ownership of land in Malé.

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz told newspaper Haveeru at the time that the lands that will be taken from the council including the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbour area, lands near the T-Jetty, Usfasgandu area on the southeast, and Dharubaaruge multipurpose hall.

Muiz said all of the plots were to be developed under a master plan formulated by the ministry, and that there were no problems between the council and the ministry.

“We are taking almost all large plots [in Malé]. We will very soon inform the council in writing that those have been taken [from the council]. We will work with the council. I don’t think this will create any problems,” Muiz said.

‘’The government has the authority to take such lands to utilise them for social and economic purposes.”

Muiz further said that all arrangements of transfer, including the issue of any existing contracts with a private party, will be dealt according to the laws and regulations.

Director of Lemongrass Ahmed Atheef Hussain told Sun Online that the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure had claimed that the restaurant was being constructed in violation of regulations, and requested police to halt the work.


Malé night market to continue despite alleged corruption

The Malé night market will continue despite the Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) instruction not to continue with the deal, the Malé City Council has said.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told Minivan News their legal advisors had told them that the ACC does not have the authority stop the agreement with GoMedia from going ahead.

“They asked us to stop certain things, but it has to be finalised from the court,” Shifa said.

“So according to legal officers the Supreme Court has taken a role in saying the ACC is not a place to stop any projects,” she stated.

Shifa referred to a Supreme Court verdict in September 2013 in which the apex court said the ACC does not have the authority to stop a contract between the Maldives government and a Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis to establish a border control system.

The ACC is consequently planning to take legal action against the Council and GoMedia.

Speaking to Vnews, ACC President Hassan Luthufee said that the Go Media agreement should not be followed by any means and that the agreement’s maintenance was a direct attempt to abet a criminal offense.

“We have forwarded the Go Media case to PG (Prosecutor General) Office for prosecution. If the present Malé City Council members are speaking with this intent, we have to investigate and prosecute them as well,” Luthufee said.

Council disputes corruption allegations

The ACC had stated that the agreement made between Malé City Council and Go Media was compiled in manner that favored some parties and paved way for possible corruption.

However, Shifa yesterday stated that investigations into corruption had not been carried out sufficiently, and questioned the thoroughness of the ACC’s research.

“The Major has sent letter telling [ACC] to redo the whole investigation,” revealed Shifa.

“When the ACC started looking there was one single letter, by a single councilor. The ACC have not really gone into depth,” she added. “They need to check all the documents.”

The arrangements for the market are well underway with many of the stalls already let out to traders, and stopping the plans now could damage many small business owners, Shifa said.

GoMedia has rented out 450 stalls and three canteens at the rate of MVR 4000 (US$ 259) each.

“Small business have already bought tables,” she explained, “we should not disappoint them. We have to consider the fact that agreement was signed.”

“The ACC’s main responsibility is to check if the project is going on properly,” Shifa continued.

She explained that any grievances the ACC may have should be put forth to the Prosecutor General.