Malé City council thrown out of city hall

The housing ministry has taken over the Malé City hall and its compound from the opposition dominated city council, in an attempt the deputy mayor says is designed to “wipe out” local governance.

Acting housing minister Thoriq Ibrahim in a letter today ordered the council to vacate the city hall at Galholhu Billorijehige within seven days, and move to a smaller office at Huravee Building. 

The opposition Maldivians Against Brutality coalition has been using the city hall and its compounds for rallies in recent weeks, following the housing ministry’s refusal to lease public spaces for opposition activities.

The housing ministry had taken control of all of Malé City’s public spaces, parks and roads from the city council last year.

According to Thoriq’s letter, President Abdulla Yameen and his cabinet on April 19 decided the city hall and its compounds were better suited for other government offices, which they say are suffering from a lack of space.

The housing ministry today declined to comment on which offices are to move in to the city hall.

In addition to the city hall, the housing ministry also seized control of the local market and a plot of land reclaimed for a new fish market in the northern Malé.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said that the cabinet’s decision violates the Decentralization Act.

“The government does not know how to operate within a decentralized system. They don’t want to give even an ounce of power to the people,” Shifa said.

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

The city hall takeover is the latest blow 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.

In November, 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.


City council dismisses allegations of MDP favouritism at City Hall

Malé City Council (MCC) has dismissed suggestions made by the housing minister that it favours the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when renting out Malé City Hall.

An MCC press statement released yesterday (January 11) said the council rents out the hall in accordance to the constitution, laws, and relevant regulations, and that the council does not give preference to any party or individual when renting out the public space.

In a tweet posted on Saturday (January 12) housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu alleged that the council premises were “not being used to serve the public”, but instead as an MDP headquarter.

The council’s response condemned the remarks, assuring the public that all private and public events were held at City Hall without discrimination.

The council – dominated by MDP members – also noted that in 2014 alone the council received MVR158,150 (US$10,300) from renting the hall, and that the entire sum has been transferred to the finance ministry to be added to state reserves.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, Malé City Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said that the “government is coming up with lies and excuses to take over the building from where MCC is run, after it has already transferred all public spaces and roads under the Council’s authority.”

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was plotting to “destroy decentralization” after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbor, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and land near the T- Jetty.

With the removal of road maintenance duties in the capital late last year, the council has said it remains in charge only of facilitating construction, issuing death and birth certificates, and cleaning mosques.

Last month, the council expressed concern after 377 of its employees were transferred to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure without prior notice – constituting over a third of its workforce.

Speaking at the time, Mayor Mohamed Shihab said that the council has only been operating within the powers granted to it by the Decentralisation Act, adding that the government has been persistently making its work difficult.

In November 2014, nearly all services at the council came to a halt after police confiscated important documents and several hard drives, including the server system necessary for daily operation.

Police searched and confiscated the council’s office on the night of November 26 after a search warrant was requested from the Criminal Court regarding a corruption case against council staff.

However, the council denied the corruption allegations, which had alleged staff had used documents sent by the housing ministry to gain unlawful advantages.

Speaking at the time, Maafannu Hulhangu Constituency Councillor Shamau Shareef said the incident was one of many intended to intimidate the council and to prevent it from providing the services to the people of Malé.

October also saw masked individuals wielding machetes cut down over 30 council-owned areca palm trees along the capital’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu  – an attack former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged was carried out by off duty special operations officers.

Related to this story

Over one third of Malé City Council staff transferred to Housing Ministry

Malé City Council close to shut-down after police confiscate documents and server system

Malé City Council helpless as housing ministry takes over all land, public services staff

Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?


Male’ surfers dump garbage outside city hall in protest over night market trash

A group of local surfers dumped a pile of garbage outside the entrance to Male’ City Hall today in a second protest aimed at preventing the waste generated by a night market held this month from polluting the Maldives’ capital city.

The rubbish pile was dumped at the MCC today (June 19) in an effort to pressure city councilors to organise a formal meeting with the group, so they can collaboratively prevent refuse from the ongoing night market event from polluting the area, the group claimed.

The rubbish was collected from roads around the market, known as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’, as well as the small park area local surfers refer to as ‘the garden’ located next to the capital’s ‘raalhugandu’ surf point in Henveiru ward.

Appalled by the excessive amounts of garbage littering the nearby streets, parks and sea due to the Male’ night market, last week the group of surfers staged a creative protest using the rubbish to try and pressure the city council into action.

Although the first protest did prompt responses from the Male’ City Council (MCC) and Go Media – the private company commissioned to organise the market – no formal meetings have yet been conducted to resolve the issue, Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) President Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ Abbas told Minivan News today.

“We have tried to meet someone [from MCC and Go Media] and they have sent different representatives [to raalhugandu] to discuss the night market litter problem, but no one with decision making authority,” said Abbas. “Random people come but we don’t know who they are.”

“We have also previously sent complaint letters but no one has responded,” he added.

“I was [previously] told things would get better, but it’s getting worse,” he said.

The surfers today claimed that their second protest appeared to have been more successful.

“MCC has arranged an official meeting for Sunday (June 23), which will be attended by MSA as well as the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA),” said Abbas.

He added that although tonight marked the last night of the market, another event had been scheduled for October this year.

“We have told the city council we do not want the bazaar to be held here again. What the public is doing [throwing waste all over the area] is affecting our sport,” said Abbas.

Abbas explained that the raalhugandu area had a long association with surfing, adding that the excessive garbage – as well as advertising billboards erected in the area without consulting the community – all negatively impacted surf competitions held in the area.

“This is a public space and the public should be consulted before holding a big event [like the night market],” he said.

The MCC confirmed today that a first formal meeting with the MSA and MBBA is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We scheduled the formal meeting to solve all the [garbage] problems and to discuss what difficulties they are facing due to the night market,” MCC Councillor Mohamed Falah told Minivan News today.

“I know that we have to solve the garbage problems very carefully,” said Falah. “I agree with their demands and that environmental problems are very important.”

“We will solve these waste issues at any cost,” he declared.

Raising awareness about the link between human and environmental health is necessary to stop people from haphazardly throwing their garbage everywhere, which is why the surfers are leading by example, local surfer Hamid Abdul Hadhi previously told Minivan News.

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” Hadhi explained. “The trash hurts the fishes and corals, plus when we’re surfing and get a plastic bag stuck to our faces then we’re in trouble.”


Certain parties leasing city hall failed to pay rent: LGA

The Local Government Authority (LGA) has revealed that certain parties who have leased Male’ City Hall from the local municipal council had failed to pay the required amounts of rent.

A report compiled by the LGA, which was commissioned to probe difficulties faced by Male’ Cty Council (MCC) in fulfilling its mandate, showed that the decision to rent out city hall in order to generate revenue for the council had not been regulated.

Under the agreement to rent out the city hall, MCC members had decided to charge MVR 1,500 per day as rent.

LGA also alleged that the city hall’s availability for leasing had not been made public, which according to the authority violates the equality clause in Article 17 of the constitution.

Local media reported that MCC had been advised to recover the funds and establish a system to document the transactions of the council.


President opens Male’ City Hall

President Mohamed Nasheed opened the new Male’ City Council office or Male’ City Hall at Galolhu Billoorijehige (old national library site) yesterday.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the President noted that more than one-third of development projects were focused on Male’ as one-third of the country’s population was concentrated in the capital.

President Nasheed suggested that the capital could be expanded to encompass the islands from Kaafu Atoll Kudafaru near Hulhumale’ to Giraavaru.

Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik meanwhile said that the tasks of the council has been divided into eight areas and a councillor has been chosen to oversee each municipal service.