STELCO takes Male’ City Council to court over ‘permit conflict’

The State Electric Company (STELCO) has filed a case with the Civil Court requesting it invalidate Male City Council’s (MCC’s) decision to disallow issuing permits to the company.

In a statement released Wednesday (December 12), the state electricity provider stated that the lawsuit was filed because the MCC had blocked the company from providing some of its services, resulting in disruption for customers in the capital.

The disallowed permits are needed to provide electrical services to properties around the capital.

STELCO argued that MCC’s decision lacked any legal grounds and it therefore requested the court to decide if the decision was valid or not. It also requested the court invalidate a letter sent to STELCO by the MCC informing it of the decision, so that it could resume its services.

Speaking to Minivan News following the lawsuit being filed, MCC member Ibrahim Shujau said that the council had not yet been officially informed of the case and had only been made aware of the matter through media reports.

Shujau claimed that STELCO was releasing statements that were misleading and did not convey what had really happened.

“The Housing Ministry informed us to stop providing permits stating that the Ministry itself would carry out the issuing of permits. We told them under the Decentralization Act, it was our responsibility in giving the services. But they gave a deaf ear to our concerns,” He explained.

The Male’ City Councillor also alleged that STELCO was carrying out its operations in breach of national laws, therefore, the MCC had on numerous occasions advised them not to disregard these laws.

However, Shujau said that STELCO’s failure in heeding its request had meant that the council had to halt services provided to the state electricity provider.  He added that the MCC would only resume providing permits if the state electricity provider came back within “the boundaries of law”.

Shujau alleged that Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz had been responsible for the dispute in an attempt to defame members currently serving in the MCC ahead of the next local council elections.

“I would not let [Housing Minister Muizz] fail the city council, I would fight against it, even single handedly if required to,” said Shujau.

Managing Director of STELCO, Dr Mohamed Zaid was not responding to calls at time of press.

The dispute

The Row between STELCO and the MCC escalated this week after the state-owned company held a press conference on December 10 to express concern over the council’s decision to disallow issuing permits to them.

At the press conference, STELCO Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Latheef said that the company had been informed by the MCC that it was to temporarily cease providing services such as digging up roads in the capital as of December 5.

According to Latheef, the dispute began when STELCO started providing electricity to several locations in Male’ without the permission of the city council. He argued that properties in concern had been previously taken from the city council by the Housing Ministry.

“As the nature of the services provided by this company are such that we require the assistance and cooperation of the municipal service provider of the state, and because Male’ City Council has currently ceased providing its services, the subsequent result is that the company is now unable to provide certain public services,” he said.  ”Some of the services that require the permission of the city council include digging street sides, laying cables and certain tasks that require the roads to be closed off.”

Latheef claimed the company had held several discussions with the council, the most recent of which took place Sunday (December 9).  However, the MCC was said to have remained unwilling to reverse their decision.

STELCO Engineer Ibrahim Naashid in the same press conference said that the state-owned company was receiving about 15 requests per day to connect electricity, but was unable to do so as a result of the city council’s decision earlier this month.

“On an average, we were unable to provide electricity service to 15 parties in the last three to four days. However, not all premises require the digging of roads to provide electricity cables, so we have provided electricity to some premises through our distribution box that have been previously installed. But if digging the road is required to provide the service, it is impossible to give the service now,” he told the press.

Naashid explained that the company was required to obtain a permit from the city council to lay cable even in an emergency power outage, resulting in huge difficulties for the company in the present situation.

“Earlier, it is possible for us not to immediately get a permit from the city council in an odd time like midnight hours, but we do inform their supervisors and those responsible in maintaining the roads. If it’s a difficult time like midnight hours, we carry out the work and inform them the next day,” he explained.

However, Naashid affirmed that the company would still carry out its work in providing their service to the people in case of emergencies regardless of the views that the city council may hold.

Male’ City Council’s response

In a response to STELCO’s claims, the MCC in a letter seen by local media warned the state-owned electricity provider that it would take “harsh” action if any service was provided to the “people” without its permission.

The city council said STELCO was failing to abide by laws and regulations, as well ignoring two different letters sent to the company advising it to comply with such requests.  The MCC stated that it had not received any response to its letters.

The letter signed by Deputy Mayor Shamah Rasheed and addressed to Managing Director of STELCO Dr Mohamed Zaid stated that it was the responsibility of the MCC to enter into agreements with parties and carry out business transactions.  The MCC said such transactions were to be carried out in accordance with policies set by government authorities that outline the provision of basic services such as water, electricity and sewerage services to the people as stipulated under the Decentralization Act.


State requests extension to respond to Yameen civil suit

The state has requested an extension in the civil suit brought by MP Abdulla Yameen against the Maldives Police Service for unlawful arrest, claiming that it is awaiting a report from the Supreme Court of its verdict on a related case, reports Haveeru.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that Yameen’s arrest on charges of alleged bribery and attempting to overthrow the government was unlawful.

At the second hearing of the case on Sunday, Yameen’s lawyer Azima Shukoor, a former Attorney General, argued that the absence of the Supreme Court report was not justifiable grounds for failing to answer to a civil suit.

Judge Aisha Shujune adjourned the hearing after scheduling the case for November 29 and told the state attorney that it would be the final opportunity to respond.

While the lawsuit did not specify an amount for compensation or damages, Azima argued at the last hearing that the arrest was in violation of articles 47(b), 45, 46 and 48(a) and that the claimant had to spend Rf61,005 on strengthening security at his residence and Rf668,950 on lawyer’s fees. In addition, the claimant also claimed to have suffered emotional and psychological distress during the arrest, which took place while an angry crowd was protesting outside his house.