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

The opposition dominated Malé City Council (MCC) has expressed concern after 377 of its employees were transferred to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab has said that all council employees working in the road maintenance department had now been transferred to the housing ministry without any prior notification.

“The council received a letter from the President’s Office saying that cabinet had decided to transfer management of the the roads to the housing ministry,” said Shihab. “The letter also read that all public squares and parks would also be transferred to the Housing Ministry”.

A statement from the ministry earlier this month said that it had taken control of 13 plots of land formerly controlled by the council and transferred the majority of the council’s public services division staff to the ministry.

The council’s jurisdiction of the city’s roads was removed in November.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said today that the council was given two hours to provide a list of all employees to the government after which 345 employees were transferred.

“Since then they have even started requesting that certain individuals be transferred,” said Shifa. “We are unsure as to how the wages of the transferred employees will be paid, whether it will be paid by the housing ministry or not.”

The council originally had 900 employees working under it, including migrant workers, the council explained.

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

He explained that the council has decided to file a case at the Civil Court regarding the government’s stripping of its responsibilities, and the subsequent distribution to different government ministries.

Last month, 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 alleged some 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.

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

In October, she complained that poor allocation of funds for road development projects under the council was one of the main reasons behind the severe floodings on the western side of the capital island during heavy downpours. The council’s jurisdictions over the roads was subsequently removed.

October also saw masked individuals wielding machetes cut down over 30 council-owned areca palm trees along the capital’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged police involvement in the chopping down of the palm trees while naming several Special Operations officers after the council had requested that the public submit any information about the issue.

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MDP resumes political activities with reopening of haruge

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has resumed political activities with the reopening of a new haruge (meeting hall) in the capital Malé last night (June 11) after a hiatus in the wake of successive electoral defeats.

The main opposition party announced that weekly gatherings will take place on Sunday and Thursday nights at the new haruge in Galolhu Aaras, located near the Television Maldives (TVM) studios.

The meeting hall was officially opened by founding member and artist, Ahmed Abbas, at a ceremony attended by former President Mohamed Nasheed, MDP MPs and city councillors.

Speakers at last night’s rally – the party’s first public gathering since the March 22 parliamentary polls – severely criticised the current administration over alleged failure to fulfil campaign pledges as well as the state of healthcare in the Maldives.

The meeting hall would become an outlet for public opinion and grievances, said MP Ibrahim Shareef, vowing that the party would ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are protected.

Shareef also contended that the government has not undertaken any significant development projects in the atolls since assuming office in November last year.

In her remarks, Malé City Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed referred to the ransacking of the MDP’s previous meeting hall on February 7, 2012, by mutinying riot police, soldiers, and opposition protesters prior to the controversial resignation of President Nasheed.

Shifa said the party had remained quiet in order to see what President Yameen could accomplish with a parliamentary majority and control over other state institutions.

The former education minister contended that the current administration has not introduced new services or launched new social security programmes, noting that universal health insurance and other benefits were introduced by the MDP government.

Shifa also claimed that single parents were not receiving their monthly allowance.

President Yameen’s administration was “top heavy” with an excessive number of political appointees, she argued, while no progress had been made in fulfilling the campaign pledge of creating 94,000 jobs.

The government was holding ceremonies and functions – in lieu of carrying out development projects – to create false headlines and mislead the public, she said.

Meeting halls in the atolls would also be opened in the near future, Shifa continued, inviting members to a maahefun (traditional celebratory feast on the eve of Ramadan) on the night of June 19.

The MDP’s inactivity in recent weeks does not mean that the party accepted defeat in the presidential election, Shifa said, referring to the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of the presidential polls last year based on a secret police forensic report.

“Don’t think that we have forgotten all of that,” she said.

The MDP “single handedly” winning over 105,000 votes in the presidential election was testament to the party’s strength, said MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’, noting that all other political parties were forced to form an alliance to compete against the party.

The MDP’s main task was overcoming the effects of a 30-year dictatorship, Inthi suggested, contending that the MDP was the only hope the Maldivian people had for democracy and good governance.

Former MP Ali Waheed meanwhile advised members to raise awareness and educate and inform their friends, relatives, and associates with renewed resolve to return to power.

He observed that the country has come full circle ten years after former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom launched a democratic reform agenda as the president was once again “an Abdul Gayoom”.

“God willing, the work we are beginning here today will end with the election of the MDP’s presidential candidate as the president of the Maldives,” he said.

The former MDP parliamentary group deputy leader announced his intention to contest for the party’s chairperson post today.

Former President Nasheed also announced his candidacy for the post of party president earlier this month.

Elections for the party’s leadership posts are due to take place on August 29.