Dharubaaruge “unlawfully” closed, Housing Ministry claims

The doors to the Dharubaaruge conference centre in Male’ appeared open again this evening after its employees were  sent home earlier today and the building locked.

Minister for Housing and Environment Dr Mohamed Muiz has claimed the centre was  “unlawfully” closed by Male’ City Council amidst a dispute between the two bodies.

Minivan News this evening witnessed the doors to the centre once again open and a police presence outside.

According to the housing minister,  control of the conference centre had recently been transferred from Male’ City Council (MCC) to his ministry.

“As far as we are concerned someone locked the doors and unlawfully asked employees to leave,” said Dr Muiz.

Speaking with Minivan News this afternoon, City Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem confirmed that the centre had been locked up, as authorities were expected to make their way to the building.

“We hear they will be breaking the locks and entering the premises, but we don’t know what will happen,” he said.

After hearing reports that police had moved in to forcefully re-open the building, Minivan News witnessed around twenty police officers outside the centre at around 5:30pm.  As they waited outside the open doors, nearby crowds could be heared shouting ‘baaghee’.

The Dharubaaruge conference centre was originally built for the 5th SAARC summit in 1990 and is rented out for events, press conferences and private functions. President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan appeared at an event celebrating high academic achievers just last night.

Kareem said that a letter was received from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) yesterday informing the council that all 17 staff at the centre had been transferred to the Housing Ministry.

“The CSC has taken the staff and may be thinking that the whole premises belong to the Housing Ministry. But it is already handed over to the MCC. I believe our legal team has submitted the case to court,” said Kareem.

The Chairman of the CSC Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, countered this view, arguing that the local government laws allowed for the removal of state land from city councils.

“Institutions and land belonging to central government can be changed by cabinet decision according to the rules.  The cabinet has decided that Dharubaaruge is to move from the MCC to the Housing Ministry,” Fahmy informed Minivan.

He also argued that staff at the conference centre could only be ordered home by the CSC itself: “Staff should not be sent home. This has to be worked out in the courts between the MCC and the Housing Ministry.”

Both sides expressed concern that despite the dispute, the provision of services at the conference centre should not be affected.

Kareem therefore argued that the centre needed to re-opened quickly for pre-booked events. Fahmy added that the CSC always made efforts to ensure that services were not impeded in these situations.

Land tussle

In another tussle over the jurisdiction of land in the capital, the Housing Ministry last week issued a letter to the MCC stating that it intended to claim the area immediately behind Dharubaaruge, known as Usfangandu.

The reasons given by the ministry were that the presence of the new Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstration area on the land violated the regulations concerning the use of public space. The MCC disputed these allegations.

The issue of MCC jurisdiction over the Tsunami monument area also arose recently after the case of the dismantling by security forces of the MDP’s ‘Justice Square’ was submitted to legal process.

number of justifications for the camp’s removal were posited, but the case was dismissed by the Civil Court on a technicality. The court alleged that MDP interim chairperson Mooosa ‘Reeko’ Manik had exceeded his authority when submitting the case. The case has since been re-submitted by party President Dr Ibrahim Didi.

When asked about any possible connection between the Usfangandu and Dharubaaruge incidents, Dr Muiz said that he believed there was no link.

However, Councillor Kareem believed the two were linked to recent political tensions.

Last week, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) criticised the MCC’s allocation of land for political uses, arguing that the council’s policies violated decentralisation laws.


MACI Build Expo positive about construction “boom”

The Maldives Association of Construction Industry’s (MACI) annual exhibition concluded today at the Dharubaaruge Centre in Male’, after enduring three days of gloomy weather and a lower-than-expected turnout.

The annual event showcased over twenty construction companies and their newly developed or imported products. Sales people interviewed said that the event was a significant business opportunity each year, and that sales were expected to improve.

“Every year we are introducing new products,” said Ali Shaathir of MUNI Homecare. “These products have a good impact on construction–they are safer, and friendly to the environment.”

Veligaa Hardware representative Muaz Mohamed said that construction would continue to “boom” in the Maldives. “You can always see construction on Male, and Hulumale is just beginning to boom,” he said.

Other companies represented included Humaru Maldives, Polytechnic Maldives, Thilafalhu Industrial Zone, and Habitat. Several observed that resort construction played a significant role in the industry.

One construction sector said to interest resorts is renewable energy. Earlier this week, President Mohamed Nasheed told an international audience in London that the Maldives needs to become carbon neutral.

Renewable Energy Maldives (REM) representative Maufooz Abdullah said that although eco-construction isn’t prominent, it is growing. “People are actually interested here and in resorts, and some are even buying our products,” he said.

REM currently sells solar-hybrid air conditioning units to residents and businesses around the country. These units recover their cost in two years, and are said to be used across Male. Abdullah said that use of REM products could reduce pollution “by 30 to 60 percent”.

“We hope environmentally friendly construction practices grow in the Maldives, it’s catching on slowly but we hope it moves faster.”

Abdullah said the MACI exhibition was valuable to the industry, but wished more people would benefit from it.

“I think it’s a very important event for educating people about the industry, but I don’t see too many people coming in.”

Maldives Income Revenue Authority (MIRA) said that construction was important to the Maldivian economy. Representatives noted, however, that the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, due to become active on 2 October, will “have an effect on wholesale and customer prices.”


Adhaalath Party reschedules congress over space concerns

The Adhaalath Party has reportedly postponed the date of a key congress set for July until later in the month after facing issues in securing a venue suitable in size to host the event.

The congress, which will see the group’s recently appointed new leadership take their oaths of office as well commencing elections for other senior posts, is now expected to take place between July 17 and July 20 at Dharubaaruge, according to the Haveeru newspaper.

The Party’s Registrar Dr Mohamed Muiz told the paper that the decision had been taken to postpone the event – originally scheduled to begin July 4 – after fears that refurbishments to the initial host venue would not be completed in time.