MP Nihan slams police over dismantling of youth huts on Villimalé

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Villimalé Ahmed Nihan has criticised the Maldives Police Services decision to dismantle huts built by young people on public land.

Speaking to Minivan News, Nihan said Villimalé’s youth population had used the huts as social spaces for over 20 years. Destroying the huts – which the youth call home – without showing them alternatives will only cause more social problems, claimed the MP.

The police dismantled the structures on the suburban island on May 18, claiming the huts were built illegally and encouraged gang activity though no unlawful substance or tools were discovered during the operation.

Nihan’s criticism of adequate youth facilities has been echoed by the Maldivian Democratic Party.

“Young people often do not have space in their houses to bring friends over as their houses are congested, that’s why they use these huts to meet up with their friends,’’ said Nihan.

“They believe that the places belong to them and gives the place some identity.’’

Encroaching on public land is an offense, acknowledged the MP, although he took issue with the police’s approach to dismantling huts.

“My concern is that the police did not discuss the issue with any of the youth before destroying the huts and have not even tried to advise them or try to make them understand that what they were doing was wrong and illegal,’’ he said.

“Destroying the huts is not the solution – there are many other things that have to be sorted out if the government wants the youth to be more productive and to stop them from getting involved in illegal activities.’’

For one thing, a youth center with modern facilities was needed to stop young people from encroaching on public space or engaging in illegal activities, he said.

“The youth center here is not functional at all because the staff handling the youth centre are not permanent, and does not have much interest in  his work. The centre is not opened regularly and there is no space for modern sports or entertainment.”

“I have MVR181,000 (US$11,715) worth of music instruments with me but I don’t have a place where the youth can access them. I don’t want to bring them into the PPM office here because not all the youth are PPM supporters – they will shout ‘Golhaabo’ [an offensive term used to refer to Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] and run away,’’ he said.

Nihan also said that he had tried to take up this issue with Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal but that the minister was too busy building stadiums for the ongoing Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge cup.

He called on the government to provide more job opportunities for the youth and to direct them to useful work.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Youth Wing Leader Mohamed Azmeel has also condemned the police’s actions saying: “I don’t think it is always drug dealers and gang members that hangs out in these spots. Besides, there are no other places to hangout.”

He noted that the new government had banned opening shops after 11pm to decrease crimes but that the crime rate has not dropped.

“We noticed that when police dismantled the huts, they targeted mostly places where MDP supporters hangout,” he said.

Youths construct structures on public spaces because there was no job opportunities for them and they have nothing to do, he added.

‘’If they don’t have anything to do they will gather to places like that to hangout,’’ he said. “The government pledged that 94,000 job opportunities will be created but they have not started implementing it,’’ he said.

While police claim the operation was carried out “after discussion with the city council”, Malé City Council – under whose jurisdiction the land currently is – has denied authorising the move, or being officially informed of it.

Despite recent assurances that the government’s youth policy was addressing the concerns of young people, youth leaders from all sides of the political divide have suggested a lack of youth participation in the administration’s planning.


Police dismantle Villimalé hangout, take in six for disobedience

The police have dismantled a youth hangout hut in Villingili and taken six people into custody for “disobeying orders” and “obstructing the police duties”.

Maldives Police Services (MPS) has confirmed the incident in the suburb of the capital yesterday, saying that all six were released after bring given advise on future conduct.

According to police, the hangout was dismantled due to the prevalence of crimes at the spot and because it has been setup unlawfully.

“Police have received reports and observed prevalence of criminal activity at that spot, including drug abuse and fights,” a police official told Minivan News, adding that no unlawful substance or tools were discovered during the operation.

One person involved in the incident has alleged that police refused to show a council order before dismantling the area, while a local resident suggests that similar community leisure areas can be found across the island.

While police claim the operation was carried out “after discussion with the city council”, Malé City Council – under whose jurisdiction the land currently is – has denied authorising the move, or being officially informed of it.

“They discussed the issue of [dismantling] the place in Villimalé, but we told them to take all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé,” council member Shamau Shareef explained.

Police refused to comment on the alleged discussions to remove other hangouts around Malé.

The council has previously expressed concern over lack of police cooperation in providing security services, including requests to dismantle all such hangouts and to provide security for the recently held street market in Malé.

Councillor Shamau said that, in a similar incident, police had refused to remove an illegal ‘gaadiyaa’ street vendor’s booth recently.

“They [the vendor] are not paying any lease fees, and there is a court verdict against them. But the police said a court warrant would be required to remove it,” said Shamau.

Local media CNM has reported that some young people at the hangout confronted police demanding a city council order to dismantle the hut, which was not delivered to them.

“We were hanging out there at the joali when they started dismantling [the place] using hammers and other things. We asked them to show the city council’s request to dismantle the place. They said they don’t have to show it and then they handcuffed us in a very brutal manner and beat us up,” CNM quoted one of the youth as saying.

A Villimalé resident told Minivan News that there are many similar hangouts setup in public spaces by the community.

“They are well made and decorated even. Some of the places even have television sets,” he said.


Civil Court intervenes to stop dismantling of Usfasgandu

Security forces last night began the dismantling the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s camp at Usfasgandu in Male’, shortly before being ordered to halt by the Civil Court after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.

The police search of the area, which began at around 9:00am, was performed after police obtained a search warrant from the Criminal Court on the grounds that the MDP had been using the area as a hub for criminal activity and black magic.

The warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and that, on May 25 “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”

The order did not, however, provide legal basis for the dismantling of the demonstration area, a point made by the MDP to the Civil Court.

“We submitted a case against the Maldives Police Service saying that they cannot ask the MDP to stop any political activities and they cannot act to evacuate the place,” said MDP lawyer Hisaan Hussain.

Deputy Mayor of Male’ City Council (MCC) Ahmed Falah said he had seen the court order and that it did not give the police scope to dismantle the area. Minivan News also saw the warrant and can confirm Falah’s assertions.

“This proves that they don’t care about what the court says. The police didn’t go to the Civil Courts because they knew they would lose,” said Falah.

Both the MCC and the Criminal Court had referred the government’s previous complaints to the Civil Court.

“The new [Civil] court order says neither the police, nor any other parties, can dismantle the area,” he continued.

Police announced on Tuesday that they would begin to dismantle the camp at 10:00pm in order to preserve public order.

Hisaan reported that, at 10:15pm, the Civil Court instructed the Attorney General (AG) to tell the government forces to halt their activities.

Hisaan said that this instruction was given in order to allow the judge time to consider the MDP’s complaint. Subsequently, the judge issued an injunction at 10:40pm, halting the polices activities until the Civil Court reacheda verdict on the case, she explained.

In a statement released late last night,  police confirmed the receipt of the Civil Court order and announced they  had ceased its activities. The statement did say that that the operation was close to being completed by the time the warrant to desist was received.

Minivan News witnessed Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel working in the area at around 11:30pm, although they seemed only to be moving benches around the site. Nothing that could be described as dismantling was witnessed at this time.

Hisaan said that although the case was submitted against the police, it stipulated that all parties cease dismantling activities in the area.

Sun Online has reported that some items were returned to the camp after the Civil Court order was received. All the seating had been removed from the raised area and the stage had been fully dismantled.

Hisaan claimed that the dismantling of the camp continued after the court had ordered it to cease “in violation of the court order”, and that police were in contempt of court. She said that the MDP intended to make the courts aware of this.

The police statement said that it would take the 48 hours granted to it by the Criminal Court in order to complete its investigations. The area remained sealed off to the public at

The original Criminal Court order was shown to MDP MP Mariya Didi before the search commenced yesterday morning.

Members of Male’ City Council (MCC) were left furious, having themselves received no court order, nor any notification of the impending search.

When approached for comment during the police’s search, MCC Mayor Ali Manik said that he was “too angry to talk”.

Hisaan said that Mariya had asked to see the court order, but that legally speaking this did not amount to the warrant being officially served to the MDP.

The Usfasgandu area was one of 32 plots of public land handed over to the MCC as part of the decentralisation act in 2010. Recent months have seen a running feud between the council and the national government, which has made repeated attempts to reclaim a number of these plots.’

The leasing of the area to the MDP for its political activities has been used by the government as justification for its attempts to reclaim the area, alleging violation of the decentralisation statutes.

After having had a request for a warrant to clear the site turned down by the Criminal Court, the Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told local media on May 27 that, in the period since the court had rejected the police’s request for a warrant on May 20, he had received several complaints regarding criminal activity in the area.

A Criminal Court order was obtained by the next afternoon – May 28 – and the search conducted early on May 29.

The details of the warrant, however, included incidents which allegedly occurred before the original request for a court order was made. Jameel told Haveeru on May 27 that no “No complaints of any criminal activities had been raised with us at the time [the police were asked to take the area – May 20].”

At a meeting of the MDP’s legal team today, the decision was made to send a letter to the police, asking them to respect the court order and to return any property removed from the site by 10:00pm tonight.

Hisaan added that the MDP, despite its requests, had still not received the items confiscated from the Rahlugandu camp on March 19.