Housing Ministry authorised to withdraw land owned by Malé City Council: Civil Court

The Housing Ministry has the authority withdraw lands under the Malé City Council if the cabinet decides such lands are required for social, economic and national security purposes, the Civil Court has ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling came in response to a request temporary injunction by the owners of Lemongrass restaurants after police forcibly halted construction of a new restaurant in Malé’s carnival area last week.

The plot had been leased to Lemon Grass restaurants by Malé City Council.

But the Housing Ministry decided to take the plot back and ordered the police to halt ongoing work. Owners of Lemongrass restaurants told local media over 80 percent of construction had been completed.

The Civil Court ruled that when lands leased to people under third party agreements are withdrawn the government would have to pay compensation to the tenant.

On March 27, following a cabinet decision, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure decided to take over all major lands in Malé City from the city council.

The Housing Ministry and Malé City Council have clashed periodically over the ownership of land in Malé.

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz told newspaper Haveeru at the time that the lands that will be taken from the council including the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbour area, lands near the T-Jetty, Usfasgandu area on the southeast, and Dharubaaruge multipurpose hall.

Muiz said all of the plots were to be developed under a master plan formulated by the ministry, and that there were no problems between the council and the ministry.

“We are taking almost all large plots [in Malé]. We will very soon inform the council in writing that those have been taken [from the council]. We will work with the council. I don’t think this will create any problems,” Muiz said.

‘’The government has the authority to take such lands to utilise them for social and economic purposes.”

Muiz further said that all arrangements of transfer, including the issue of any existing contracts with a private party, will be dealt according to the laws and regulations.

Director of Lemongrass Ahmed Atheef Hussain told Sun Online that the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure had claimed that the restaurant was being constructed in violation of regulations, and requested police to halt the work.


Male’ mayor claims latest ‘Usfasgandu’ lease extension agreed before issue of Civil Court block

Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali  Manik has claimed a lease extension providing the ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) until December was agreed before the Civil Court issued an order blocking such a move.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Manik claimed that unless a further court order was issued that directly prevented the lease extension, which comes into effect later this month, then the opposition MDP would be permitted to continue using the area for their activities up until December 2012.

According to local media, the Civil Court has issued a ‘interim order’ prohibiting the long-term lease of the area by the council or any construction of buildings on the site. The order was granted amidst an ongoing Civil Court case filed by the Ministry of Housing that questions the legality of the MCC’s decision to lease Usfasgandu.

The Sun Online news service reported today that the Civil Court’s interim order would remain in place until a ruling on the issue of the legality of the MCC’s decision to lease the area had been finalised.

However, Mayor Manik told Minivan News that once the present lease agreement finished on September 19, a new agreement said to guarantee the opposition party’s use of the area for an additional three months would come into place.

“The extension was agreed by the council before the court order came into place. The court would otherwise need to send an additional order concerning this extension if they want it stopped,” he claimed.

Minister of Housing Dr Mohamed Muiz said today that he did not wish to comment on the case as it was still being heard at the Civil Court. When questioned as to whether a date had been set for the next hearing of the case, Dr Muiz added that he would need to check with the Attorney General’s Office.

Last month, the Housing Ministry alleged through the Civil Court that the MCC was in violation of both articles five and six of its agreement to lease the land – charges that it contended were proved in documents submitted to the court.

The state also contended at the time that the MMC was deliberately attempting to delay the ongoing case by claiming the charges “were not clear”, according to newspaper Haveeru.

The MCC claimed in response that the Housing Ministry had no evidence to back its claims that its provision of the lease was illegal.

Legal wrangling

The Civil Court case is the latest development in ongoing legal wrangling between the MCC and the Ministry of Housing over the Usfasgandfu site.

Back in August, the Civil Court ruled that the Maldives Police Service did not have legal authority to order the MDP to vacate Usfasgandu on May 29.

The court noted the same day that the a wider dispute between the MCC and Housing ministry over guardianship of the Usfasgandu area could only be settled once the Civil Court reached a verdict on the legality of providing the land to the MDP. The case was filed by the Housing Ministry, which requested the MCC be ordered to hand over the plot.

On May 29, police raided Usfasgandu with a search warrant from the Criminal Court and ordered the MDP to vacate the area before 10pm, after which the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) began dismantling the protest camp.

The Civil Court however issued an injunction ordering the security forces to halt the dismantling after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation. The injunction was to stand until the court reached a verdict and was later upheld by the High Court.

Police had obtained a warrant to search Usfasgandu on the grounds that the MDP was using the area as a hub for criminal activity and black magic.  MDP lawyers however argued at court that the warrant did not provide a legal basis to dismantle the demonstration area.

Following the dismantling of the MDP’s protest camp at the tsunami memorial area on March 19, the Male’ City Council (MCC) leased the Usfasgandu area to the former ruling party for three months, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area.

The MCC – which has nine MDP councillors and two government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) councillors – refused to hand over the area to the Housing Ministry despite a cabinet decision authorising the Housing Ministry to reclaim the plot.


Parliament cancelled after MPs clash over Yameen detention

Today’s sitting of parliament was called off after opposition MPs vocally protested the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) refusal to allow detained MP and opposition People’s Alliance Leader Abdullah Yameen to attend sitting.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid revealed that neither MNDF nor the Defence Ministry had responded to his letters requesting an explanation or an arrangement for the Mulaku MP to attend today’s sitting, adding however that he was constitutionally obliged to ensure that sittings go ahead.

MPs of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) raised numerous points insisting that sittings could not be held while an MP was “unlawfully detained” by the military.

“Since the Majlis is not an enforcement agency I do not have a way to go and bring the honourable Mulaku member here,” Shahid responded.

A press release issued by parliament after today’s cancellation states that Majlis rules of procedure requires that MPs in detention over a criminal investigation must be allowed to attend sittings and committee meetings and “this is how it is in other democratic countries.”

It urges the MNDF to respect the constitution and the parliamentary rules of procedure, which was formulated under article 88(a) of the constitution.


Shortly after the sitting was canceled, a confrontation occurred between Hulhu-Henveiru MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Galolhu MP Ahmed Mahlouf of the DRP.

Moosa claims that Mahlouf struck him on his legs with his shoes.

“After the sitting ended, Ilham [Ahmed, DRP deputy leader] and another MP came at me,” he explained. “Ilham was shouting at me very rudely and the other MP was filming it with his mobile phone.

“He was holding the phone very close to my face, I told them to go away, but they did not. When the camera came close to me I pushed the camera away from my face.”

Mahlouf was waiting and watching, he added, and came towards him after a while.

“He came and hit me in the leg, [and then] he said I hit him,” Moosa claimed.”That was a drama they played. They have been creating a lot of different stories against me recently.”

However, Mahlouf told local daily Haveeru that Moosa hit him in the face while Nilandhoo MP Abdul Muhsin was filming Moosa and Ilham’s argument.

Mahlouf has not responded to Minivan News at time of press.

A similar confrontation between the MPs occurred during a sitting almost a year ago when both accused the other of threatening violence and using obscene language.

The sitting on July 15 2009 was eventually canceled after the main parties clashed over the cabinet’s decision to investigate Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdullah Mohamed.


Islamic Ministry expresses concern over isolated congregations

The Islamic Ministry has expressed concern at the rising number of privately-held, unsanctioned congregations.

The ministry said it was “advisable” for such congregations to immediately cease worshipping in isolation and conducting sermons administered by scholars not licensed by the ministry.

The Islamic Ministry said that private congregations were against laws protecting religious unity.

”The Islamic Ministry does not believe that there is any reason to perform isolated congregations as the state is based on Sunni Islam, and formal congregations in the mosques are approved,” the Islamic Ministry said in a press statement.

The ministry advised Imams not to dispute religious issues or get into disputes over ‘Madhab’ (way of thinking, persuasion) , and to instead follow the Sunnah of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and to believe and return to the way that trusted Islamic scholars had advised.

Sheikh Ali Zahir said that the issue could be spoken about for a long time, but that the Islamic Ministry was the authorised department and had said its word.

However, a man who follows Islam in a private congregation told Minivan News on condition on anonymity that his group had decided to isolate themselves “because the current government is following a law established in 1982 by the former government, a law protecting religious unity which is contrary to the tenets of Islam.”

He said that according to the Constitution Article 10[b], “no law can be enacted contrary to the tenets of Islam.”

”So we do not have to follow the law protecting religious unity,” he said.

He said that according to the tenets of Islam there were no different ‘Madhabs’ on the Sunnah of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

”They force all the Imams to pray according to the Shafi’e Madhab, so we cannot follow the Imams who pray according to a Madhab, we follow Prophet Mohamed (PBUH),” he said.

He said another reason for the isolated congregations was that the former government ordered the Imams not to read ‘Gunooth’ during the fajr prayers.

”Now they read Gunooth when the Imams feels like it,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the three powers of the government had been divided and Shari’ah Law had not been implemented in the Constitution and Penal Code, contradicting the tenets of Islam.

”According to Islam all the powers should be in one  hand,” he said.


Civil Servants Association threatens to sue finance ministry if salaries lowered

The Maldivian Civil Servant Association (MCSA) said at a rally yesterday that it will file a lawsuit against the finance ministry if civil servants are given the lowered salary this month.

MSCA spokesman Abdulla Mohamed said the organisation was placing five lawyers on standby.

”The finance minister [Ali Hashim] has personal issues against the civil servants, he’s being stubborn,” Abdulla said, adding that the problems were getting worse “because [Hashim] does not have much knowledge on how to handle a government’s finance ministry.”

”Whatever he thinks is right at the moment, he does. He does not plan things well,” Abdulla claimed.

The ministry’s request that the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and parliament mediate its dispute between the CSC “is not a solution”, he said, insisting that the ministry needed to “follow the law” and pay the full salaries for this month.

Otherwise, he said, the government would be in debt and owe civil servants the rest of the money.

Abdulla further added that the CSC had been careless, and failed to fulfill its responsibility to ensure the deductions applied the independent commissions, judiciary and police as well as other civil servants.

State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad said holding discussions with just the CSC would not lead to a solution, and that the involvement of a third party was needed.

The civil servants would be receiving the lowered salaries this month, he said. “The MCSA has a right to go to court and file a lawsuit if they have problems with the finance ministry.”

In addition, Assad claimed the CSC did not discuss the restoration of civil servants salary with the finance ministry.

”But they did asked us once: ‘is the country still in the state of a economic crisis?’, and we said ‘yes’,” Assad explained.

Governor of the MMA Fazeel Najeeb said the organisation would not outline its involvement in the arbitration process yet, but would speak to the press in several weeks.