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.


Finance Ministry requests revision of housing bids

The Finance Ministry has requested companies that submitted bids for housing projects in Male’ and Gaaf Dhaal atoll Thinadhoo to re-submit the bids before Tuesday, October 25 with certain details.

Six Indian companies had submitted bids for the project on September 26. The project, supervised by the Housing Ministry, will erect 500 housing units at the Maafannu Boduge land plot, the former VTC land plot on Alikilegefaanu Magu, and the land plot where debris is dumped, reports Haveeru..

The Indian government granted the Maldives a US$40 million loan for the project.

State Housing Minister Akran Kamaluddin told Haveeru News that no bids were cancelled.


Frustrated DhiFM journalist launches one man protest against housing ministry bureaucracy

DhiFM journalist Qufthaq Ajeer had spent two weeks trying to obtain the information for a piece on housing projects.

But today the frustrated reporter launched a one man protest against the Housing Ministry and bureaucratic inaction, by setting up camp in the ministry’s lobby and refusing to leave until the information was provided.

‘’I have been trying to get this information for two weeks,” he told Minivan News. “Every day they say tomorrow or the next day and it keeps going that way, so I thought I would try a new way today.”

“I decided to stay inside the office until either the police came to throw me out, or the Deputy Minister Mohamed Faiz came to provide me the information I need.”

The ambush was necessary because Faiz “never responds to calls”, he added.

When the journalist began protesting in the lobby, Housing Ministry staff tried to promise him he “would get the information tomorrow.”

“I am not confident with their ‘tomorrow’,” said Qufthaq. “I am trying a new way to see how it goes.’’

He waited inside the Housing Ministry’s lobby after the ministry closed and the staff had left the building.

An hour later, State Minister for Housing Akuram Kamluddeen arrived and disclosed the information Qufthaq had requested two weeks earlier.

Media Cordinator for the Housing Ministry, Mohamed Rashad, said he had “only learned today” that a journalist was trying to reach the deputy minister.

“The busy schedule and all must have been a reason for the long delay,’’ he said. “If the media unit had known about it before, he would have received the information he needed.’’

Bureaucratic inaction and a lack of cooperation from the civil service is the latest in a series of complaints by the Maldivian media.

Recently a Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) journalist was barred from entering the Criminal Court for a hearing.

A journalist from Villa Television (VTV) also complained that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP Moosa ‘Manik’ obstructed him from interviewing another MP.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), acting on information received from the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA), earlier this week issued a statement expressing alarm at the “increasing hostile actions against independent media in the Maldives.”


Municipality claims land illegally occupied by MDP Haruge

The Male’ Municipality has claimed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has built a part of its ‘Haruge’ headquarters illegally on the municipality’s land, and informed the party to vacate within 14 days.

President of the Male’ Municipality Adam Manik said the MDP had taken part of the municipality’s land when it built its headquarters.

Adam said that was a part of the land on which the Housing Ministry planned to build flats.

”[MDP Chairperson] Mariya Didi built their office there unauthorised,” Adam claimed.

He said the council had now informed Didi to clear out the site within 14 days.

”It’s not the whole of the MDP Haruge,” he said. ”Its’s the part of the Haruge where they have the administration office.”

Spokesperson for MDP Ahmed Haleem said the party would clear the land within 14 days as requested. He said the land had been given to the MDP by the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce “as a gift.”

”We did not know that a part of the municipality’s land was occupied by us,” he said, adding that the party had not decided where to build its new administration office.

He said the land claimed by the municipality measured around 2000 square feet.