Male’ City Council, MIFCO to open new raw fish market

Male’ City Council and the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) is set to open a new raw fish market at the T-jetty area of the Male’ southwest harbour.

The new market to be opened at 4:00pm tomorrow will be located at the old Champa Market plot.

Councillor Ibrahim Shuja told Sun Online today that the purpose of the new market was to provide affordable raw fish to the public following recent price hikes.

A filleted fish is to be sold between Rf75 and Rf80 while raw fish will be sold for Rf35 to Rf40.

Shuja said that the fish sold at the market would be “freshly caught” catch brought from MIFCO vessels.


Council discusses “nuisance and bother” of expatriates in Republic Square

Members of the Male’ City Council have offered solutions to “the nusiance and bother of expatriates [congregating] at the Republic Square” in the capital at a meeting last month.

According to minutes of a meeting on June 28 published on the council’s new website, Deputy Mayor Ahmed Samah Rasheed noted that the issue had been discussed before and suggested contacting the Bangladeshi High Commission.

However Maafanu West Councillor Ahmed Falah pointed out that it was “not only Bangladeshis who gather in these places.”

“[Mid-Henveiru Councillor] Lufshan [Shakeeb] noted that foreigners at the Republic Square were damaging the grass in a number of ways and said that the area should be walled off with a tin fence and cleaned,” reads the minutes.

Lufshan suggested working with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police “to develop Republic Square.” Henveiru South Councillor “Rukuma” Mohamed Abdul Kareem backed the notion.

The discussion came under an agenda item titled “Making a decision on the nuisance and bother of Bangalhun [derogatory term for Bangladeshis] at the Republic Square and the problem of Bangalhun sleeping inside the old museum at Sultan Park.”

The agenda states that the discussion was prompted by a letter received by the council.

Machangoalhi South Councillor “Jambu” Hassan Afeef meanwhile claimed that expatriates were “committing indecent acts” behind the National Museum site and other open spaces in Sultan Park, recommending that the grounds be closed to the public.

Mayor “Sarangu” Adam Manik however said that “any measures taken should be democratic,” which led Falah to suggest putting up notice boards at the Republic Square in languages used by expatriates to inform them that the area was out of bounds.

The Mayor however favoured closing the square ahead of celebrations of Republic Day on November 11 instead of an abrupt closure and reopening with improved security to ensure there was no further loitering.

Manik also noted that expatriates congregated in other open spaces in Male’ such as the artificial beach area.

Following the discussions, the city council unanimously approved a motion to form a steering committee with officials from the army and police as well as the Tourism Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the Human Rights Commission.

Lufshan, Afeef and Kareem were chosen to represent the council on the committee. All seven councillors in attendance at the meeting belong to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.

Large numbers of expatriates living in Male’ use the Republic Square as a park, particularly Bangladeshi labourers on weekends. According to official figures, 1,600 Maldivian companies and 2,000 individuals between them employ 70,000 expatriates in the Maldives – a third of the country’s population – not including an unknown number of illegal migrant workers.

Meanwhile, an ongoing police investigation into labour trafficking uncovered an industry worth an estimated US$123 million, eclipsing fishing (US$46 million in 2007) as the second greatest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldivian economy after tourism.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that “Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik” was present at the meeting, instead of ‘Sarangu’ Adam Manik who was Mayor at the time. Ali Manik was absent from the meeting. Minivan News apologises for any confusion caused.


Council invalidates resolution to seize Gayoom’s house

The Male’ City Council has invalidated a resolution it passed yesterday to seize former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s house, 24 hours after the decision was made at a ‘sidewalk’ meeting held amidst a protest outside parliament.

Deputy Mayor Ahmed Samah Rasheed told Minivan News that the decision to invalidate the resolution was made at a council meeting at 5:00pm today, which the North Maafanu Councillor chaired.

“There were two proposals up for a vote,” he explained. “One was for invalidating the resolution while the other was to make a decision next Monday after considering the legal issues. But all the councillors were in favour of invalidating it. There was a difference of opinion over when it should be done.”

As the vote for the first proposal was tied at 4-4, Samah said that he cast the tie-breaking vote to invalidate yesterday’s controversial resolution.

While the Deputy Mayor said that he wish to comment on the reasons for the council’s decision, he revealed that President Mohamed Nasheed had expressed displeasure with the resolution.

“We met with the President this morning,” he said. “The meeting was not held about this issue but President Nasheed told us that he was very unhappy about it.”

The council’s decision has been roundly condemned by all parties, including the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) as well as the Prosecutor General (PG).

In a statement yesterday, PG Ahmed Muiz condemned the resolution, calling the decision “very irresponsible”.

The PG said that the constitution was clear that a person’s property shall not be taken without his consent unless a court of law issues a verdict to do so.

“In a circumstance that a court of law rules the seizure of property, it shall only be taken after paying fair compensation in return,” said the Prosecutor General, adding that the PG had a responsibility to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of people.

Speaking to Minivan News, Muiz insisted that the issue of seizing Gayoom’s house was a civil issue and that it should be solved by a court.

“Technically it is a civil issue, and the court has to decide on the issue,” he said. “They have to defend themselves in court.”

He also said the PG Office had not yet decided to take any measures to address the issue.

Meanwhile, former President’s son Faarish Maumoon today issued a press release to the local media saying that Kinbigadhoshuge was property of Gayoom and that his family would do all they could to prevent it from being taken by the state.

Gayoom’s family expressed concern that a state institution was attempting to seize property owned by others while the constitution stated that it shall be protected and respected, and that ultimately such decisions may harm all the citizens of the Maldives.

Samah had previously told local media that the council had sent a notice to Gayoom asking to evacuate the house within 30 days, but Faarish said it had not yet been received.


Male’ City Council to confiscate former President’s house during ‘sidewalk’ meeting

Male’ City Council passed a resolution today to seize the official residence of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Ma Kibigasdhoshuge, for the state with compensation.

At an impromptu meeting held outside parliament this morning amidst public protests, nine councillors of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) sat cross-legged on a red carpet decked out on the road and unanimously endorsed the resolution. The two opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) councillors did not attend the ‘meeting’.

Former Mayor “Sarangu” Adam Manik confirmed the council’s decision and defended the legality of the move.

“The meeting was a lawful meeting and all decisions made during the meeting will be lawful and shall be implemented,” insisted Manik, who also chaired the meeting.

However the former municipality head refused to comment any further on the matter.

Article 41(n) of the Decentralisation Act empowers the city council to seize private property “if necessary” after providing “fair compensation”.

Ahmed Nihan, spokesperson of the Z-DRP faction formed behind the party’s ‘Honorary Leader’ Gayoom, told Minivan News today that he did not believe the council’s decision was legal.

“How can they claim land owned by someone? Even the constitution states that everyone must respect others private life and house,” Nihan said. “The current government is helpless to rule the country.”

Nihan said that the Male’ City Council had violated the rights of the former President, adding that the council did not have the legal authority to seize land.

“The ultimate outcome of such decisions will be other island councils will start making such decisions in council meeting and will start claiming others’ properties,” he suggested. “Now also Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo Council is claiming that the resort (Kandooma Island Resort) right next to the island is a part of the island.”

The DRP MP for Vili-Maafanu strongly condemned the decision made by Male’ City Council.

“It is another desperate action of the government,” he said. “Mad people like Adam Manik will do such things like sitting on the road and holding council meetings.”

Nihan argued that the Male’ City Council could not take the land without Gayoom’s consent.

“Although the council has decided to pay compensation in return for the land, still it cannot be taken without the consent of former president,” he insisted.

Nihan said that he was not aware if Gayoom had officially decided to take any action concerning the decision.


No-confidence motion against Male’ Mayor temporarily withdrawn

A no-confidence motion against Male’ City Mayor “Sarangu” Adam Manik tabled in the agenda for today’s city council meeting has been withdrawn.

Haveeru has reported that West Maafanu Councillor Mohamed Falah withdrew his motion as a replacement for Adam Manik, Hulhu-Henveiru Councillor “Maizan” Ali Manik (Alibe), was currently overseas in Japan for an Athletics Association trip.

One of two opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) councillors on the 11-member city council, Ibrahim Shujau, explained that Falah did not want the position to remain vacant until Alibe returned on 12 July


Opposition’s vote to increase city councillors economic sabotage, claims government

The government has hit out at opposition parliamentarians it alleges have actively sought to sabotage its attempts to reduce the state budget by voting for amendments that will double the number of city councillors currently serving in the country.

The criticisms were made after amendments to the country’s Decentralisation Act were passed yesterday in the Majlis, doubling the number of people elected to each city council.  The amendments have served to create eleven additional seats on Male’ City Council, which will increase to 22 representatives, while Addu City Council will have 12 elected councillors as a result.

Opposition politicians claim that the amendments have been made to try and bring more equity to the representation of city council members when compared to their island and atoll counterparts also appointed during the country’s first local council elections in February.

According to Haveeru, the amendments forwarded by South Hithadhoo MP Hassan Latheef were passed by 36 votes in favour, while 33 votes went against the bill – reportedly mainly from Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members loyal to the government.

Back in February’s local council elections, where one councillor was appointed to each city constituency, results showed that the MDP had taken the majority of city seats despite losing out on an overall seat majority to the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) who claimed significantly more island and atoll councils.

Considering this vote, Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that aside from capitalising on the availability of the additional city council seats in the country, he believed opposition parties favoured the bill in order to sabotage cost cutting measures.

“From the outset [of the decentralisation process], the government has been of the position that the total number of councillors should be kept down as much as possible,” he said. “We at the beginning suggested that the total number of councillors should be no more than 220, yet opposition parties like the DRP wanted more.”

According to Zuhair, as part of its pledge to limit numbers, the government established seven national offices in an attempt to coordinate national developments within a decentralised Maldives and support the efforts of those elected to oversee projects in their constituencies.

Although Zuhair did not object to the councillors themselves, he claimed continued increases in their numbers represented a significant budgetary issue, particularly after parliament had agreed upon the final number of representatives before February’s elections.

“The government is actively working to reduce civil service wages as it is being constantly asked by groups such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We have offered to pay people to leave their jobs, yet all this is being undone,” Zuhair claimed. “The DRP hopes to capitilise on the formation of eleven more seats from city councils, where it is not really represented [after losing the city seats in the local council election].”

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef rejected Zuhair’s allegations, claiming opposition support for the amendments to the number of city councillors was to make “a fairer and more equitable system” in comparison to the number of elected members on island councils. Shareef added that the vote did not necessarily represent an attempt to set back budgetary reform.

“The addition of these councilors will not be a strain on the [state] budget. The president has himself clearly stated that he has no intention to reduce the civil service bill, rather he will try to generate income through taxes,” he said. “The possible expansion of the state budget is a concern. But we do not believe the government has sufficient plans to reduce it.”


City Council extends carnival plots lease

Male’ City Council has extended leases for plots rented out from the Alimas Ufaa Carnival area by an additional three months, reports Haveeru.

While the leases for the cafes and other facilities at the Carnival expired in 2006, the now-defunct Male’ Municipality has been extending the leases since 2007.

Male’ Mayor “Sarangu” Adam Manik said that the council decided to finalise development plans for the area during the next three months.


MDP concludes primaries for Male’ city council

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) conducted primaries in the capital yesterday to choose its 11 candidates for the Male’ city council.

Provisional results show that Male’ municipality president ‘Sarangu’ Adam Manik received the most number of votes in the primaries.

The winning candidates from yesterday’s primary who will contest on the MDP ticket for the local council elections on February 5 are ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik for Hulhu-Henveiru, Lufshan Shakeeb for Mid-Henveiru, Mohamed Abdul Kareem for Henveiru South, Mohamed Afrah Haleel for Galolhu North, Adam Manik for Machangoalhi South, Mohamed Aiman for Maafanu South and Arham Hussein for Vili-Maafanu.

The rest of the candidates – Abdulla Shafeeq for Galolhu South, Ahmed Samah Rasheed for Maafanu North, Mohamed Falah for Maafanu West and “Jambu” Hassan Afeef for Machangoalhi North – ran uncontested.