Chamber of commerce awaiting permit for night market

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has expressed concern with the Malé City Council’s refusal to grant permission to host the annual night market in the capital.

MNCCI Vice Chair Ismail Asif told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that the city council had not responded to the chamber of commerce’s request for permission to host the market.

“We are concerned because the council would not even respond to this issue. At this state, another party is announcing hosting Night Market. The same thing happened last year, same thing this year. It seems as if they are trying to hand the project over to someone in particular,” he was quoted as saying.

The Anti-Corruption Commission last week informed the city council that its agreement with Go Media Pvt Ltd to organise the night market had been terminated last year.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told the local daily that the council would make a decision in the near future to resolve the issue.

“MNCCI not partaking in the Go Media bid too is a problem. We had found out that they had not participated. We can’t grant the permission to another party without getting out of the agreement made with Go Media. This is the problem that we face now. That, too is a cemented agreement,” she said.


AG accuses Civil Court of negligence as City Council proceeds with US$30 million development of West Harbour

The Attorney General has filed a complaint at the Supreme Court accusing the Civil Court of negligence in holding a hearing of a case filed by the state, seeking to prevent Male City Council from outsourcing the development and operation of the West Harbour Area.

Last Sunday Male City Council announced its intention to hand over the development and operation of the West Harbour Area – locally known as the ‘T-Jetty Area’ – to a local company called West Gate Assets Private Limited for a lease period of 25 years.

The project, worth US$30 million, once completed will include coffee shops, cafes, petrol sheds, shopping malls and spacious parking zones intended to resolve severe congestion in Male’ City.

Meanwhile, in its complaint filed at the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office claimed the Civil Court’s failure to proceed with the case meant that the government could take no action against the project.

“If that agreement proceeds as it is now, [the Attorney General’s Office] believes that will be carried out unlawfully and this office will continue to take necessary actions against the project,” read a statement from the AG’s office.

The AG further claimed that last December, when the city council announced opened bidding for the project, a case was filed at the Civil Court to invalidate the process through an injunction to stop the bidding process.

However the Attorney General’s office said the Civil Court had failed to hold any hearings into the case since May.

The statement claimed excuses for hearings being delayed included the city council’s lawyer calling in sick, the court being unable to deliver court chits and the judge being on leave.

The project

In a press conference on Sunday, West Gate’s Consultant Ismail Firag told the press that the company intended to develop the area as a phase by phase project with development of the first phase to commence on September 1.

The City Council claimed that the lease agreement had been signed by the City Council and West Gate six months ago, after the project received approval from both the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Housing Ministry.

Male City Council Member Ibrahim Sujau at the press conference said the council would try its best to make arrangements to ensure that the project was completed smoothly without disruptions.

He added that the decision to complete the project in several phases was made to ensure its smooth completion.

The councillor claimed that area was leased to West Gate for a sum of MVR 400,000 (US$ 25,940.34), approximately MVR 320,000 (US$ 20,752.27) more than the current MVR 80,000 (US$ 5,188.07) a month generated in income generated from the area by the City Council.


The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-dominated Male City Council has come under heavy fire from the government over the project as both the Housing Ministry and the Attorney General have voiced against outsourcing of the harbour development.

Shortly following the announcement, Housing Minister Mohamed Muizz dismissed the claim made by the City Council that his ministry had given approval to the project.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, the Minister claimed the city council had not shared anything with the ministry before handing the project over to West Gate.

Muizz further contested that city council could not take such major decisions without consulting the ministry as the West Harbour area is considered an important economic zone in Male’ City.

“It is a very important strategic location in Male’. On the other hand, development of that area is a massive project. They can’t hand over the development of the area without obtaining permission from the ministry. We even do not know how they plan to develop the area. It is an outright lie that we had given them the approval,” he said.

Housing Minister claimed the ministry had previously made a master-plan to develop the area and said that he did not believe the city council could hand the project to West Gate under a new master-plan.

Previously, the housing ministry’s bid to stop the project through the Anti Corruption Commission failed after the commission concluded that there was no corruption involved during the bidding process.

But Muizz claimed that he was determined to stop the project.

“We will look into ways to stop the project. But we have not yet decided what will be our actions. Previously, similar attempts had been made to stop other such projects. But the current legal framework itself has difficulties for such actions,” he said.


STELCO takes Male’ City Council to court over ‘permit conflict’

The State Electric Company (STELCO) has filed a case with the Civil Court requesting it invalidate Male City Council’s (MCC’s) decision to disallow issuing permits to the company.

In a statement released Wednesday (December 12), the state electricity provider stated that the lawsuit was filed because the MCC had blocked the company from providing some of its services, resulting in disruption for customers in the capital.

The disallowed permits are needed to provide electrical services to properties around the capital.

STELCO argued that MCC’s decision lacked any legal grounds and it therefore requested the court to decide if the decision was valid or not. It also requested the court invalidate a letter sent to STELCO by the MCC informing it of the decision, so that it could resume its services.

Speaking to Minivan News following the lawsuit being filed, MCC member Ibrahim Shujau said that the council had not yet been officially informed of the case and had only been made aware of the matter through media reports.

Shujau claimed that STELCO was releasing statements that were misleading and did not convey what had really happened.

“The Housing Ministry informed us to stop providing permits stating that the Ministry itself would carry out the issuing of permits. We told them under the Decentralization Act, it was our responsibility in giving the services. But they gave a deaf ear to our concerns,” He explained.

The Male’ City Councillor also alleged that STELCO was carrying out its operations in breach of national laws, therefore, the MCC had on numerous occasions advised them not to disregard these laws.

However, Shujau said that STELCO’s failure in heeding its request had meant that the council had to halt services provided to the state electricity provider.  He added that the MCC would only resume providing permits if the state electricity provider came back within “the boundaries of law”.

Shujau alleged that Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz had been responsible for the dispute in an attempt to defame members currently serving in the MCC ahead of the next local council elections.

“I would not let [Housing Minister Muizz] fail the city council, I would fight against it, even single handedly if required to,” said Shujau.

Managing Director of STELCO, Dr Mohamed Zaid was not responding to calls at time of press.

The dispute

The Row between STELCO and the MCC escalated this week after the state-owned company held a press conference on December 10 to express concern over the council’s decision to disallow issuing permits to them.

At the press conference, STELCO Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Latheef said that the company had been informed by the MCC that it was to temporarily cease providing services such as digging up roads in the capital as of December 5.

According to Latheef, the dispute began when STELCO started providing electricity to several locations in Male’ without the permission of the city council. He argued that properties in concern had been previously taken from the city council by the Housing Ministry.

“As the nature of the services provided by this company are such that we require the assistance and cooperation of the municipal service provider of the state, and because Male’ City Council has currently ceased providing its services, the subsequent result is that the company is now unable to provide certain public services,” he said.  ”Some of the services that require the permission of the city council include digging street sides, laying cables and certain tasks that require the roads to be closed off.”

Latheef claimed the company had held several discussions with the council, the most recent of which took place Sunday (December 9).  However, the MCC was said to have remained unwilling to reverse their decision.

STELCO Engineer Ibrahim Naashid in the same press conference said that the state-owned company was receiving about 15 requests per day to connect electricity, but was unable to do so as a result of the city council’s decision earlier this month.

“On an average, we were unable to provide electricity service to 15 parties in the last three to four days. However, not all premises require the digging of roads to provide electricity cables, so we have provided electricity to some premises through our distribution box that have been previously installed. But if digging the road is required to provide the service, it is impossible to give the service now,” he told the press.

Naashid explained that the company was required to obtain a permit from the city council to lay cable even in an emergency power outage, resulting in huge difficulties for the company in the present situation.

“Earlier, it is possible for us not to immediately get a permit from the city council in an odd time like midnight hours, but we do inform their supervisors and those responsible in maintaining the roads. If it’s a difficult time like midnight hours, we carry out the work and inform them the next day,” he explained.

However, Naashid affirmed that the company would still carry out its work in providing their service to the people in case of emergencies regardless of the views that the city council may hold.

Male’ City Council’s response

In a response to STELCO’s claims, the MCC in a letter seen by local media warned the state-owned electricity provider that it would take “harsh” action if any service was provided to the “people” without its permission.

The city council said STELCO was failing to abide by laws and regulations, as well ignoring two different letters sent to the company advising it to comply with such requests.  The MCC stated that it had not received any response to its letters.

The letter signed by Deputy Mayor Shamah Rasheed and addressed to Managing Director of STELCO Dr Mohamed Zaid stated that it was the responsibility of the MCC to enter into agreements with parties and carry out business transactions.  The MCC said such transactions were to be carried out in accordance with policies set by government authorities that outline the provision of basic services such as water, electricity and sewerage services to the people as stipulated under the Decentralization Act.