Male’ City Council, MDP deny receiving notice to clear Usfasgandu site by June 27

Male’ City Council (MCC) has denied receiving any notice from the Housing Ministry requesting it hand over the Usfasgandu grounds, which it continues to lease to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for campaign activities and rallies.

Male’ Mayor Ali Manik said this evening that despite hearing rumours Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz had given the council ten days from tomorrow (June 18) to clear and hand over the plot of land, he had not received any information on the matter from the government.

“I can’t say anything about something that I haven’t even received.” he told Minivan News. “The only things I have heard on the issue have been from the lips of other people.”

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz however told Sun Online today that a notice had been sent to the MCC today for them to clear and vacate the area by June 27 – or else police would be requested to assist in clearing the area.

The housing minister was quoted as saying that the state would not be taking responsibility for any damage caused to items of equipment left on the site after the requested handover date.

Dr Mohamed Muiz also told local media today that the MCC had previously been sent a notice on February 25 requesting it hand over Usfasgandu to his ministry within seven days, a request that was not made following a court ruling.

The ministry sent the notice in February just a day after the High Court overturned a Civil Court ruling backing the government’s order that the land be handed over to state authorities.

The High Court claimed at the time that the lower court had not followed legal procedures in the case.

Usfasgandu was handed back to the MDP by the MCC in March of this year. The council claimed at the time that no other party had requested use of the land at the time.

Muiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

MDP claims intimidation

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that the party had not received any official notice from the housing ministry regarding calls to clear the site within ten days.

He alleged that the reports of the Housing Ministry seeking to reclaim Usfasgandu reflected an attempt by the state to intimidate political rivals such as the MDP and its supporters ahead of an election in an attempt to destabilise the country ahead of September’s presidential election.

Ghafoor refused to speculate at present on whether the MDP would hand back the land should an official request be received.

He responded that authorities had previously sought to take Usfasgandu back from the MDP in the past, but had been unsuccessful due to what he claimed was “public pressure”.

“Our thinking is this is not a valid government, it therefore has no authority and this is why we are advocating in parliament for a transitional government ahead of the election,” he said. “Otherwise, how can we go through an election like this.”

A media official for the Maldives Police Service (MPS) told Minivan News that it had received no request or notice from the Housing Ministry for assistance in clearing the site.

Male’ City Council leased the Usfasgandu area to the ousted ruling party in March 2012, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area on the grounds it was being used for criminal activity, including the practice of black magic.

The MDP had moved to the area after a previous protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted by police and military on March 19, 2012.

On May 29,2012, police raided the Usfasgandu site after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court, ordering the MDP to vacate the area. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) then began dismantling the protest camp.

The Housing Ministry filed a case with the Civil Court after the MCC refused to hand the land plot to the ministry.


Fantasy fines official, health head remains at post, says Mayor

Male’ City Council’s Trade Section has fined Fantasy Bakers Rf 6500 (US$420) for selling goods produced with expired products, City Mayor Ali Manik has confirmed.

Earlier today, local media Haveeru reported that Council Health Section Manager Hassan ‘Jambu’ Afeef had ‘unofficially’ issued the Rf 6,500 fine, and was consequently stripped of his duties.

However Manik told Minivan News today that Afeef had not been removed from his duties.

“They are trying to damage my reputation,” Afeef claimed. “Currently I am on vacation and I will not respect any decision to suspend me.”

“Hassan is still with us, of course, he has not left his duties,” said the Mayor, who was puzzled by the question. “The Rf 6,500 fine was approved by the Council, so of course it is official.”

The Mayor said an additional Rf100,000 (US$6500) fine from the City Council may be “issued after the court case”, for which police are currently conducting an investigation of Bakers Fantasy on the Prosecutor General’s order.

The Mayor could not say if the court would also issue a fine to the company.

Speaking today to Minivan News, Afeef said media reports were “incorrectly based on false information provided by certain council members.”

“The council decided to fine Fantasy for Rf100,000. Officials from the Trade Section subsequently went to Fantasy and reduced the fine to Rf 6,500,” he said. “It was not me, and it should be noted that some of the council’s members are not very responsible and are not even not cooperating with responsible members of the council.”

He said the decision to reduce the fine to Rf ,500 was made by him, and that some council members are “generally uninformed of council activities.”

“I was told that I am attempting to damage a business and that it would give a bad name to the Fantasy stores when I brought the issue to the council,”’ he said. “I said ‘I’m working for the people,’ and that it was the citizens who eat the products and it is my responsibility to stop it.’”

Afeef said media had been informed of the council’s statements on the Fantasy issue and that council members responsible had since apologised to him.

“They called me and said I was right about the Fantasy issue and the next day they wanted to erase the minutes of that meeting, but I did not allow this,” he said. “I am an MDP councilor. If they taking a salary from the citizens’ money, they should be sincere to the citizens. This a setup to damage my reputation and good name,” Afeef claimed.

Afeef reiterated that he remains fully employed as head of the Council’s Health Section, which he said the President and First Lady regarded “as an important social institution.”

Bakers Fantasy was closed on October 28 by Male’ City Council. The council subsequently inspected three storehouses and Aioli Restaurant, which is owned by Fantasy Pvt. Ltd. Expired products were found in two of three storehouses, however Aioli was found clean.

Fantasy Store was closed by police for two days on November 7 while police searched for expired goods, but was re-opened in order to protect business operations. Police intervened after the store had ignored an order from Community Health Services, which has legal authority to order temporary closures.

Fantasy shops are known for imported products and quality produce, and are popular among locals and expatriates.