The state has filed a lawsuit in the Civil Court against Male City Council (MCC) for the repossession of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp at ‘Usfasgandu’ today.
During the first hearing, the state argued that the city council had been giving the land to parties against the agreement made between the state and the city council and also against the government’s policies.
The state also claimed that they had previously requested the city council hand over the land to the state in March, but had refused to do so.
State lawyers also said in court that the cabinet had made a similar decision on last May, but despite the cabinet’s decision, the city council had failed to hand back the land to the state.
During the hearing, the state asked the court to order MCC to hand over ‘Usfasgandu’ back to the state.
In response to the case presented, MCC lawyers asked the court for an opportunity to respond to the case in writing.
The judge ended the court session giving MCC lawyers to respond in the next hearing.
Speaking to Minivan News, MCC Councilor Ahmed Falah said that the court has given them the opportunity to respond in writing and the next hearing was scheduled on July 8.
Asked about on what basis the state was suing the MCC, Falah said that they were trying to limit the powers of the city council.
“They say that we were in breach of the agreement that was made between the MCC and the state. But the agreement does not state any specific procedure or rules on how the city council can give the lands to those that request it,” he said.
Falah claimed that the whole case was politically motivated as the council had the opposition majority.
“This is not anything about the agreement, it is all about politics. They know that [government] does not have a majority in City Council so they are trying take all our powers, the land was given in accordance with the decentralization act,” he said.
The case flared up after MCC extended the ‘Usfasgandu’ lease period for another three months after its initial period expired this July.
On March 22, MCC gave ‘Usfasgandu’ to MDP to conduct political activities, after the police dismantled ‘Justice Square’ (the Tsunami Monument area) last march.
Councilor Falah at the time said that they “gave the land because last Monday terrorists attacked the Justice Square at the end of Lonuziyaarai street.’’
However, the cabinet of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan decided to take over the land from MCC and hand it over to Ministry of Housing and Environment.
In a statement, the President’s Office at the time said that during discussions concerning “the breach of agreement by the MCC in utilizing the land plots and other properties handed over to the City Council by the Ministry of Housing and Environment,” the cabinet had decided “to entrust the Minister of Housing and Environment with the authority to reclaim the properties from the City Council when required.”
However, MCC refused to comply with the decision citing that the ministry had no authority over the land.
In a letter informing the ministry of its decision, the council insisted that the ‘Usfasgandu’ area was “temporarily leased” to the former ruling party in accordance with the Decentralisation Act, contending that the ministry did not have legal authority to reclaim council property.
Ministry of Home Affairs, asked police to take over ‘Usfasgandu’ following the non-compliance in handing the area over to the Ministry of Housing and Environment.
The Criminal Court at the time said it had studied the documents presented by the police along with the court warrant request form, and decided that the warrant was not within its capacity to grant.
On May 29, police raided the MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.
Reasons for the search as stated on the warrant included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.
Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25, “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”
The security forces began the dismantling the camp at Usfasgandu, shortly before being ordered to halt by the Civil Court after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.
The government appealed the Civil Court decision in the High Court, which issued an injunction suspending the Civil Court’s injunction.
Police issued a statement right after the High Court injunction stating that there were no more legal obstructions to raiding the camp, but said the police were “thinking on the matter”.