“I am a ‘gunda’. I will show that to you”: PPM councillor threatens deputy mayor

A recording understood to be of suspended Malé City Councillor Ahmed Mamnoon, reveals the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member threatening Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed.

“What are you trying to do, filing my case with the Local Government Authority, what you all are trying to do is not very nice, you will not be able to anything,” a voice believed to be Mamnoon says in the tape.

“You can’t do whatever you want here, you see, I am not a politician, I am a ‘gunda’ [thug/gangster]. I will show that to you.’’

The recording aired on Raajje TV a day after the Local Government Authority (LGA) decided to suspend Mamnoon for five days following his alleged use of offensive language to address Shifa.

Minivan News understands that the recording relates to a second incident, after the initial complaint was filed.

“The incident is regrettable. Not only because this is the council, but this type of incidents should not occur at any working place,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab today.

“We will keep informing the concerning government institutions about all these incident.”

In the video, the voice alleged to be Mamnoon can be heard saying that Shifa will not be able to take any action against “Hameed” and that, if any action was taken against “Hameed”, action would be taken against Shifa as well.

Controversial Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed has been in the headlines again this week, with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) releasing a statement criticising authorities’ failure to pursue the multiple crimes of which the judge is accused.

The 11-member Malé City Council is currently dominated by the MDP. Shifa was formerly the minister of education, while Mayor Shihab was home minister, during the administration of Mohamed Nasheed.

“Go and take action if you can,” continued the voice in the recording. “We took the Dharubaaruge chairs. In the future, if there is anything that belongs to Dharubaaruge, we’ll take it. We can’t be stopped.’’

The ruling PPM government has continued its predecessors moves to retrieve public areas granted to Malé City Council, with police moving in to assist the takeover of the Dharubaaruge convention center earlier this month.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said today that he was not aware of the incident.


Government plotting to “destroy decentralization,” says Malé Deputy Mayor

The Housing Ministry’s efforts to appropriate lands and property under the Malé City Council is an organized effort to discredit the council, destroy the decentralization system and punish Malé citizens for voting for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed has said today.

Since the takeover of the Dharubaaruge Conference Center, the ministry has asked for the hand over of two additional parks developed by the council, Shifa told Minivan News.

“This is an organized joint effort by the ministry and the government to discredit the council and destroy the decentralization system. When taking back lands [from the city council] is among the very the first decisions of the cabinet, it can also be seen as a revenge against people living in Malé, and people from all over the country who are living in the city. I dont think Malé citizens deserve this spirit of revenge from the government for voting for the MDP,” she said.

The ministry’s official reason for taking over the parks is “unlawful activity” taking place at the parks, but Shifa said the ministry failed to provide details of such activities.

The council had developed the two parks – Fini Park or Bondibai Park and City Park – with cafeteria services in 2012 in order to prevent drug dealing and criminal activity, Shifa said, accusing the government of taking back the parks to reverse gains.

President Abdulla Yameen’s administration is preventing the council from serving the people of Malé, she added.

“Even earlier [with Dharubaaruge and other lands] they could not give a valid reason or explanation. They just said it was based on the Attorney General’s advice which no one has ever seen. This time they say are saying unlawful activity without telling us what these activities are,” she said.

Police involvement

Council Member Shamau Shareef told local media yesterday that the Maldives Police Service was not cooperating with the council to clear out gang hangouts in Malé City’s public spaces. The police are “afraid to touch” such areas, Shamau claimed.

In response, the police said the council had not issued an official permit requesting action.

The council yesterday sent a letter requesting Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed to stop police participation in Dharubaaruge takeover without a court warrant, and asked him to investigate the incident.

No plan for development

In an official statement released yesterday, the council said the government is appropriating lands and property under the council without any plans for development and said the ministry has confirmed the absence of such a plan to the council in writing.

Regulations on transfer of lands between the local and central government states the government is authorized to take over land from the councils on a cabinet decision for socio- economic purposes and national security purposes.

The ministry also intends to take over the artificial beach, carnival area, south harbour area, lands near the T-Jetty and Usfasgandu area on the city’s southeast.

The council condemned the “unlawful takeover,” noting that the police and housing ministry officials who entered and changed Dharubaaruge locks yesterday had done so without a court warrant or any official document indicating the center had been transferred to the ministry.

The council called on President Yameen and senior members of the government to take action against such unlawful actions and asked the government to ensure the implementation of its policies would not harm the citizens of Malé City.

The statement also explained that the Ministry of Finance and Treasury rejected the council’s request in December 2012 for funds to repair a badly damaged and deteriorating Dharubaaruge.

According to the council they were asked to utilize funds allocated for the council in 2013, and the council informed the ministry the funds were insufficient for repair. However, the ministry refused to release additional funds, the council claimed. Copies of the letters was shared with the media.

When funds were denied, the council handed over the maintenance and development of Dharubaaruge to a private company, under a public-private partnership agreement through a public bidding process.

The council statement also said the ministry’s actions were “without any respect to the legal contract between the council and a private party” and without considering  how the action may affect members of the public.

Although MDP dominates the council, a council member from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Zaidul Ameen has also condemned yesterday’s incident.

The MDP has on several occasions accused the ruling PPM of opposing decentralization and said their policies reflect the party’s founder President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s centralized policies.


Shihab elected mayor, Shifa deputy mayor

Former Home Minister Mohamed Shihab has been elected mayor of the capital by fellow councillors on the newly-elected Malé City Council.

Former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed was elected deputy mayor. Both were elected with unanimous consent of the 11-member council following its swearing-in ceremony last night.

In the January 18 local council elections, eight candidates from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and three candidates from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives were elected to the council.

Abdulla Sodig was meanwhile elected mayor by the six-member Addu City Council while Abdulla Thoyyib was elected deputy mayor. All six councillors were elected on opposition MDP tickets.


Bill on government preschools to appear before parliament

A bill governing pre-schools has been presented to parliament by Independent MP Ahmed Shiyam and was accepted by all 64 members present.

If the bill is approved the government would assume responsibility for funding the country’s preschools, which are now largely privately operated.

Deputy Minister for Education Shifa Mohamed said preschools were very important as they represented the first stage of education.

But she also noted that it was very difficult for the government to handle and develop preschools at a time when it was focusing on widening the availability of higher education.

”It would be very difficult for the government to handle the preschools as the country’s economic condition is also not very good, and I do not think the approved budget would be sufficient,” Shifa said.

She called on the MPs to include sufficient funding in the budget and increase it as necessary.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the government supported the preschool bill, approved by the majority of MDP MPs as well.

”Every one dollar spent on preschool education represents seven dollars saved in secondary,” he explained.


Arabiyya School to continue in MES building

Parents of Arabiyya School have decided to continue lessons inside the Male’ English School (MES) building.

The school was closed last week when a wall collapsed during a class, and the education ministry made the decision to rebuild it following reports of structural weaknesses in the building.

Principal of Arabiyya School Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim Rasheed said the education ministry gave the school two options for a new location.

”The education ministry told us to decide to continue in either the Ameer Ahmed School building or the MES building,” Rasheed said.

Rasheed said almost all the parents agreed to choose the MES building.

He said the school would be covering the lost lessons by making part of Saturday a school day for Arabiyya students.

”Students in grade 1-6 wil lbe studying in the afternoon session and grade 7-12 students will study in the morning sessions,” he said.

He noted that ”the education ministry had said that they will finish the reconstruction of the Arabiyya building within one and a half years.”

Head of the Schools Department of the Education Ministry Shifa Mohamed said hopefully next Sunday Arabiyya students would start their studies in the MES building.

”We will start demolishing Arabiyya School as soon as we get the money for it,” she said.