Malé City Council has decided to bring back the 24 hour service at cafes and shops, seventeen months after it was banned by Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government.
The proposition was passed unanimously by nine members present at yesterday’s council meeting (March 18), though the government has suggested that it does not have the authority to make such decisions.
Councilman Shamau Shareef said that the council decision came in response to a number of request from Malé City residents.
“This is what the people want. The former government discontinued the permissions to operate such places citing criminal activity and instability in the city. But now we have an elected government, and we think it should be reconsidered now,” said Shamau.
He noted that council have now been tasked with issuing trade permits for the city and it is in the council’s mandate under the Decentralisation Act to address this issue.
But the Ministry of Economic Development has today said that the issuing of trade permits was delegated to the council under a memorandum of understand with the ministry, which does not allow issuing 24 hour license.
“The government decided to end the running of 24 hour businesses. From that point the procedure for issuing trade permits were changed. City council have been tasked with issuing permits under those procedures,” the ministry’s Director General Usman Shakir was quoted as saying in Haveeru.
Shakir said that the government has not yet changed it’s position on allowing 24 hour businesses, and warned that the ministry will take action if any such permission is issued.
Responding to the ministry’s statement Councilman Shamau said that there are “some barriers” in implementing the decision, but the council is willing to overcome these issues by discussing it with the ministry.
“We will do whatever it takes. This is the capital city, and there are 24 hours ferries operating, people coming from other islands, people are working round the clock. There should be some way for them to eat or buy things they need. We are talking about basic necessities of the people,” he said.
President Mohamed Nasheed’s government decided to issue permits for 24 hour businesses in December 2010. After the change in government, Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in October 2012 decided to put an end to these opening hours.
The ministry’s official reason for decision was national security concerns. There was a high level of concern about increasing rates at the time, particularly with political instability and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali within the same month.
While it is not known whether the decision had any positive impact in reducing crime rates, the parliamentary national security committee at the time suggested impact it had was negative.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time described the decision as an attack against small and medium businesses which ‘left thousands of people unemployed’. Resuming the permits was an election pledge of the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed in 2013.
Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was at the time a coalition member of the government, and President Abdulla Yameen was elected as president, the party has maintained support for the ban on 24 hours businesses.
When the permits were revoked in 2012 there were forty four businesses with permit in Malé city, now all shops have to be closed at 11pm and all cafes at 1am.