Defense Minister hands over 300 military housing units, pledges 300 more

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has handed over 300 housing units to soldiers and pledged to build 300 additional units in a bid to improve military welfare.

“These 300 flats are the beginning of improvements to military welfare. We have planned to begin a similar project next year,” Nazim said at a special ceremony at the military headquarters on Sunday (October 12) .

Noting that most of the 3000 strong Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) are from the atolls, Nazim said providing housing and establishing gym facilities in the northern, central, and southern commands are his top priorities.

The minister revealed new plans to commercialise military services, including services at the Uthuru Thilafalhu naval base and the services of the MNDF’s Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) unit.

The Uthuru Thila Falhu naval base, currently under construction, includes a dockyard, slipway, warehouse, and bunkering facilities and is an “initiative to end military dependence for welfare on state budget”, Nazim said.

“Through SIWEC we will open up these facilities to the public, and this venture will become the means for funds for military welfare.”

SIWEC or Sifainge Welfare Company is a joint venture company established in 2012 by MNDF’s cooperative society SIFCO and the government to invest in and operate businesses.

SIWEC is currently developing the military training island at Thamburudhoo into a boutique surf hotel to generate funds for military welfare.

SIFCO meanwhile provides catering services, military shops with subsidised goods and runs the military hospital Senahiya.

The commercialisation of military hospital services to the public will allow SIFCO to provide loans to soldiers through its profits, Nazim said.

He went on to reveal plans to construct new accommodation blocks, a new mosque, and a sauna within the military headquarters at Bandaara Koshi as well as the renovation of the defense building.

The Coastguard Marine Corps Composite Training Center that would “revolutionise” military training will be completed in early January, Nazim also said.

Late last year, the defence minister announced a new strategic action plan for the force which involved the introduction of an MNDF TV station – Addana TV (Shield TV), and the upgrading of Senahiya hospital, as well as measures to secure independent sources of revenue.

In addition to handover of flats, the MNDF has this week unveiled its new digital camouflage uniform, The new digital pattern would provide tactical advantages in war and is designed from a temperature sensitive special fabric.

“I believe soldiers must improve their military proficiency as they start to wear this advanced uniform,” Nazim said.

The minister called on the military to remain steadfast to Islam, maintain military discipline and warned of “harsh action” against any soldiers who violated military codes.

He praised the MNDF’s involvement in peacetime activities such as in the construction of futsal fields in the Maldives atolls and in the construction of the Malé – Hulhumalé bridge replica.

There are four upcoming military exercises within the year with India, Sri Lankan and American soldiers, he noted, adding that the Defense Ministry is looking into purchasing tools to increase operational capabilities such as fast interceptor vessels, ROVs, drones, and rapid intervention vehicles.


Six hundred flats awarded to police and military

Government authorities have awarded 600 apartments to Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel this week, including to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and senior police officers.

The housing development projects – providing 300 apartments for MPS, and 300 for MNDF officers – are being jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO) and the MNDF co-operative SIFCO.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the awards as a continuation of the patronage policies that prevailed under the 30 year autocracy of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the MPS’s MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments will be built.

The housing scheme was described as being important for the maintenance of the police force’s welfare by Commissioner Riyaz during the project’s foundation laying ceremony in March. Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu presented recipients with the official documents yesterday (September 2).

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told local media.

The awarding of flats marks the beginning of the POLCO project, which is seeking private investment for a further 150 apartments, said Commissioner Riyaz during Monday’s ceremony.

Last month, 50 apartments on Hulhumale’ were handed over to police officers by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who expressed hope that more housing would be made available exclusively for police and military officers.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power involving elements of the police force, 1000 officers have been promoted and 110 new officers were hired. More recruits have been sought for a “special constabulary” reserve force, a loan scheme has been established for officers, and arrangements have been made for officers and their families to receive cheap accommodations and medical treatment in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

MNDF flats

Meanwhile, the government has re-started construction of 300 housing units on Hulhumale’, specifically for MNDF officers.

President Waheed, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and senior MNDF officials laid the foundation stone for the apartment complex during a ceremony held on Hulhumale’ yesterday.

The apartments will be given to female officers who had not been previously awarded housing units, as well as to retired officers, the MNDF told local media.

Once constructed, the housing units would provide MNDF personnel and their families “adequate accommodation” as many are currently “living under a degree of hardship, having to rent their living spaces,” Waheed said during yesterday’s ceremony. Nazim added that the project would provide facilities such as playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a gym for residents.

President Waheed also awarded 50 apartments to MNDF personnel and their families last month, although seven of these flats had yet to be assigned.

Waheed noted during yesterday’s ceremony that the provision of shelter for military personnel was not an act of kindness, but rather a government obligation.

“The development and welfare of personnel should be improved in accordance with financial capability of the government, and the flats awarded today provides evidence of that fact,” Defence Minister Nazim stated at the time.

In April 2012, MNDF officers were given two years of allowances in a lump sum, which amounted to MVR 150 million (US$10 million) for the institution.

The Maldives National Defence Force was also not responding to enquiries at time of press.

“Patronage” continues: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes the award of 600 housing units to MNDF and MPS officers is a continuation of the patronage system established during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today (September 3).

The MDP previously raised concerns about whether the already constructed flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the “needy” and most deserving.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in last year’s mutiny had been rewarded with flats, claimed Ghafoor.

Last month, President Waheed requested parliament approval to obtain a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon to finance the government’s budget and manage cash flow.

The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was seeking to secure the loan as a way to “enforce” the 2013 budget approved by parliament, stated a letter from the President’s Office read during a parliament session held on August 13.