Malé City Council helpless as housing ministry takes over all land, public services staff

The housing ministry has taken control of 13 plots of land belonging to the opposition dominated Malé City Council, and transferred the majority of the council’s public services division staff to the ministry.

According to a housing ministry announcement, all of Malé City’s streets, the Artificial Beach area, Plot 211, Usfasgandu, the T-Jetty area, Dharubaaruge Convention Center, Sultan Park, Maafannu round-about, Adi Park, Alimas Carnival, Fishermen’s Park and all other parks now belong to the ministry.

Any individual wishing to make use of these lands must now seek permits from the ministry. The State Electric Company (STELCO) and Maldives Police Services would not provide services for any events unless a housing ministry permit is obtained, the announcement said.

The move continues a steady removal of powers from the council, in what has been characterised by its officials as an attempt to destroy decentralisation in the country.

Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab has condemned the government’s systematic abrogation of the council’s powers and said it constituted a breach of the powers afforded to the council under the Constitution and the Decentralisation Act.

“We are now only in charge of facilitating construction in Malé, issuing death and birth certificates and cleaning mosques. But the constitution clearly states the Maldives must be administered through decentralised councils,” he said.

The government must respect Maldivian laws to attain development, he contended.

“The powerful are now abusing their powers in the Maldives. This is very sad. Ultimately, it is the ordinary Maldivian citizen who will suffer the most. Investors will not invest here. No one knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after. We have to uphold the law if we want to develop at the same levels as developing countries,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said the council has challenged the transfer of council staff to the housing ministry at the Civil Court.

In addition to transferring council staff, the ministry had also illegally taken over the council’s assets, including dustbins and trees for a greening programme, in the public services section, she said.

Shifa has described the government’s actions as a plot “to destroy decentralization”.

On November 26, the council declared it was close to shut-down after the Maldives Police Services confiscated documents and computer systems at the Malé City Council offices under a court warrant on allegations of corruption.

The warrant, signed by the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, said that “some council staff had shared and gained unlawful advantages from some PDF files sent to the council by Maldives Land and Survey Authority.”

The survey authority and the land registration project fall under the authority of the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The council has denied receiving such files, stating that any surveys on Malé lands would have originated from the council.

The cabinet in early November announced it had removed the council’s jurisdiction over the city’s roads after disagreements over the replanting of vandalised trees.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has said the trees were uprooted by masked policemen. Police have dismissed the claims.

Local media have since reported that the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives believes the trees were being used to curse President Abdulla Yameen.

The roads are now under the control of the housing ministry and the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) which has started cleaning the drains, bringing some alleviation to persistent flooding.

The government had suggested that the council had failed to adequately maintain both Dharubaaruge Convention Center and the roads of the capital, though the council has maintained that state funds allocated for the work was not released by the finance ministry.

The government in October also scrapped an agreement made with India–based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in the capital Malé and nearby areas.



Related to this story

Malé City Council close to shut-down after police confiscate documents and server system

Newly planted areca palms uprooted on housing ministry orders

Government terminates Tatva waste management deal

Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

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Thousands rally in Male’ for MDP’s eighth anniversary and carnival parade

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) celebrated their eighth anniversary with thousands of people participating in last night’s march and spectators lining the streets of the capital.

The excitement was palpable as thousands came out of their neighborhoods, crammed the sidewalks and climbed on top of any available structures to watch the parade spectacle and take photos. Countless people were seen waving and shouting from their windows and balconies as the anniversary parade circled around Male’.

MDP has claimed upwards of 15,000 parade participants – some social media estimates were upwards of 20,000 – took part in the event. Minivan News observed the protest parade stretching the entire length and width of the nearly two kilometre long thoroughfare of Majeedhee Magu.

Protesters represented a variety of demographics including children, youth, the elderly, disabled, women and men, organised into groups, some carrying giant MDP flags, while others waved yellow ribbons, fans or pom poms.

Groups of women were twirling yellow umbrellas adorned with frangipani flowers (the party’s symbol) or carrying signs with the slogan ‘ehburun’ (meaning a one round victory). Some young men played volleyball while others in the parade drummed a festive beat.

Women and men alike were shaking yellow pom-poms and dancing in the streets to music remixing dance beats with phrases from former President Mohamed Nasheed’s speeches.

The Dhivehi lyrics translated to “MDP is a ship for all seas, This party is not going to sink, We will not fade away, You can arrest us, jail us and kill us but MDP’s ‘fikuru’ (ideology) can no longer be eradicated/wiped out from the Maldives”.

Countless parade participants, including port workers, were also adorned with yellow construction hats, while two young men wore milk and banana costumes in recognition of a previous Nasheed speech in which he discussed the importance of child nutrition, and pledged to ensure every school child had a suitable breakfast.

There were constant chants of ‘ehburun’ by the parade participants and crowds lining the main thoroughfares of Male’ that comprised the parade route. The parade ended at ‘Usfasgandu’, MDP’s protest area located near the Tsunami Monument, where applause and shouts from thousands of supporters could be heard echoing through the streets as members cut the party’s birthday cake.

Introducing multi-party democracy

“The MDP was the first political party to be registered eight years ago – we are the largest and oldest party – and we are built on people’s hopes,” MDP’s Youth Wing President Aminath Shauna told Minivan News.

“We wanted to celebrate that and show the people’s strength, which we definitely saw last night. The parade was a way to show that while we are a political party committed to political reform and social change, we can still have fun,” said Shauna.

“We wanted to make it very colorful and an opportunity for all kinds of people to participate, and they did, children, youths, mothers and fathers, as well as elderly MDP supporters, the parade had activities for everyone,” she continued.

“There hasn’t been an event like this – not at night with all the lights and music – since MDP’s February 17, 2012 rally, and that was more of a spontaneous protest,” she explained.

“The MDP has consistently had large numbers of people’s support and participation, but this event was by far the most comprehensive.”

“There was not a single spot empty on the sidewalks and people were cheering and waving from their windows and balconies. At least 15,000 people were out in support of the parade in Male’ alone,” she claimed.

“I have not seen that many people come out and even watch Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) parades on Majeedhee Magu. There is a huge strong base of support in the islands as well, even in the UK Maldivians living abroad celebrated, social media is showing the quite broad spectrum of MDP supporters,” said Shauna.

“This event was significant because MDP is so young. I don’t think any country would see a ‘people’s party’ come out of nowhere – based on sheer public support – and be able to maintain a peaceful stance after so much brutality and injustice,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News.

“It’s also significant that MDP’s eighth birthday coincides with the [upcoming] elections.”

“On MDP’s eighth birthday what we are seeing is unprecedented. After eight years we are still completely the ‘people’s party’, which we’ve seen from the amount of public support,” Ghafoor continued.

“People came out all over the country to celebrate, even on small islands in the most unlikely places they had [MDP birthday] cakes and meetings, it’s incredible,” he said.

Former President Nasheed meanwhile tweeted on the occasion,

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Former President Nasheed calls on MDP to vacate ‘Usfasgandu’ in favour of meeting halls

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called on Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters to vacate the ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area in favour of the various ‘jagaha’ (meeting halls) established across the capital ahead of September’s election.

Nasheed was quoted in local media as requesting that the opposition party’s supporters make use of the official meeting areas being set up by the MDP across Male’, rather than the protest site that has been the basis for many of the party’s activities since the controversial transfer of power last year.

“I will ask members of the MDP’s executive committee very sincerely to clear Usfasgandu. We are a party that wisely takes whatever steps are needed at the time,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Usfasgandu, which is presently being leased to the party, has been at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute over the last 12 months between the MDP-dominated Male City Council (MCC) and the government’s Housing Ministry, which is seeking to claim ownership of the site.

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz told Sun Online last week that a notice had been sent to the MCC requesting they clear and vacate the area by June 27 – or else police would be requested to assist in clearing the site.

Dr Muiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press, while Deputy Housing Ministers Abdulla Muththalib and Mohamed Faiz today declined to comment on the matter.

A police media official, who declined to be named, said it had also received no communications from the ministry requesting assistance to clear Usfasgandu by tomorrow’s supposed deadline.

Despite reports of the Housing Ministry’s intent to reclaim the Usfasgandu area, Mayor Ali Manik said no order had been received by the MCC requesting the land be returned. He added that any decision on whether to clear the are could only be made by the MDP.

The MDP told Minivan News today that while it has also not received any notice of attempts by the state to clear the site, the importance of the area to the party had “waned” as its campaigning spread across the capital and country ahead September’s election.

The opposition party said it intended to focus on local campaigning through the establishment of various jagaha across the Maldives.

Nasheed today opened the latest MDP jagaha adjacent to the country’s justice building – despite authorities contesting the legality of its location. The MDP contends that the jagaha was further than a distance of 50 feet from the building as demanded by law, and was therefore legally situated.

Relevance

Addressing the future of Usfasgandu, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said there was a “general feeling” within the party that Usfasgandu was believed to have served its purpose.

He added that the party had been considering vacating the area over the last week in order to limit the possibility of confrontations with authorities.

Ghafoor added that an official parade to commemorate eight years since the founding of the MDP would begin at Usfasgandu this evening, but its relevance as an area for campaigning was already waning with the establishment of jagaha areas.

“The general view of the party is that the area is not really useful anymore and is slightly irrelevant to our campaigning, though I understand there is nostalgia among many people for the area,” he said. “In time, I think we would have seen the site slowly die out.”

Intimidation allegations

Ghafoor alleged that 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.

He claimed that this intimidation was part of attempts by the state to destabilise the country ahead of September’s presidential election in order to cast doubt on whether the country was capable of holding a national vote.

Ghafoor said as a result the MDP was wary of any potential clashes with authorities, such as those seen during attempts to evict the party from Usfadsgandu in May last year. He said that many in the party believed that keeping the area was “not worth” the potential for unrest should police intervene.

Land dispute

Although Usfasgandu was later returned to the MDP after the clashes in May 2012, police once again moved to cordon off the area by January 2013 at the request of the High Court.

The court at the time ordered that Usfasgandu not be occupied by any party until it delivered a verdict over a dispute between the Housing Ministry and the MCC over ownership of the site.

In early February, the Civil Court ordered the MCC to clear the land plot and hand it over to the Housing Ministry, though the order was later overturned by the High Court. The High Court ruled that the Civil Court order had failed to follow legal procedures in its hearing of the case and was therefore unlawful.

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

A spokesperson for the High Court today said that no further rulings had been made concerning the legal ownership at present, with its previous order overturning the Civil Court still said to stand.

Despite now opting to vacate the site, Ghafoor claimed that the lack of notification from the Housing Ministry over its attempt to reclaim the Usfasgandu reflected a further breakdown in communication between state departments.

“The Housing Ministry had been completely isolated on this matter and no one seems to be taking it seriously,” he said.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls at time of press from Minivan News.

‘Paint war’

The MDP’s political rivals have continued to criticise the MCC for providing a plot of land to the opposition party, expressing concern that their supporters had not been given similar opportunities in the capital.

Government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan alleged last week that it was this sense of disparity among political rivals that had led to a so-called ‘paint war’ across the capital resulting in private property and even plant-life painted in political colours.

Supporters of the PPM were accused of covering state property and government buildings, such as walls outside the new Supreme Court compound in Male’, in the party’s official colour of pink.

PPM MP Nihan meanwhile accused MDP supporters of instigating the painting throughout Male’ by covering entire areas of the capital such as Usfasdgandu in yellow, leading to reprisals from rival supporters.

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Usfasgandu handed back to MDP

Usfasgandu has once again been handed back to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) by Male’ City Council.

Speaking to local media on Sunday (March 24), Male’ City Council Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik said that the area was handed back to the MDP after they requested back the land.

“Usfasgandu is a place where a large number of Maldivians gather to voice their opinions, and MDP requested for the area in accordance with existing policies.

“MDP has said that the area will be used by the people to express their opinions, rather than by the party to advocate its ideology,” Manik was quoted as saying in SunOnline.

Mayor Manik claimed that as no other party had requested Usfasgandu other than the MDP, it was handed back to the party.

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MVR 3000 fine for man who hit police officer

A man who attacked a policeman during the Usfasgandu take over in 2012 has been fined MVR 3000 (US$194.81), local media reported.

The Criminal Court ruled that Hussain Faheem of Thaa Madifushi Faransaage hit the policeman in the chest whilst he was on active duty on May 29, 2012.

Faheem has been ordered to pay the fine within one month to the court.

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High Court concludes city council’s appeal into ownership of MDP protest site

The High Court on February 13 concluded an appeal by Male’ City Council (MCC) over the ownership of the ‘Usfasgandu’ land plot in the capital, leased to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The court is expected to rule on the appeal during the next hearing of the trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

The council’s High Court appeal followed a case filed by the Housing Ministry at the Civil Court ordering the MCC to hand over the land in seven days. The plot of land has been used by the MDP as a base for protests in Male’ for much of last year.

Lawyers from the Attorney General’s told the court that the MCC had given the land to a political party that was supposed to be used for social and leisure purposes.

The MCC claimed that had not been given adequate opportunity by the lower court to present its defense before the ruling to hand over the land was made.

According to local media present at the court, the AG’s lawyers claimed it was the duty of the council to prove their innocence in the matter.

The presiding judges said a verdict would be delivered at the next hearing unless the court needed to further clarify the matter.

The Male’ City Council gave the land to the MDP after its protest site near the tsunami monument area was dismantled by military and police on March 19, 2012.  The camp was dismantled the same day President Dr Mohamed Waheed delivered his presidential speech to the parliament, amid protests inside and outside the parliament chamber.

In May 2012, the Maldives’ cabinet ordered the Usfasgandu site be handed over from the MDP-dominated council to the jurisdiction of the government’s Ministry of Housing.

Following what it called the “non-compliance” of the MCC in handing over the area, police were asked to intervene and “take over”.

A chain of appeals eventually led to the MDP being evicted from the site and cordoned off by police on the orders of the High Court.

Police has previously raided the site on the morning of May 29, 2012, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court.

The 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.”

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“Come and contest. This time, we will defeat you in a single round”: Nasheed challenges Gayoom

The Maldivian Democratic Party held a several thousand strong rally on Wednesday night despite a police takeover of Usfasgandu, the party’s rally ground in Male’, and a warning from Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel that the police would not allow the rally to be held in the area.

Police cordoned off the main rally ground and surrounding streets, with MDP members and supporters standing just beyond police lines. The rally was held adjacent to the protest site.

Crowds gathered an hour before the scheduled start of the rally and heated verbal exchanges took place between the protestors and approximately thirty police officers at the location. Minivan News observed two protesters being led away by police. However Police Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef said that no arrests were made in the area.

First a Maldivian, then a police officer

Many speakers at Wednesday night’s rally called on the police to step down and cooperate with the citizens, saying they were “first a Maldivian and then a police officer”.

“You should be ashamed to stay there in uniform when you are being used as political weapons,” said MP Ali Waheed, addressing the police officers.

Former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi called on police to back down, saying the party members would not step back until they had guaranteed their freedoms and rights.

“We don’t care how big a power tries to tell us this is not a coup, whether it be the Commonwealth or the UN. We have no doubts about what we saw with our own eyes. We have no doubts about which shoes, which batons have been beating us,” Mariya said.

“No member of MDP will go back to their homes before we rid this country of this culture of violence.”

Both Mariya and Nasheed stated that the party’s intention was not to protect the rally grounds, but rather the rights of the citizens.

“It is not Usfasgandu that we are trying to defend, nor any other land either. We are here to protect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to peaceful political activity. We will do this until our last breath,” Nasheed said.

“Take down these police lines,” Nasheed addressed the police. “There is no one in this country who can come out against the citizens of this country, to hold them back or restrict them. I call on the police and soldiers to step back now.”

“Maumoon is deceiving Yameen and Ilyas again”: Nasheed

Nasheed once again accused current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan of participating in planning a coup with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“There is one thing I must say to my former Vice President Waheed. You cannot forever eat the world with deceit. You can only do so for a short while,” Nasheed said.

“If you think that by taking the lead to plan a coup with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom you people will succeed in getting this country back in your clutches, then you are very much mistaken. We will not let that happen.”

Speaking of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Nasheed said the party was absorbed in in-fighting while MDP was conducting its door-to-door campaign. He alleged that Gayoom was “once again deceiving his brother Abdulla Yameen and brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim” by feigning refusal to run in the presidential elections.

“Maumoon has been pulling the wool over Abdulla Yameen’s eyes for a good 15 years now, telling him he won’t be running for president,” Nasheed said.

“He creates rifts between Yameen and Ilyas, and then, in the name of peace making, takes the reigns himself. He has been doing this for ages, and will do so again. Come and contest. We will defeat you again. This time, we will defeat you in a single round,” Nasheed said.

At the end of his speech, Nasheed made reference to the recent allegations plans of assassination plots against him.

“You can plan to poison me, you can plan to shoot me, you can conspire to do anything at all. But the final will is not that of Jameel, Waheed or Saeed. Accept it, the final will is that of Almighty God,” Nasheed said.

“None of you must be mistaken, be it the judges or the police and army. I am repeatedly saying that on the 11th of November 2013, it will once again be me who is sworn in as President of this nation.”

Police have closed off the MDP rally grounds following an order from High Court released Wednesday, stating the area shall be kept under the care of the police and not used for any purpose until the court reaches a verdict on the matter.

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Police cordon off MDP protest site ahead of rally

Police have cordoned off the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest site at ‘Usfasgandu’ in Male’ ahead of a rally led by former President Mohamed Nasheed this evening.

The police action came after the High Court ordered police to repossess the area until it delivered a verdict concerning an ownership dispute between Male’ City Council (MCC) and the Housing Ministry.

The MCC , which leased the land to the MDP following the party’s eviction from their site near the tsunami monument, took the matter to court after the Housing Ministry ordered the Usfasgandu site be transferred to the government.

The Civil Court has previously ruled that the Usfasgandu belonged to Housing Ministry, and ordered the MCC to hand over the plot to the government.

However, the ruling was appealed by the MCC in the High Court, which today issued both an injunction on the Civil Court decision and an order that police should reclaim the land pending its decision on the rightful ownership.

The High Court writ issued today stated that the ‘Usfasgandu’ area shall be kept under police charge until the court reached a verdict on the case.  The court stressed that no one should use the land plot for any purpose until it had concluded the case.

The High Court warrant stated that its order was issued in compliance with the Supreme Court writ or prohibition number 2011/SC-SJ/04, which says that delaying implementation of a lower court’s ruling is a civil procedure to protect rights in appeal cases.

Speaking to Minivan News following the High Court’s ruling, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said yesterday’s request by the Housing Ministry to evict the MDP had been superseded by the new order.

‘’We are now beginning work to do everything we have to do in order to implement the High Court order that was issued today,’’ Haneef said.

The MDP released a statement labelling the repossession of the land as a “blatant prevention of the right to assemble and the right to freedom of expression.”

The eviction of the party from its second protest site would “escalate tensions amongst party grass roots and supporters as the court order coincides with a rally planned weeks ago to be held at the venue tonight,” the party stated.

“The move is also seen as an attempt to create unrest amongst peaceful gatherings to create a pretext to unleash brutal police action to intimidate dissenters of the usurper government,” the statement added.

“The MDP appeals for participation by all concerned in the party’s efforts in instituting urgent action to prevail upon alleged usurper President Dr Mohamed Waheed, to desist from continuing to violate and undermine the country’s constitution and in taking imperative steps to reconstitute democracy in the Maldives,” it concluded.

Site leased

Male’ City Council (MCC) initially leased ‘Usfasgandu’ to the MDP for three months back 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 moved a few dozen metres down the road to the site after a previous protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted by the police and military on March 19, 2012.

On May 29 last year, police raided the Usfasgandu site after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court, ordering the MDP to vacate the area before 10:00pm that day. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) then began dismantling the protest camp.

The Civil Court however issued an injunction ordering security forces to halt the operation after the MDP challenged its legality. The injunction was to stand until the court reached a verdict and was later upheld by the High Court.

In August 2012, the Civil Court ruled that the police did not have the legal authority to order the opposition MDP to vacate the area. The government has since tried to transfer the land from the council – dominated by MDP councillors – to the government-controlled Ministry of Housing and Environment.

Male’ City Council refused to hand over the land and insisted that the area was “temporarily leased” to the former ruling party in accordance with the Decentralisation Act, and contended that the ministry does not have the legal authority to reclaim council property.

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Male’ City Council to appeal following court order to hand MDP protest site to government

Male’ City Council (MCC) has appealed to the High Court asking for it suspend a Civil Court ruling to hand over the Usfasgandu area to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been using the area as a protest camp after it was allocated the land by MCC. According to a Civil Court order, the MCC violated the government’s land use plan because it lacks the authority to hand over the land to other parties.

MCC Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik told Minivan News that the city council allocated the Usfasgandu area to the MDP in order to keep them from protesting on the streets around Male’, and that a letter had been sent to High Court today (January 21) asking it to suspend the Civil Court’s ruling.

“Usfasgandu is not only for the MDP but for the whole of Male’. Without it (the MDP) would be on the streets. To prevent this we gave them the area.

“The government want the MDP to go onto the streets, that way they can say there is no stability in the county and prevent early elections from being held,” Manik alleged.

Asked if the MDP would be allocated another area should they be removed from Usfasgandu, Manik answered “If they request for it, we will reply”.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The area has been used for protests by the MDP since their former site near the tsunami monument was forcibly dismantled by police and military on March 19, 2012.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the threat of eviction is not an issue for the party who, if removed, “will simply have to find a new space”.

“Occasionally there are efforts made by the government to go to great lengths in order to restrict freedom of expression and assembly and this is one of them. This should not impact the MDP, we have grown in the past without space,” Ghafoor added.

“MDP are thinking in a nutshell”

Responding to allegations that the government is attempting to limit freedom assembly, President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad told Minivan News that “if anything [the Usfasgandu handover] is facilitating freedom of assembly for everyone else”.

“By constantly being at Ufasgandu, are the MDP not limiting other people’s freedom of assembly and expression? If the Home Ministry is to take the site accessible for other parties to use the space as well as the MDP, it is not a restriction of assembly.

“They could make it like the artificial beach area so it can be used by all parties based on request, I am sure the MDP will be given the chance to use it,” Imad said.

Regarding Mayor Manik’s comments, Masood claimed the mayor needs to be more “Male’ mayor” than “MDP mayor”.

“Who is to say the MDP will start protesting on the streets if Usfasgandu is handed over? Why do some people think the [MDP] always protest?

“Contrary to what Mayor Manik thinks, I don’t think they go around making protests, I think the MDP are good guys,” Imad said.

Should MCC’s appeal to High Court fail to suspend the Civil Court’s order, MDP Spokesman Ghafoor stated it would be up to the National Executive Committee or the National Council to take the matter further.

“The reason for this would be because the MDP is being denied a constitutional right and cornerstone of the human rights based democracy we achieved through peaceful assembly,” he added.

The civil court’s ruling, which orders the area to be handed over within the next seven days, states that MMC’s current use of the area is in contradiction to the agreement made between the council, Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, and Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

According to the agreement, the land “shall be kept empty for public use and that the land shall be developed in manner accessible to the public all times.”

Ghafoor further claimed the government has become “very adamant” in taking back control of land from local councils, alleging that the ultimate aim is to prevent freedom assembly.

Condoms and black magic: Previous Usfasgandu raid

In May 2012, Maldives’ cabinet announced its decision to hand over the Usfasgandu area to the Ministry of Housing and Environment.

Following the “non-compliance” of MCC in handing over the area, police were asked to intervene and “take over”.

Police raided the MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu on the morning of May 29, 2012, 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.”

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