The government has served a 30-day notice to a local company to clear out its Newport View restaurant in Malé’s eastern waterfront.
The 10,000 square feet plot of land near the capital’s surf break was controversially leased to Strada Pvt Ltd in September 2016 to build a platform to view the construction of the Sinamalé bridge.
Built as part of the project, the Newport restaurant opened in February.
But the new administration wants to reopen the space for public use, according to media reports. Compensation was offered to vacate the area but Strada is preparing to sue for damages.
Raalhugadu, the capital’s only surf point, reopened in August following the completion of the US$200 million bridge. Malé’s eastern corner had been fenced off for the bridge construction.
At the time, Strada’s director Zahid Rameez – who signed the bridge platform agreement on behalf of the company – was a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ executive council. Following former president Abdulla Yameen’s heavy defeat in September’s election, Zahid reportedly handed over the company’s management to his wife.
In recent weeks, three events – a Samsung phone launch, a caricature art exhibition, and a women’s day fair – that were to be hosted in Newport View were cancelled after public outrage over corruption allegations and death threats made by Zahid on social media against slain blogger Yameen Rasheed.
Last week, Zahid resigned from the PPM after the leadership refused to support his candidacy for parliament and instead endorsed a Jumhooree Party candidate. He is running in the Central Hithadhoo constituency in Addu City as an independent candidate.
Strada describes itself on Facebook as a “multifaceted investment company” with holdings in food and beverage, brand franchising and event management.
Mihaaru reported the plot for the Newport View restaurant was initially leased for three years and later extended to eight years. According to Raajje TV, the eviction order came after Strada failed to pay the MVR100,000 (US$6,485) monthly rent for three months.
In 2015, the anti-corruption watchdog investigated allegations of corruption in an MVR3.7 million (US$240,00) catering deal awarded to Strada by the president’s office.
But the Prosecutor General’s office declined to prosecute a former presidential affairs minister after the Anti-Corruption Commission forwarded charges of abuse of power to unlawfully benefit a third party.
Strada’s other Newport restaurant did not have the experience to cater for such an event, and the minister never checked if they had the capacity, the ACC found. Other employees of the president’s officer had complained to the ACC of the poor quality of the food, which they said did not live up to the price.
Photo by Shuaib Mohamed Iqbal for Raajje.mv