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Lawmaker’s family members among social housing recipients

The former ruling party lawmaker denied any undue influence.



Recipients of flats under the previous government’s Hiyaa social housing scheme included 37 family members of a former ruling party lawmaker, lists published by the president’s office revealed.

The lists were published Monday by a committee formed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to probe allegations of unfair allocation of the flats, which were fuelled by the former administration’s refusal to disclose the 6,723 recipients who were chosen from more than 22,000 applicants under 12 categories.

Local media reported that the recipients included several relatives of MP Dr Abdulla Khaleel, the former secretary-general of the Progressive Party of Maldives.

Khaleel’s wife, his younger siblings and their spouses made the list. But some of them were reportedly ineligible as they live outside of the capital Malé and others scored lower marks than applicants who missed out. 

In a statement released Wednesday in response to the media reports, Khaleel denied any wrongdoing or undue influence.

“My relatives received flats through the Hiyaa housing scheme because they were eligible under the government’s rules. I did not use my influence. If they do not qualify, the current administration will fairly investigate it and remove their names from the list,” he said.

Some 37 of the 44 flat winners from his native Nilandhoo constituency were related to his “big family.” They were chosen because very few people applied under the categories for doctors, nurses, teachers and newly-weds, he added.

He criticised journalists for “spreading negative stories to ruin people’s reputations,” which causes “psychological distress to families.”

Among other issues flagged by the media, Sun reported that a candidate backed by former president Abdulla Yameen for the upcoming parliamentary elections also made the list despite having lived outside the capital most of his life.

Ibrahim Rasheed – who is running for the Shaviyani Komandoo constituency – and his wife were chosen in different categories. Rasheed was listed in the disability category, but none of his children has a disability, residents from his home island told Sun.

According to CNM, the recipients of flats under the category reserved for long-term residents of Malé on a special municipality registry included 377 people who were ineligible. The number of points scored by a further 169 recipients were unclear.

– “Minister’s list” –

Last month, former housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizz insisted that recipients were chosen fairly based on a transparent and publicised criteria or point system. He denied allegations made by the presidential committee at a press briefing.

According to the committee, issues flagged included full marks scored for forms submitted without information on living situation. A flat was awarded to a family that earns above MVR85,000 (US$5,500) a month while more deserving applicants failed to make the final lists published in November.

When recipients were announced under a previous housing scheme, it was alleged that a “minister’s list” was compiled after applicants were phoned by the first lady’s campaign office to check their political allegiance.

The recipients were kept anonymous.

After publishing the lists as pledged, the committee has asked the public to submit complaints before March 25.

Lack of adequate housing has been a perennial crisis in the Maldives with nearly 40 percent of the country’s population crammed into the 2.2-square mile island of Malé. After decades of migration to the densely-packed capital, many families share a single room and most people pay exorbitant rents to live in slum-like conditions.

The construction of apartment complexes under the Hiyaa project is ongoing in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island under development as a new urban centre connected via a bridge to Malé.

On Tuesday, Housing Minister Aminath Athifa informed parliament of plans to revise designs for the Hiyaa project.

Some 6,880 flats were to be built in 16 towers of 25 floors each, she noted, which was estimated to accommodate 34,500 people.

“Therefore, there won’t be enough lifts and other services adequate for such a population,” she said.

The government has decided to expand two-bedroom flats to three-bedroom flats in cases where the structure would not require changes, she said.

The small size of the two-bedroom flats of 550-square feet was inadequate for families, she said.

The design of 2,500 two-bedroom flats for which construction has yet to begin would also be revised to three-bedrooms, she added.

Construction work under the Hiyaa project began in December 2017.

An agreement was signed between the Housing Development Corporation – a state-owned company tasked with the urban development of the reclaimed island – and the China State Engineering Corporation in July 2016.

Under a separate component of the project, agreements were also signed between HDC and state-owned enterprises to build 14-storey apartment complexes for staff.

However, due to the failure to secure financing, construction work is ongoing for only eight out of 16 companies, the housing minister informed MPs.