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Construction industry in the crosshairs after girl’s death

Construction industry magnates condemned calls to halt projects.



Inspections of building sites in the capital began Tuesday as construction industry magnates condemned calls to halt projects following the death of a girl who was hit by a falling cement bag

Rawshan Jian, the seven-year-old daughter of two Bangladeshi doctors working in the Maldives, passed away Monday afternoon, prompting a public outcry and concern over safety measures.

“There is no greater sadness than the passing of a child’s life. My sincere condolences to the parents and family of young Rawshan Jian. May we all learn from this terrible tragedy and resolve to enforce stronger safety measures,” President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih tweeted.

The president gave instructions “to conduct a thorough review of the current safety regulations for construction sites, and revise the guidelines to ensure safety of construction workers and the general public.”

On Tuesday morning, the authorities launched an inspection of some 437 construction sites in the Greater Malé region, including 182 projects in the capital city, 18 projects in its suburb Villimalé and 275 projects in Hulhumalé.

Mayor Shifa Mohamed told reporters that a task-force with members from the city council, planning ministry, police, military, architecture association and engineering association was aiming to complete the inspections within a week.

Briefing the press Tuesday afternoon on the inspection process, state minister Mohamed Ali said the teams have yet to identify problems that warrant immediate shutdown.

“But there are complaints noted by surveyors, things that were not done in line with regulations,” he said.

On Monday morning, a group of lawyers filed a public interest litigation case to enact rules required under the construction law and enforce safety measures specified in the Malé planning regulation.

The lawyers are also seeking a stay order to immediately halt work at all construction sites in Malé until safety measures and permit checks are verified. Failure to enact regulations and enforce measures is a violation of the constitution, they argued.

In the face of the public outcry, the Maldives Association of Construction Industry called a press conference Monday evening and criticised calls to stop ongoing projects. 

“All individuals must be conscious of these things. All institutions must be aware. The government authorities must take a big responsibility,” said Mohamed Ali Janah, an executive board member of MACI.

Contractors alone cannot stop accidents, he maintained, stressing the need to determine short and long-term goals to ensure safety

The issuing of construction permits was suspended after the accident.

Janah also said the entire industry must not be held accountable because of the actions of one contractor.

“Everyone must feel the extent of the danger. Everyone has an individual responsibility in resolving these issues. People should understand that these [sign] boards are there for a reason. When the board is there, that means it’s serious. People must learn to follow signages,” he added.

MACI president Abdulla Mohamed said “things had gone from bad to worse” as safety measures were not in place at the site of the cement bag accident.

The bag fell from the fifth floor of Maafannu Nalahiya Manzil, a 10-storey building under construction by the W Construction company. The torn sack fell through a hole in the safety net while workers were lifting cement bags to the sixth floor.

The accident sparked also calls for the arrest of W Construction’s owners. Former attorney general Husnu Suood suggested charges must be pressed over criminal negligence as former vice president Mohamed Jameel said “those responsible should be brought to justice”.

But W Construction has denied any wrongdoing and denied the city council’s allegations of failing to obtain permits.