An alleged abductor of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan has been awarded a flat from a government social housing scheme.
A list of applicants, leaked on February 5 just before a state of emergency was declared in the Maldives, shows Aalif Rauf received 86 points. He is one of three people charged with terrorism over Rilwan’s abduction, who disappeared three years ago.
A source confirmed that Rauf and his family are in a Malé Grand flat, in the old Arabiyya compound, priced at MVR 2 million (US$128,205).
The list shows if the hundreds of applicants on it have been successful. Local media reported it was approved by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu, although the ministry denied this.
Nobody from the ministry was available for comment.
Almost 40 percent of the Maldives population live in the tiny city, making it one of the most densely populated capitals in the world.
There are several government housing schemes offering people flats at below market rates. Points are normally awarded according to the number of family members, children or if the applicant is newly married. Applicants are also assessed on their ability to secure a bank loan.
Hundreds on the leaked list who scored a lower number of points were awarded flats, while hundreds who scored a higher number were unsuccessful.
A member of Rilwan’s family revealed on Twitter that the missing journalist’s brother, Abdul Aliu Mohamed Inaz, was rejected with 90 points.
“The system is fine. You need to award points to see who needs it (a flat) the most. There are bands, different categories and points are given accordingly,” said former housing minister Mohamed Aslam.
“But the whole process has to be transparent. For one thing, everyone must know how many points they got and when it’s awarded, it should be clear how it was done.
Also, for something people so desperately need, there should be an independent process through which complaints can be investigated.”
Last September the housing minister came under fire for defending a list of anonymous flat winners while also denying allegations that applicants were phoned by the first lady’s campaign office to check their political allegiance.
“What we are hearing now is that there is another special list, a so-called ‘minister list’,” said Aslam, referring to the leaked list.
“What must happen now is an independent inquiry that people can trust in. And if there were any wrongs done, it must be reversed, and action must be taken against those who did it. The problem is that there is no independent institution that people can trust,” said Aslam
The Maldives Independent contacted the Anti-Corruption Commission to ask if there would be an investigation, but nobody was available for comment.