Shifa: We did not promise an alternative to Traveler’s Market vendors

Male' City Mayor, Shifa Mohamed is questioned by the Parliament's Decentralization Committee on November 19, 2019. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Male’ City Mayor Shifa Mohamed says the city council never promised to find an alternative to the vendors at the Traveler’s Market when it closed down the market for renovation.

The Traveler’s Market has been closed down since September. Many of the vendors who had run stalls at the Traveler’s Market have voiced anger against the council for failure to arrange an alternative location for them to run their businesses.

Several of the vendors who spoke to Sun claimed the city council had promised to close the Traveler’s Market after finding them an alternative location to run their businesses out of.

Shifa, who was questioned by the Parliament’s Decentralization Committee over the issue this Tuesday, denied the claims.

She said the city council never promised, or even discussed arranging an alternative for the vendors.

“I don’t know who this claim that we will arrange an alternative for market vendors at that time is coming from. We, to my knowledge, never discussed or recommended an alternative to the market vendors to anyone anywhere,” said Shifa.

She said that the city council had initiated discussions to close the Traveler’s Market on December 25, 2018, and had made multiple failed attempts to vacate the market, and had awarded the vendors an eight-month extension, before finally closing the market down in September.

Shifa said that multiple issues, such as lack of clarity as to the rightful vendors, extensions to the lease agreements with several vendors, and lack of issuance of stalls to vendors despite legitimate lease agreements had surfaced once the market had been closed down.

“I therefore do not see any real room [for us] to promise to arrange stalls. Because multiple parties had been requesting stalls. We would face major complaints from the parties who failed to secure stalls if we had kept specific parties there without asking them to vacate, granted them an extension, and then arranged for an alternative location,” said Shifa.

Shifa’s statements were contested by councilman Ahmed Zameer who said that Shifa promised an alternative the day vendors gathered outside the city council’s Maafannu district headquarters.

“I remember it clearly. I have the recordings. It was a day local vendors at the market had been gathered outside the Maafannu office. We were in the middle of a meeting, and when the mayor came in, [council member] Fazeen told the mayor that they were asking for an alternative location before the market is closed down, and asked whether we will find [an alternative location], that they need a location in time for the closure. The mayor responded that an alternative location will be arranged,” said Zameer.

Zameer said that he had worked hard to find an alternative location for the vendors, and even met with Planning Minister Mohamed Aslam, who verbally agreed to allow the use of PPM quarters, Rumaalu, as a temporary market for the vendors.

“I don’t know how it all changed the very next day. I tried hard to find them an alternative location,” said Zameer.

Shifa responded to Zameer’s statements by shaking her head, but made no further comment during the committee meeting.