Saturday, February 14, 2009
Saying Goodbye to Dhaftharu
Contrary to what many people believe, Male Municipality Special Register was created not for migrants from the islands, but for original Male residents who did not have any house to register in Male (as explained below.) However, once established about 2 decades back, the register became a virtual magnet for atoll residents who wished to own houses in Male. The register expanded to several thousand when successive rounds of housing allocation gave preference to those on the register.
Maintaining the register appears to be against the spirit of the Constitution, which gives the right to all citizens to settle in any inhabited island of their choice. Some recent suggestions on abolishing Male’ Municipality Special Register and urging all registered in it to get themselves re-registered in their own native islands is most welcome. It will reduce the stigma of those from the atolls as second class citizens.
How did the ‘Dhaftharu’ originate? For this one has to go into the history of home and resident registration in Male. When registration was started in the 1950s, land value in Male was extremely low. As such house owners had no problem registering relatives who had been born in the house and lived there, even though they had no property claims. But when land value escalated in the 1980s this became a serious issue. When houses were divided the new owners of the sub plots refused to take on relatives who resided in the original house. The Dhaftharu was created to accommodate such people.
Abolishing the register would eliminate certain administrative issues. For example, currently the thousands who are in the register have no permanent address and are allowed to change their temporary address at will. This would make it difficult to maintain electoral registers of individual constituencies in Male. Theoretically there is the possibility that candidates could woo their supporters to come and register in their own constituencies.
However, there is one issue that will not be eliminated by abolishing the register. Under the new Constitution, only those registered in a particular constituency could vote in a Majlis election. How does one register in a constituency and more important, how does one change his/her constituency? This issue needs an urgent solution before the Municipality Special Register can finally be put to rest.
There is also a need to amend existing laws and regulations, such as the Land Act and Residency Act. With these laws amended, any citizen, male or female, would be able to obtain land and residency in any island he may choose to live.