Maldives-Sri Lanka Relations
Banquet in Honor of Maldivian President
Colombo, Sri Lanka
May 6, 2003
Your Excellency President Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Madame Gayoom,
Hon. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Madam Wickremesinghe,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour and privilege to welcome Your Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Madam Gayoom Sri Lanka on this State visit. Your visit to Sri Lanka and the official talks a short while ago have enabled us to review the existing excellent relations and the positive cooperation between our two countries. I also welcome Hon. Fathulla Jameel, Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as other members of the delegation of Maldives.
The Maldives is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, with whom all governments have endeavoured to cultivate a special relationship of friendship and trust. Sri Lanka and the Maldives established formal diplomatic relations on 26 July 1965 – the very day on which Maldives obtained independence from the United Kingdom. Even during the colonial period there are records of diplomatic missions between Maldives and Sri Lanka that go as far back as 1645. Founded on ancient civilizational links, we share commonalities in culture, language, religion, in folk tradition and dance and even cuisine, bearing testimony to the intensity of contacts between our peoples for several millennia.
The contacts between our two countries have been further enriched by our close association with the ancient Silk Route of the Sea and the influence of the early Arab traders who journeyed between the Middle-East and the Far East, transiting through our islands.
In our post-independence history the two countries have drawn closer together in our shared commitment to democratic values, the rule of law and good governance. Our societies share similar values in socio-economic development such as universal literacy, health for all equal economic opportunity and gender equality. Sri Lanka is proud to have been associated with the development of basic education in the Maldives. We are committed to continue this effort in the new directions needed today. We hope that even in the future Maldivians will consider Sri Lanka as their second home and we will continue to extend special entry and residence facilities to your nationals.
We have also watched keenly the giant strides in the development of the Maldives under your dynamic leadership and commend your efforts over the years for the betterment of your people.
In a comparatively short while the Maldives has attained the highest per capita income in the South Asian region. We know, Excellency, that you will steer your country to greater heights in the future.
As our economies expand, the economic cooperation between our two countries have diversified significantly. The intensive interaction between our business communities has resulted in significant investment in each other’s economies, particularly in the hospitality industry, gem and jewellery, garments and financial services. Over the years not only has the trade in goods between our two countries increased in volume, it has also seen a qualitative diversification of the product base. In this context I commend Your Excellency’s foresight in bringing a business delegation which met earlier today with their counterparts in Sri Lanka. I am told that these consultations were fruitful in expanding existing good cooperation in tourism, as well as opening the doors to new areas such as fisheries. As island countries following similar paths to development, we must explore joint synergies in areas of strength such as tourism. I am pleased to learn that a memorandum for joint tourism promotion and marketing is being developed between the two sides, to further private sector cooperation in this field. There is also a joint commitment to enhance transportation links – air and sea between our countries, facilitating people-to-people contacts, as well as trade.
Your Excellency, it is indeed rare that such a happy state of relations exist between two countries as between Sri Lanka and Maldives. I personally commend Your Excellency President Gayoom’s personal involvement in developing and nurturing our bilateral relations over the years. This present State visit is a reflection of the warmth of friendship between our leaders. I am certain this would enable a further strengthening of the multi-faceted, bilateral relationship and growing linkages between our countries and the spirit of partnership between our peoples.
As our bilateral relationship has flourished, so too has our cooperation at regional and international level. Indeed we owe much to Your Excellency as a founding father of SAARC, for your continuing efforts to promote regional cooperation. I also recall your personal initiative to bring the vital subject of environment into the deliberations of SAARC, and your proposals to reform and strengthen the work of our Association as two important initiatives. Sri Lanka will work together with the Maldives to take the SAARC process forward, as well as to continue our friendly cooperation in the United Nations and other international fora.
Given our histories, our concerns and the challenges we face, it is natural for our two countries to have similar concerns in the conduct of international relations. We firmly believed in an international system based on the sovereign equality of Nation-States - whether powerful or not so powerful, developed or not so developed – that States must be accorded respect and recognition as equal partners in the conduct of international relations. Recent developments have shown a dangerous trend in international politics, whereby the UN system and the Security Council in particular, has been rendered ineffective and apparently even abandoned, due to lack of consensus. Sri Lanka nevertheless firmly believes that issues affecting international peace and security should be identified, considered and resolved through the UN. It is essential that the role of the UN and its credibility and authority be restored and respected. Sri Lanka will work closely with like-minded countries in the national and collective imperative to keep the United Nations alive.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Maldives has been a sincere friend to Sri Lanka. The Government of Maldives and in particular H.E. President Gayoom has firmly supported the Government of Sri Lanka, in our efforts over the years, for the peaceful resolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka particularly appreciates the logistical assistance extended by Your Excellency’s Government during the initial steps of the peace process currently underway in Sri Lanka.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I take this opportunity to express my warmest good wishes for good health, happiness and personal well-being of His Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives and Madame Gayoom, for peace, prosperity and development of the people of Maldives, and for continued friendship between the peoples of Maldives and Sri Lanka - long may it flourish based on trust, mutual understanding and cooperation.
Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom- State visit May 6 - 9, 2003