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Maldives News Bulletin, 16-06-2008
Issue No: 1156

Foreign Minister accompanies the President to the Commonwealth Mini Summit 

8 June: The Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid is scheduled to accompany His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives to the Representative Group of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, convened to reform the current architecture of international institutions. The Meeting is scheduled to be held from 9-10 June 2008.  The Representative Group was established following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala last year. At the meeting, the Heads of Government expressed concern that the current architecture of most international institutions, largely convened in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War,  does not reflect the challenges presented by 21st century geopolitics and as such, member states requested the Secretary-General to establish a small representative group of their number that would build on the considerable work that has already  been done to undertake advocacy and lobbying in support of wide-ranging reforms of international institutions. This Group is scheduled to report back to the next Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. The invitation was extended on behalf of the Commonwealth by Secretary General Mr. Kamlesh Sharma in a letter addressed to President Gayoom in April this year.  In his invitation Secretary General Sharma cited President Gayoom as an individual “who can lead, shape and add value to the outcome of international debate” and highlighted that the Group posed an excellent opportunity for “the voice of the Maldives to be heard in the Commonwealth in its own right, and on behalf of Asia, developing countries, small states and an equitable world order”. In his letter accepting the invitation, President Gayoom expressed his pleasure in having received an invitation and stated that the “Maldives, as a small island developing state on the verge of graduation from LDC status, could provide an important perspective to discussions within the Commonwealth regarding the reform of international institutions”. Further, President Gayoom highlighted that the Maldives has had a “long-standing role in pursuing advocacy in environmental protection to curb climate change” and thus, looked forward to contributing to the debate on environmental governance within the Maldives. The first meeting of the Group is scheduled to focus on the reform of international financial institutions, particularly the IMF and World Bank; environmental governance; and, implementation of the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Environment. The Meeting will be chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Other countries in the Group are; Ghana, Guyana, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. The President and his delegation departed Male' yesterday for London. H.E. Dr. Mohamed Asim, High Commissioner of Maldives to the United Kingdom and H.E. Ms. Dunya Maumoon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs are also attending the mini summit.


The President appoints three Deputy Ministers

8 June: The President today appointed three Deputy Ministers.
The appointments are as follows;
1.  Mr. Ali Mohamed as the Deputy Minister of Health.
2.  Mr. Abdul Ghafoor Ibrahim as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Employment and Social Security.
3.  Mr. Ismail Abdul Hameed as the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.


The President appoints Mr. Ibrahim Shareef as the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Atolls Development

9 June: The President today appointed Mr. Ibrahim Shareef as the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Atolls Development.


President Gayoom Calls for Reform of the International Environment Governance Architecture

10 June: His Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called for an “urgent reform of the International Environment Governance architecture in order to address issues of climate change”. The President emphasized the need to pay greater attention to the human dimension of climate change. He made this statement at the meeting of the Commonwealth Representative Group. The meeting, chaired by The Right Honorable Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, took place on the 9 and 10 of June 2008 at Marlborough House, London. H. E. Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of Commonwealth also joined the meeting. President Gayoom, in his intervention, also touched on issues related to reform of international financial institutions and the UN system. He noted that “the Commonwealth should support the ongoing process of reform in order to bring the UN to the standard required to meet today’s global challenges”. Heads of Governments from other developing countries also joined in the discussion to reform the international financial institutions. The Heads of Governments agreed on a “Marlborough House Statement on Reform of International Institutions”. Following the meeting, a press conference was held to brief the media. H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs, H. E. Dr. Mohamed Asim, High Commissioner of Maldives to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ms. Dunya Maumoon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs were part of the Maldives delegation. Heads of Governments from Guyana, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Vice-President of Ghana also participated in this meeting.


President Gayoom attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on Reform of International Institutions in London
10 June: President Gayoom has attended the two-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on Reform of International Institutions in London.  The opening segment of the Meeting was held yesterday evening at the office and home of the British Prime Minister – 10, Downing Street. The President was welcomed on arrival at 10, Downing Street by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is chairing the Meeting.  The new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma also greeted the President. Other countries that were included in the representative group were Sri Lanka, Guyana, Tanzania, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Tonga, Mauritius and Ghana.  The Meeting addressed three broad areas, namely reform of international environmental governance, reform of international financial institutions and UN reform.  The leaders discussed ways in which the Commonwealth, with its wide spectrum of membership, could play a leadership role in all three areas. Following the opening segment, the leaders moved to the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House for a working dinner.  The Meeting continued this morning at Marlborough House.  At its conclusion, the leaders also gave a press conference on the outcomes of the Meeting and the decisions on the way forwards. The President was invited by Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma to deliver the opening intervention on the agenda item on reforming international environmental governance. Secretary-General Sharma highlighted the President vast experience and leadership role in environmental diplomacy, and noted that his participation and input would be of tremendous benefit to the group’s work. In addition to his intervention on environmental governance reform, the President also delivered an introductory intervention at last night’s opening segment at Downing Street, as well as interventions on the other two topic areas in this morning’s deliberations. In his opening intervention, the President said, “2008 is a landmark year in the democratic history of the Maldives”.  He noted that the new Constitution represented a quantum leap for democracy and rule of law in the Maldives.  He then went on to highlight some of the reform achievements of his Government.  “This is only the beginning of a historic journey of which many challenges have been overcome while many more lie ahead”, he added. Highlighting that yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the Democratic Reform Agenda, the President thanked all foreign stakeholders for their pivotal role in advancing the Reform Agenda. In his intervention on environmental governance reform the President highlighted the sheer vulnerability of the Maldives to global environmental threats such as climate change, and noted that the country’s fragility dictated the high priority that the Government continued to attach to the current framework on global environmental governance. On the issue of reinvigorating international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, the President said that current international financial institutions lacked the flexibility to amply support those countries that were in transition from least developed to developing country status. He also noted that the Commonwealth was well placed to assume a leadership role in addressing these issues, by taking a collective stand and projecting a unified voice. The President’s interventions received strong support from fellow world leaders attending the Meeting.


The British Government expresses support for the efforts that President Gayoom has made to create the environment for a multiparty election in the Maldives

11 June: Britain’s Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Mark Malloch Brown this morning said that the British Government supported the efforts that President Gayoom had made to create the environment for a multiparty election in the Maldives. He made the statement in a call on President Gayoom. Lord Malloch Brown expressed the British Government’s appreciation for President Gayoom’s participation in the Representative Group of Commonwealth Heads of Government on the Reform of International Institutions. He noted the President’s longstanding service towards raising the profile of climate change at important international audiences. “We hope for your voice on the environment platform to remain strong in the time ahead as well”, he added. Lord Malloch Brown noted the speedy recovery of the Maldives from the devastating effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the continued promising growth of the country’s tourism sector.  He commended the country for its good economic record and highlighted the growing interest among British entrepreneurs to invest in the country.  Further, he noted that the Maldives was today a preferred destination among British holidaymakers. “The Maldives may be a relatively small market, but British investors see the potential.  Many have of course visited the country as tourists”, he noted.  Lord Malloch Brown also spoke on Britain’s continued support and assistance towards the implementation of democratic reforms in the Maldives. “My Government has supported institutional and legal reforms in the Maldives, and wish to encourage all parties to participate in the upcoming presidential election.  We also wish to assist the country’s economic agenda”, the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office went on to note. President Gayoom recalled their meeting last year, and emphasized the important role of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in ensuring the success of the Commonwealth Meeting. “We always feel at home in the Commonwealth.  No other multilateral body attaches as much emphasis on issues that directly affect Small Island States such as the Maldives.  The security of Small States, our environmental vulnerability and the special circumstances of small economies all receive central focus in the Commonwealth”, the President stressed. President Gayoom also briefed Lord Malloch Brown on the current priorities of the Democratic Reform Agenda, including the legislative plans for the pre-election period.  He noted that important independent institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Elections Commission, the Judicial Services Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission were all in the pipeline with the adoption of the new Constitution, and that the new Presidential Election Law would also have to be passed in the near future. “My Government wishes for the upcoming election to be free, fair, peaceful and transparent”, he said.  On this point, he noted the dialogue between concerned UN authorities, as well as the EU and the Commonwealth, on supporting the preparation and fielding observers during polling. President Gayoom said that the Maldives and Britain enjoyed good traditional ties, and highlighted that Britain was the biggest tourism market for the Maldives in 2007.  He pointed out some key British investments in the country in tourism and other sectors, and welcomed British investors to look at other growing economic sectors such as ICT and financial services.  On tourism, the President pointed out that, last year, over 125,000 Britons visited the Maldives, and that the Government was now hoping for this year’s total arrival numbers to reach a record 700,000.  The President thanked the British Government for their support and assistance towards the Democratic Reform Agenda in the country. The President was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, the Maldives’ High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Mohamed Asim, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Dunya Maumoon and Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Mohamed Hussain Shareef.


President Gayoom has said that, with the Grace of the Almighty Allah, the overwhelming support of the people will carry him to a comprehensive victory

11 June: In an exclusive interview to DhiFM 95.2, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that, with the Grace of the Almighty Allah, he would contest the upcoming presidential election in his capacity as the Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).  He expressed his firm confidence that the overwhelming support of the people would carry him to a comprehensive victory in the election. He added that, as Leader of the DRP, it was his responsibility to carry the Party’s ticket in the presidential election. The President said that he seeks presidential office not because he seeks power, but to serve the people.  He added that his commitment to serve the people was as great as ever, and that, if the people elected him into office for a further term, he would continue to fulfil his responsibilities with the utmost sincerity. The President recalled that, during the past few years, he had in fact voluntarily and systematically relinquished a lot of powers and additional positions of authority, as part of his democratisation plan. He made the statements in response to a question posed by interviewer Mr. Ibrahim Khaleel, in which he asked the President for a response on rumours that he would not seek a further term of presidential office because of reduced executive powers under the new Constitution. When asked whether the democratic reform agenda was initiated following domestic or international pressure, the President recalled that he had announced his vision of political reform in his inaugural address of November 2003.  “It was my idea, and it was in no way prompted by pressure from inside or outside the country”, he said.   He also disproved the allegation that his reform agenda had failed. “The amount of work that has been done and the successful implementation of a number of legislative and institutional reforms over the space of just four years is ample evidence that the reform agenda is well on track.  It has been a remarkable success, and more groundbreaking reforms are of course in the pipeline”, he went on to highlight. When asked whether the rising problem of drug abuse was a result of the failure of his Government’s policies to address the problem, the President said that enormity of the problem had in fact stretched the Government’s resources to the limit, but that it was not a failure of the policy on drugs. “We are taking every possible measure.  Drug traffickers are well financed and organised.  We are not the only country facing this problem, and, across the world, countries and Governments are struggling to root out the drugs menace. He noted that no one puts the blame on these failings on governments.  We are working very hard to solve our drug problem, and, with the Grace of the Almighty Allah, the results are also beginning to show.  We will continue our fight with greater determination”, he said.  He also highlighted the recent launch of the Drugs Masterplan and expressed his full confidence in the Plan to bring about huge reductions in the country’s drugs problem. When asked for a response to claims of nepotism against him, the President said that members of his family were in senior Government positions purely on merit.  “No one has secured a position in my Government because of family ties with me, but rather on their experience, education and capacity to fulfil their responsibilities”, he said.  He also pointed out that members of the same family held senior positions in Government in many other countries and that it was not a problem. “It would be a problem if people were given high posts against the law and without due merit, of course, he added. When asked what his biggest concerns were, the President said that there were many issues of deep concern for him. “Drugs are certainly my biggest concern.  There are very few families that have not had to face the pain and heartache of having a drug addict in the family.  Another matter that concerns me greatly at the moment is the skyrocketing price of petroleum on the global market and its pressures on our economy.   The problem of gang-related violence in Male’ and some other islands is also an issue that we must address with urgency.   The Civil Service Act is also causing problems.  Three years back, the then Attorney General was responsible for the Government’s legal opinion that the Bill was adequate. I am committed to find a solution to the problems that many people are now facing as a result of this Act.  All these problems are given top priority by my Government, and, with the Grace of the Almighty Allah, we will effectively address each and every one”, he highlighted.


My goal is to make the Maldives a representative model for democracy in the region: President Gayoom

12 June: Speaking at the UK House of Parliament this afternoon, President Gayoom has said that his goal was to make the Maldives a representative model for democracy in the region. On his arrival at the UK Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is situated in the Westminster Hall of the House of Parliament, the President was greeted by the Chairperson of the British-Maldives All Party Parliamentary Group, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Naseby and MPs Brian Binley and David Amess.  He then witnessed the elections of the Annual General Meeting of the Group, at which The Rt. Hon. The Lord Naseby was unanimously elected to the post of Chairperson for a further term. Addressing the members of the British-Maldives All Party Parliamentary Group, the President highlighted that Britain’s continued interest in and engagement with the democratic reform agenda in the Maldives had brought the two countries even closer together. “It has, indeed, been a continued source of encouragement for us, as we forge ahead towards the final stages of its implementation”, he said. The President informed the British Parliamentarians that the work on drafting the new Constitution was very close to completion, and that he intended to make the ratification process a speedy one. “The new Constitution represents a quantum leap for democracy and rule of law in the Maldives; providing, as it does, for a full and clear separation of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the State; the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and the creation of independent State institutions such as a Supreme Court, an Elections Commission, a Judicial Services Commission and an Anti-Corruption Commission, and key independent oversight bodies such as a national Human Rights Commission”, he emphasized. He also briefed the members on the progress of the work on drafting the necessary reform bills to make the constitution effective and functional. The President noted that the Government had invited the Commonwealth, the European Union, and the United Nations to send election monitors for the upcoming presidential elections.  “Our aim is to make the election free and fair”, he added. He said that the coming months were going to be the most crucial and challenging in the democratization process that he had begun exactly four years ago. “The Government is fully committed to completing the process, and is convinced that our friends in the UK and the international community at large will continue to help us achieve this goal”, he noted.  Speaking on the bilateral ties between the Maldives and the UK, the President said that the friendship between the two countries dated back many centuries. “The warmth in our official ties is matched by the dynamism in people-to-people contact between our two countries. This, too, has grown in pace and scale in recent years. Many Maldivians benefit from Britain’s fine educational institutions. Upon their return to the Maldives, they continue to make a vital contribution to our economic, social and political development. Bilateral trade and tourism between the two countries have been increasing rapidly in recent decades”, the President said.


Providing Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment should be the Ultimate Goal of all Nations" Maldives Ambassador to the UN

12 June:Maldives Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Khaleel has reiterated that “providing universal access to HIV/AIDS related services should be the ultimate goal of all nations”. The Ambassador made the statement yesterday, as he addressed the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly convened to review the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. Speaking on the targets set for global action for combating HIV/AIDS, Ambassador  Khaleel said “HIV/AIDS is still the number one health threat of our times Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS remain as strong as ever before. It is alarming that millions are still continuing to get infected while millions more are dying due to the unavailability of medication and proper treatment.” In this regard, the Ambassador emphasized that the targets set for achieving universal access to HIV treatment and prevention by 2010 could not be realized without increased funding and investment. Reviewing the national progress on HIV/AIDS process, Ambassador  Khaleel said that, although Maldives remained among the low-prevalence nations for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, the fact that it is situated in a region where HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarmingly high rate, the country needs to take every precaution to avoid the epidemic from taking hold in the country. The Ambassador highlighted that the Maldives had taken several precautionary and preventive measures including the setting up of a National Council and a National AIDS Control Programme in 1987, long before the detection of the first case in the country. He also said that being a small island developing country with a fragmented geography, the Maldives encountered many difficulties in carrying out effective surveillance programmes to understand social and behavioral changes within the communities.  Expertise such as epidemiological skills and specialized counseling needed to be made available through training, so as to implement effective national control activities. The Ambassador further noted that the Maldives had already eradicated Malaria and was on track to achieving Millennium Development Goal 6, nevertheless emphasized that, “we fully understand that the continuing global environmental degradation and climate change can exacerbate our vulnerabilities to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.” The Ambassador ended his statement by expressing hope that the high-level meeting of the General Assembly would prove to be another milestone in the fight against the deadly epidemic. He reiterated that control, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS were now accorded high priority in the development strategies of almost all countries. “The ambitious course of action that we have chartered in 2001 to halt and reverse this epidemic can only be successful if all peoples of the world, regardless of their social, cultural, religious or political differences are treated with respect, dignity and equality. The active and dedicated contribution of all major stakeholders including the civil society and the private sector are extremely vital in this regard,” said the Ambassador.


Maldives Foreign service stands fully behind the National Football team

10 June: The Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid has conveyed sincere best wishes and felicitations to the Maldivian National Football Team. The Minister expressed his felicitations in a message sent to the National Football Team, as they prepare to face India in the finals of the 7th South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship tomorrow night. The final match is scheduled to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In his message today, Foreign Minister Shahid congratulated the National Team for their exuberant spirit throughout the Championship and expressed deep pride in the Team’s great success. The Minister also applauded Team Maldives for the excellent sportsmanship shown and conveyed the resounding support of the entire country. Continuing, the Minister encouraged the Team ahead of the deciding match tomorrow night and expressed full confidence by conveying his hope that the team would display the same vigour as before in its endeavour for the title. In his message, on behalf of the Maldives Ambassadors, the Maldives Foreign Service and in his own name, the Minister also expressed a prayer of courage for the Maldives Team. “In this important test of national character, we pray to Almighty Allah to bestow courage and perseverance in Team Maldives as it strives for excellence and victory in tomorrow night’s final match. We are confident that the Team will display true spirit and sportsmanship and make every Maldivian proud”, said the Minister. The Foreign Minister was in London from 9-12 of this month as he accompanied His Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Representative Group Meeting. In true Maldivian spirit and with the success of the National Team, Foreign Minister Shahid is accompanying the President to Colombo to cheer for the Maldives Team at the finals of the SAFF Championship.


President Gayoom and Madam Nasreena meets with the Sri Lankan President Mahindha Rajapaksa and Madam Rajapaksa

15 June: President Gayoom and Madam Nasreena yesterday met with the Sri Lankan President, Mr Mahindha Rajapaksa and Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa. During the meeting, the President thanked the Sri Lankan President, the government and the people of Sri Lanka on the generous hospitality extended to him on this visit. President Rajapaksa expressed his happiness on President Gayoom and Madam Nasreena's visit to Sri Lanka to attend the final match of the 5th SAFF championship. The meeting was attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Mr. Abdulla Shahid and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Rohitha Bogologama.


The President and the First Lady arrives in Male’ after concluding their Visit to the UK and Sri Lanka

15 June: The President and the First Lady returned to Male’ this evening after concluding their visit to the UK to participate in the Representative group of Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on Reform of International Institutions and the visit to Sri Lanka to attend the final match of the 5th SAFF Championship, where Maldives played the final match against India in Colombo last night. The Meeting of the Representative group addressed three broad areas, namely reform of international environmental governance, reform of international financial institutions and UN reform. During their visit to the UK, the President and the First Lady met with the Maldivian students and families living in the UK.


Maldives Foreign Service Salutes the 2008 SAFFChampions

15 June: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, H. E. Mr Abdulla Shahid has extended congratulations and hearty thanks to the 7th SAFF Championship winning Maldivian side. Speaking right after the game in Colombo, the Minister expressed his delight for the resounding win and conveyed warm best wishes to the National Team. "Team Maldives has shown their true spirit and courage. My very hearty congratulations and best wishes to the National Team for the vigour and determination they played with. They have made every Maldivian proud by displaying complete sportsmanship and achieving the title they so deserved."  In a separate written message addressed to the Maldivian national football team, the Minister expressed, on behalf of himself, all Maldivian Ambassadors and the entire staff of the Maldives Foreign Service, heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Team Maldives for their decisive and complete victory in Saturday's final match against defending champion, India. In his message, Minister Shahid noted that the victory of Team Maldives is the "highest accolade the nation has received to date in the international sporting arena" and further pronounced how "this proud achievement will be etched forever onto every Maldivian heart." The Minister also alluded to how the Maldives' undisputed victory against one of the sporting giants of South Asia, India will raise the international profile of the Maldives, especially in the context of South Asia. The Minister praised the team for winning the tournament in what he described as 'true Maldivian style characterized by the team's display of fair play and team spirit."  The Minister concluded his message by extending, on behalf of a grateful nation, the heartfelt thanks and respect to the team for "bringing football back home and revitalizing our sense of pride and love for the Maldivian nation." The Minister accompanied H. E. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to Colombo, to watch the final match. Other countries that competed in the SAFF Championship 2008 were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In a separate message, Foreign Minister Shahid expressed thanks to the Maldives High Commissioner to Sri Lanka H. E. Mr Ali Hussain Didi and the staff of the Mission for their excellent cooperation and dedication looking after the welfare of the team as well as the scores of Maldivians who went to cheer for the national squad in addition to the Mission's numerous interventions in ensuring timely broadcast of the matches.


The President extends sympathy to the President of China

16 June: The President has sent a message of sympathy to the Chinese President, Mr. Hu Jintao, on hearing the news of the tragic death of a number of people in a coal mine explosion and a landslide at a brick factory in the northern province of Shanxi. In the message, the President extended deepest sympathy to the Chinese President, the government and the people of China. He also conveyed sincere condolences to the members of the bereaved families.


The victorious Maldives National Football Team returns home to a festive welcome. The Government presents a 200,000 RF cash prize to every player and official of the National Team. "The players and officials of the National Team and everyone who contributed to the country’s victory will go down in history as national heroes": the President

16 June: The victorious Maldives National Football Team returned to Male’ this evening to a festive welcome lead by the President.  Members of the public came out in their thousands to welcome the team, transforming Male’ City into a carnival of red. The team flew from Sri Lanka in a special Island Aviation’s flight. They were personally greeted by the President. Team Captain Assad Abdul Ghanee presented the glittering SAFF Championship trophy to the President. They were then greeted by members of the Cabinet, senior official and thousands of loving fans. The team travelled from the airport to Male’ on a specially decorated boat of the MNDF. They were accompanied by the President. On arrival in Male’ they were greeted by the President of the Male’ Municipality and Senior Ward functionaries. Thousands more hysterical fans filled the Republic Square to witness the beginning of the team’s ticker-tape parade on the streets of Male’. Members of the public, both old and young, proudly waved national flags as the team paraded the trophy and the winners’ medals on the specially decorated lorry. The parade concluded at the National Stadium, which was jam-packed with spectators in red. After greeting the fans, members of the team were chauffeur-driven to their respective homes in specially-decorated sports cars. At the VIP lounge of the Airport, the players and officials each were presented with 200,000 RF cash prizes by the Government. The presentations were made by the President. Speaking to the press after receiving the National Team, the President described them as national heroes. “The players and officials of the national team and everyone who contributed to the country’s victory will go down in history as national heroes”, he said. The President, who returned to Male’ yesterday after witnessing the Maldives’ historic win over India, in the final of this SAFF Championship held in Sugathadhasa Stadium in Sri Lanka, he said that football had united the nation to never-before-seen levels. “It was all patriotism. National pride. Passion, love and commitment towards a national Endeavour. There was no partisan party politics involved at all” he noted. Highlighting that, football had united the people at an important juncture in the country’s history; the President said that the team had presented the people with an opportunity ‘on a platter lined in gold’. The President highlighted that the trophy will be toured across the country. “The trophy will now move to every single inhabited island”, he added.

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