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Maldives News Bulletin, 05-08-2008
Issue No: 1163

Maldives Delegation Attends NAM Foreign Ministers Meeting

28 July: The Maldives is taking part in the 15th meeting of the foreign ministers meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)  being held in Tehran, Iran from the 27-30July 2008. The theme for the ministerial conference is 'Solidarity for Peace, Justice and Friendship'.

The 15th Ministerial Conference will focus on numerous issues including terrorism, reform, expansion of the UN Security Council, disarmament, peaceful settlement of disputes, self-determination, human rights and the global economic situation and food security.

The 118 member states of the NAM, 15 observer members, and eight international and regional organizations will be attending the meeting. The Maldives delegation is being led by H.E Ahmed Khaleel, Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Mr. Athaulla Ahmed Rasheed, Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an international organisation of states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. The NAM was founded in 1961 at the Belgrade Conference and is a voice of developing countries. The Maldives became a member of the NAM on 15 August, 1976.

Since its inception in 1961, the NAM has played a crucial and highly visible political role in representing the interests of developing countries, particularly in the eradication of colonialism, supporting struggles for liberation and self-determination, development, the pursuit of world peace and the search for a more equitable and just global order.

The triennial ministerial meeting consolidates the positions of the 118member-countries on almost all issues being considered by the United Nations and the other organs of the UN such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, and ECOSOC.

The Maldives will discuss matters relating to United Nations reform, development (LDC graduation), national reform initiatives, climate change and human rights.

The Maldives remains committed to further strengthening efforts by the NAM and the promotion of international peace and security with respect to the national sovereignty and the integrity of its members.

 

Commonwealth Welcomes Ratification Announcement

29 July: The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, H.E. Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, today welcomed the President's announcement that he will ratify the new Constitution on 7 August 2008. The Secretary-General made the remark during a telephone conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid.

During the conversation, the Minister updated the Secretary-General on steps taken by the Government to facilitate ratification of the Constitution. He noted that since receipt of the draft text on 2 July, the President had taken a wide-range of measures to prepare for ratification including the fast-tracking of key enabling legislation in the Parliament, detailed legal scrutiny by the Attorney-General's Office, preparation for the establishment of the independent commissions and bodies foreseen by the new Constitution, the provision of directives and guidelines to all government departments and State bodies, and the provision of a request to the People's Special Majlis to consider certain technical anomalies within the draft text. Regarding enabling legislation, the Minister passed on the good news that both the Police Act (last week) and the Enabling Bill on General Regulations (today) have now been adopted by the Parliament. He informed Mr. Sharma that this positive result flowed from strong multiparty cooperation in the Parliament and a common determination to clear remaining obstacles to the ratification of the Constitution.

The Secretary-General welcomed these developments and offered his good wishes for the ongoing preparations for the Maldives' first-ever multi-party elections later this year. He also emphasized the Commonwealth's belief in the importance of the reforms currently being undertaken in the Maldives.

The Commonwealth has provided vital assistance to the Maldives throughout the implementation of the Reform Agenda, especially through helping with the drafting of important legislative Bills.

 

The President announces that if things go smoothly, he will be ratifying the new Constitution on 7th August 2008

29 July: The President has said that, if all things go smoothly, he will be ratifying the new Constitution on the 7th August 2008. The new Constitution was sent to him by the People's Special Majlis under Article 102 of the current Constitution on 2 July 2008. He made this announcement at a press conference held this afternoon at the President's Office.

The President also said that he does not wish to delay the ratification process. Further, he denied claims by some political parties and some individuals, that he is delaying the ratification process.

In his statement to the press, the President said that, the 27 days that has passed since the People's Special Majlis sent a copy of the new Constitution has been spent making preparations for the ratification. The President said that, in this process, he has completed major seven tasks. He gave details of these seven tasks to the press, which include identifying the changes that will come to the work of various government agencies, taking legal advice of the Attorney General and seeking the views of Cabinet Members.

In today's press conference, the President also took questions from the media. Further questions from the press were taken by Mr. Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, Minister of Legal Reform, Information and Arts, Ms Aishath Azima Shakoor, Attorney General and Ms. Aneesa Ahmed, Minister at the President's Office.

 

The President says that the Holy Prophet's Isra and Miuraj is a great miracle consisting of divine wisdoms

30 July: The President has said that  the Holy Prophet's Isra and Miuraj is a great miracle consisting of divine wisdoms. He made the statement in his address at last night's meeting held at Dharubaaruge to commemorate the Holy Prophet's Isra and Miuraj, and to award the winners of the 23rd National Quran Recitation Competition, the 13th Religious Essay Writing Competition and Religious Poetry Competition.

In his speech, the President said that all Muslims have great reverence to this journey and ascent of the Prophet, and that the five daily prayers were made obligatory upon the Ummah on the night of the Miuraj. Noting that no other pillars of Islam were set forth in such a way, the President urged Maldivian nation to be steadfast in performing the five daily prayers. He also said that this should be the first lesson we should take from this great miracle.

Speaking on the growing importance given in the country for Quran recitation and memorization, the President noted that there are many children and adults among us who can skilfully recite the Holy Quran. He said that the achievements of participants in International Quran recitation competitions are proof of this.

At last night's Meeting, the President presented the trophies, awards and certificates to the students, schools, Quran classes and individuals who achieved the first place in various categories in the 23rd National Holy Quran Recitation Competition, the 13th Religious Essay Writing Competition and the Religious Poetry Competition. The President also presented the special award by the Government to those who memorized the Holy Quran and registered at the Centre for Holy Quran, for the year 2007-2008.

The runner-up awards in the different categories of the three competitions were presented by the Chief Guest of the 23rd National Quran Recitation Competition, Dr. Ahmed Shareef, Executive Secretary to the President. Prizes to the third place winners were presented by Minister of Education, Ms. Zahiya Zareer.

The welcome remarks at last night's Meeting were delivered by the Vice President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs,
Sheikh Ahmed Farooq Mohamed.

 

SAARC Foreign Ministers Meet Ahead Of Summit

31 July: The 30th Session of the Council of Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo today. The one-day Meeting was held ahead of the 15th Summit Meeting of the Heads of States/Governments of the South Asian region, scheduled for the 2 to 3 of August.

Today's Council of Ministers meeting focused on some of the core issues for enhancing cooperation; the rising food and energy prices and the impacts of environmental degradation.  While emphasizing on the need to address the issues relating to ensuring food security for the region, the Council reiterated the importance of the speedy operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank established at the last Summit.

Speaking during his opening remarks at the Meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid highlighted the need to formulate a 'comprehensive action plan for efficient utilization and allocation of existing limited natural resources in the regions' and elaborated on the significance of implementing the plan of action on poverty alleviation, which was underscored at the Meeting of the SAARC Ministers on Poverty Alleviation held in Male' in May this year. Minister Shahid also took the opportunity to announce the submission by Maldives of its report on the attainment of the SAARC Developmental Goals (SDGs) and the Plan of Action to the Secretariat.

Continuing, Minister Shahid drew attention to the adverse effects climate change continued to have on the region and its people and urged the Council to base climate policies on the social and human rights dimension of climate change. Reiterating the call made at the last Summit, the Minister urged member states to adopt climate resilient developmental policies.

Foreign Minister Shahid is leading the Maldives delegation to the Council of Ministers. In the run-up to the Council, the Maldives was also represented at the Standing Committee and Programming Committee of the organization.  Minister Shahid is accompanied by H. E. Mr. Abdul Azeez Yoosuf, Ambassador of the Foreign Ministry, H. E. Mr. Ali Hussain Didi, High Commissioner of Maldives to Sri Lanka, Ms. Fathimath Inaya, Director at the Ministry and Mr. Ibrahim Zuhuree, Assistant Director at the Foreign Ministry.

Minister Shahid also met with his Nepalese and Bangladeshi counterparts at the sidelines of the meeting today.

 

Foreign Minister Leaves for the 15th SAARC Summit

31 July: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, H. E. Abdulla Shahid departed to Colombo, Sri Lanka last night to attend the 30th Session of the Council of Ministers and
the Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The meeting is scheduled ahead of the 15th SAARC Summit to be held from 2-3 August in Colombo.

SAARC was established in 1985 and provides a platform for the peoples of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development of Member States.

The Maldives is a founding member of SAARC and has played a key role in the organisation since its establishment. The upcoming SAARC Summit will discuss key issues such as climate change, rising food prices, poverty alleviation, social development and terrorism. Discussions at the preliminaries and the Summit will be premised on how Member States could work together in strengthening the organisation.

Foreign Ministry officials are already in Colombo participating in official level discussions at the 35th session of the Standing Committee and the 33rd Session of the Programming Committee of SAARC. Whilst in Sri Lanka, the Minister will hold meetings with his South Asian counterparts.

 

The President and the First Lady arrive in Sri Lanka to attend the 15th SAARC Summit

1 Aug: The President and the First Lady, today, arrived in Sri Lanka to attend the 15th SAARC Summit. On arrival at the Bandaranayake International Airport, the President and the First Lady were welcomed by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Madam Wickremanayake.

Following disembarkation from the aircraft, the President and the First Lady were accorded an honour guard, and introduced to some of the Sri Lankan Cabinet Ministers and dignitaries. Thereafter, members of the Maldivian delegation were introduced to the Prime Minister. Also, at the airport, the President and the First Lady signed the Golden Book.

The President and the First Lady departed for Sri Lanka this morning.

The 15th SAARC Summit will begin tomorrow morning.

 

The President meets with Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed of Bangladesh

1 Aug: The President this afternoon met with the Chief Adviser of Bangladesh, Mr. Fakhruddin Ahmed.  The meeting was held at the hotel in which both leaders are residing during their stay in Colombo to attend the 15th SAARC Summit.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed commended the President on his role of championing global warming on the international stage.  He noted that global warming and sea level rise posed grave dangers for the peoples of Bangladesh and the Maldives. He also highlighted the importance of strengthening joint efforts in climate change diplomacy. Further, he said that President Gayoom's environmental diplomacy over the past 21 years had benefited people in vulnerable communities across the world, and urged him to keep highlighting the issue at major forums in the time ahead.

The President spoke on the Maldives' Government's recent initiative to emphasise the inextricable link between a safe environment and fundamental human rights. He noted that climate change impacts both the lives and livelihoods of people in vulnerable coastal areas, and that, if unchecked, climate change would also present major development hurdles in the near future.  He added that all hope was still not lost, and stressed the increased global awareness on the issue.

The President and the Bangladeshi Chief Adviser discussed issues of bilateral importance, and the need to further strengthen development ties in key areas such as trade and tourism.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed noted the recent introduction of direct flights between Male' and Dhaka, and expressed his firm confidence that this initiative by private individuals in both countries would benefit the peoples of both countries. He also expressed satisfaction over the recent opening of a resident High Commission of the Maldives in Dhaka. He added that bilateral ties were improving as a result of increasing number of Maldivian students attending medical colleges and other institutions of higher learning in Bangladesh.

President Gayoom noted that the resident High Commission would boost relations in the time ahead. He pointed out that over 30,000 Bangladeshis were today gainfully employed in the Maldives. He also noted the importance of education, and welcomed the increased interest among young Maldivians in attaining their higher educational qualifications in Bangladesh.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of growing people-to-people contact in strengthening relations. They also noted that Bangladesh and the Maldives shared common views on many important issues on the global arena, and reaffirmed their commitment to work closely in the time ahead.

Speaking on the ongoing Democratic Reform Agenda in the Maldives, the President noted that he intended to ratify the new Constitution on the 7th of August, and that the country's very first multiparty presidential elections would be held before the 10th of October.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed also briefed the President on important political milestones in Bangladesh, including the holding of parliamentary elections in December 2008.  He commended President Gayoom for the major reforms that he was undertaking in the Maldives.

The President was joined at the meeting by the Minister at the President's Office, Ms Aneesa Ahmed; Ambassador-at-Large, Mr. Abdul Azeez Yoosuf; Maldivian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ali Hussain Didi; Deputy Minister at the President's Office, Dr. Hala Hameed; Executive Director at the President's Office, Mr. Hussain Amir; and Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Mohamed Hussain Shareef.

 

President Gayoom calls on the President of Sri Lanka

1 Aug: The President this evening called on the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. The meeting was held at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. The President was escorted to the Presidential Secretariat in full military procession.

In the meeting, the Sri Lankan President thanked President Gayoom for visiting Sri Lanka to attend the SAARC Summit and extended a very warm welcome to him. He noted that Sri Lanka had received the opportunity to host the Summit this year, following a gesture by the Government of Maldives, as the Maldives was earmarked to host the Fifteenth Summit.  He thanked President Gayoom for the gesture, and noted that, as this was Sri Lanka's 60th anniversary of Independence, his Government greatly valued the opportunity to host this year's Summit.

President Rajapaksa said that the Maldives and Sri Lanka were old and close friends, and emphasized the important role of students and businessmen in furthering ties between the two neighbours. 

He added that the volume of bilateral investment was growing in both countries.  He noted that, for many years, Sri Lankan businessmen had invested in the Maldives, especially in the country's booming tourism industry.  He added that, in recent years, Maldivian entrepreneurs were also setting up ventures in Sri Lanka.  "We welcome and encourage this", Mr. Rajapaksa said.

President Gayoom thanked President Rajapaksa for the warm welcome and generous hospitality that the Sri Lankan Government had extended to him and the First Lady, and to the members of the Maldivian delegation. He expressed his confidence that, under President Rajapaksa's stewardship, this year's SAARC Summit would be a resounding success.

President Gayoom spoke on the importance of building on the existing close friendly relations between the two countries, and emphasized that people-to-people contact was the foundation upon which ties can be elevated to a higher plane.  He noted that, while many Maldivian families were now residing in Sri Lanka, thousands of Sri Lanka professionals and workers were gainfully employed in the Maldives.  He also emphasized the importance role of superior air links between the two countries.

The Foreign Ministers of Maldives and Sri Lanka, Mr. Abdulla Shahid and Mr. Rohitha Bogolagama, respectively, briefed the two Presidents on the ongoing work of SAARC at the ministerial level.

The President was joined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, Minister at the President's Office, Ms Aneesa Ahmed, Ambassador-at-Large, Mr. Abdul Azeez Yoosuf, Deputy Minister at the President's Office, Dr. Hala Hameed, Executive Director at the President's Office, Mr. Hussain Amir, Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Mohamed Hussain Shareef, Defence Adviser at the Maldivian High Commission in Sri Lanka, Lt. Col. Ahmed Zareer and Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms Fathimath Inaya.

 

The President urges SAARC Member States and the international community to extend their support in ensuring that the Maldives makes a smooth and successful transition to a modern liberal democracy

2 Aug: In his Address at the Inaugural Session of the Fifteenth SAARC Summit in Colombo, President Gayoom has urged SAARC Member States and the international community to extend their support in ensuring that the Maldives makes a smooth and successful transition to a modern liberal democracy.  He announced that he would be ratifying the new Constitution on the 7th of August, and noted that the country was looking forward to holding its first multiparty presidential elections within the next two months. He also noted the introduction of a multiparty political system was a key development in the country's political transformation.  His appeal for support was followed by strong applause from delegates in the auditorium.

 In his Address, the President touched on some of the most salient issues of the day, and SAARC's role in addressing these issues effectively.

Urging SAARC member states to attach a higher priority to ensure that policy decisions reflected the social and human rights implications of climate change, the President said that global climate change had more capacity for calamity than any other challenge facing South Asia today.

"Science tells us that climate change, if left unmitigated, will have catastrophic consequences for many of us. Paradoxically, global climate change policies are still driven more by economic rationale, than the all-too important issue of human security", he noted.

He went on to hail the outcome of the recent SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, and noted that it was "a development in the right direction". 

Focusing on the rising food prices in the region, the President highlighted that it "affect the most vulnerable and poor sections of the populations".  He called for the early ratification and operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank, and noted that the Food Bank was a practical instrument that would help meet the challenges of food scarcity, and lay the foundations for greater food security in the region.

In his address, the President also stressed the urgent need to draw up and implement strategies for the efficient utilization and allocation of limited natural resources in the South Asian region. "Indeed, innovative ideas supported by cutting-edge research will enable us to ensure the welfare of the more than 1.5 billion people living in the region", he said.

Speaking on the issue of rising global petroleum prices, the President said:

"The other unintended consequence of rapid economic growth in the South Asian region is the high demand for energy, bringing with it a host of challenges, most notably contributing to an unprecedented rise in global oil prices."

He went on to propose four measures as remedies to the energy crisis, and highlighted that the solution must not hindering the growth and prosperity of Member States.

"First, we need to greatly ease our reliance on fossil fuels and set tangible targets to harness sustainable alternative energy sources. Second, we need to introduce national policies, including trade reforms, aimed at more sustainable and efficient energy consumption. Third, we should look into developing greater cooperation with other economic partners such as the countries of the ASEAN bloc.  Fourth, and most importantly, economic activity must be supported by a desire to protect and sustain the natural environment", he elaborated

Highlighting that, at present, the most important duty of SAARC Member States was to undertake all efforts to strengthen peace and stability in the region, the President called on regional leaders to make collective efforts to combating the scourge of terrorism.  On this issue, he noted that the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters would complement the efforts of the law enforcement agencies for greater regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Setting out his vision for the future of SAARC, the President recalled that, twenty-three years ago, the nations of South Asia had made a promise to build the good society where harmony and progress would prevail themselves. "While we have made huge strides in realizing this ideal, there is much that still needs to be done", he added.

"Our determination, and our effort, must embody the resolve that exists amongst our member countries to realize our common future together", he said in concluding his statement.

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