As-salaam Alaikum Wa-rahmathullahi Wa-barakaathuh;
Each day, since the earliest settlements in this historic land, Maldivians strive to make national progress. Some days may be given special national recognition; but every day Maldivians make sacrifices for the advancement of this country; every day the country asks its citizens to prioritise the prosperity of this nation.
The day-after-tomorrow is one such day; a day when Maldivians go to the ballot box to elect a President who would lead the country for the next five years. It would be the tenth Presidential Election of the Second Republic. It would be the second multi-party presidential election in the country. This election is an important step towards the democracy consolidation in the Maldives. The vigorous campaigning that we have witnessed over the past few weeks is evidence of the progress this small nation has made in terms of democratic maturity.
My fellow citizens:
One of the most significant democratic reform initiatives introduced in the country in recent years is the right for the people to directly elect their President. The right to elect a President based on the candidates’ policies and manifestos. This is a basic right guaranteed under the Constitution for every citizen of the Maldives over the age of 18. That the President is elected by a secret ballot underscores the importance of this right, and ensures that it is exercised freely and fairly.
Just as every one of you belong to this beautiful nation; this nation belongs to you as well. Some of you are young, and have new hopes and dreams for this country. Some of you are diligent men and women already in the service of this nation; while others, our elders, who have served tirelessly for this country, now look towards brightening the future of this country for your children.
You might not support a specific candidate in this election; yet, each one of you has a stake in it; each one of you has ideas, concerns, and questions about the future of this country. And because your prospects are closely entwined with the future of this nation, you will not tolerate just anything. Thus every one of you must play your part in shaping the future of this nation. Every one of you must exercise your right to vote. Be part of history. Make this a truly people’s decision.
My fellow citizens:
In this election, you decide who would take up the responsibility to protect your rights in the next five years. Democracy requires the will of majority to prevail. It may not be a perfect system of governance. Yet, it is the most acceptable form of government all over the world.
In every election, there would be candidates who are better than other candidates. There would always be people, who do not like the winning candidate. That is the nature of democratic elections. The results of the election would be the decision of the majority, and everyone should respect that.
That has been the nature of elections in the Maldives too. Only one candidate can get elected. I therefore, call on the people of the Maldives, as per the norms of a civilized society to accept the results of the upcoming Presidential Election and resolve any disputes through the established mechanisms for such matters. Also, I give you the assurance that every single one of you, including the frailest and the most vulnerable, will be able to cast your vote. I urge the candidates to set good examples for their supporters; examples of respecting and accepting the verdict of the people.
My fellow citizen:
Our economy is heavily dependent on tourism. Even if this is not the best strategy, this is what the current situation is. Therefore until the economic base is expanded, we have to work within this reality. We therefore have to recognize that any disturbance would harm the country’s tourism and adversely affect the Maldivian economy. The political disturbances that occurred in the country towards the end of 2011, and at the beginning of 2012 led to a number of countries issuing travel advisories on the Maldives. The impact of this on the tourism industry was enormous. The Government’s revenue was affected as well. This once again highlighted the vulnerability of the Maldivian economy. We cannot afford to be complacent about it. Just as every citizen is given certain rights, every citizen also has certain responsibilities to the country as well. We must live up to these responsibilities. I therefore assure you that the government would not tolerate disturbances that could jeopardize the economic gains we have made, and affect businesses. We assure you that we will take the necessary steps to ensure this.
My fellow citizen:
The Maldives might not be a large country. We might be weak in terms of power and resources. Yet, Almighty Allah has bestowed on us many blessings. The first dwellers of the Maldives were not Muslim. But with Almighty Allah’s grace, the people of the Maldives embraced Islam. This is the source of our unity; that we have remained as a nation that adheres to one religion.
At the same time, Maldivians have managed to build our economy from the limited resources we were blessed with; from our seas and land that were sufficient for us at that time. We have built a world-class tourism industry by marketing the beauty of this country. If this economy is not robust enough for today’s needs, it can only be strengthened by the efforts of brilliant Maldivians. It would be us, and us alone, that would determine the future we want. Yet, if we exhaust all our resources on arguing over differences, the future we want cannot be attained. If we do not use the opportunities that are presented to us, others might seize it. We built this nation; and only we can build on and develop it further.
My fellow citizen:
Embracing democratic values should not mean that we abandon our traditions and norms. The fact that we have introduced democratic form of government much later than several others, has given us a valuable opportunity; we must learn from the experiences of other countries. We must be open to the good practices and avoid the mistakes others have made. In our strive for democracy consolidation, if we are to lose the good things in the country, that means we are not doing it right. That is not because there is anything inherently wrong with liberty and democracy. If our unity is compromised on our path to democratization, it means we have not done enough to preserve the unity of this nation. That means we are being complacent.
Some of you might ask why I am saying this. My answer to that is straightforward. We may have differences of opinions. We might even get shades from different colours in this political campaign. Yet, there is one thing that unites us; that is that we are all Maldivians. We speak the same language. We are of the same race. No matter how small or vulnerable our country is, how much we disagree among ourselves, none of us would want to belong to a nation other than the Maldives.
Thus, I shall make this request to each one of you, the beloved citizens of this country, do everything you could, to ensure that the upcoming election is a successful one; to make the stability and prosperity of this nation as your first priority; to ensure that the weakest person’s right to vote is protected; and above all, to accept the outcome of the election and work together with the newly elected President and make the Maldives stronger. The incomplete economic, constitutional, social, and legal projects should be attended to promptly, in order to consolidate democracy. Time and opportunity do not wait for us; we have to seize them. That’s because we are proud Maldivians; the proud sons and daughters of this proud nation.
May Allah, the Almighty, bring you all happiness and prosperity. May this beloved nation remain as an independent and free forever.
Wassalaam Alaikum Wa-rahmathullahi Wa-barakaathuh.