Your Excellency Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with deep appreciation that I thank Your Excellency for presenting me with the prestigious ‘Sri Lanka Mithira Vibusana’ Award. I am truly humbled by this recognition. The Sri Lankan Friendship Award is, no doubt, a fitting tribute to the age-old close friendship and solidarity between the two countries.
It is a great honour for the Maldives that the very first recipient of this prestigious award, which is presented by the Government of Sri Lanka to foreign Heads of State or Government, is a Maldivian. Indeed, this fact alone speaks volumes of the ever-growing friendship and cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
I am confident that this valuable recognition by Your Excellency and the Government of Sri Lanka will remain as a lasting symbol of amity and good neighbourliness that our two peoples have enjoyed over many centuries.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka are old friends and allies! We are inextricably linked by history, culture, tradition, language and race. Since the time of our forefathers, our people have travelled constantly between the two countries. Through such exchanges, we have developed a heightened understanding of one another, while developing deep bonds of respect and admiration.
Our friendship is no doubt a multidimensional one. Before and after gaining Independence, our peoples have interacted and developed strong friendships and alliances.
I am pleased that, in my capacity as the President of the Maldives, I have had the cherished opportunity to contribute towards strengthening relations between the two countries. Both at the international and regional levels, I have had the privilege of working with Your Excellency for the betterment of our two peoples.
Through our many meetings both in our home countries and in other parts of the world, we have also developed a close friendship. I deeply appreciate the high priority that Your Excellency has given to advancing bilateral ties.
Your personal commitment to fostering closer links is a very strong determinant of our ties today, and it no doubt serves as a firm guarantee that relations will continue to strengthen in the time ahead.
It is indeed a great honour for me that Your Excellency and the government of Sri Lanka have chosen to confer this coveted Award on me, in recognition of my work to foster closer bilateral ties, as well as my role in SAARC and in raising global awareness on environmental issues.
Over the years, the Maldives and Sri Lanka have worked hand-in-hand to promote regional cooperation. I have had the good fortune of participating in each and every SAARC Summit so far, and I look forward to the upcoming historic fifteenth Summit in Sri Lanka.
We have also worked closely on global environmental issues. Under Your Excellency’s sagacious leadership, Sri Lanka has taken giant leaps forward in environmental protection and preservation. As a party to major environmental agreements and protocols, Sri Lanka has made an important contribution on the global stage, on such issues as climate change.
I assure Your Excellency that the Maldives attaches the highest priority to further strengthening relations with Sri Lanka. Our peoples are definitely leading the way, and it is the responsibility of our two governments to ensure that their aspirations for closer ties are realized. I am deeply committed to this cause.
Please accept, Excellency, my good wishes for your health and wellbeing, and for the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Sri Lanka.