Your Excellency Mr. S. R. Nathan, President of the Republic of Singapore, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Once again, let me, Excellency, extend a very warm welcome to you and to the members of your delegation. It is a great honour that you have accepted my invitation, and found time from your busy schedule to make a State visit to the Maldives.
Sorry Excellency, the sunshine we ordered for your visit hasn’t so far materialised, but I do hope it will in the next few days.
I have had the pleasure of visiting your beautiful country on numerous occasions, and I carry fond memories of the warm reception that had been extended to me on every single visit.
I hope that, during your stay here with us, we are able to reciprocate even a small part of that generous hospitality that your government and people have always accorded to us.
The Maldives and Singapore have enjoyed very close ties of friendship for many years. Tomorrow will be a special date in our bilateral relations. With the inauguration of the state-of-the-art Ghaazee School in Hulhumale’, there will be a lasting reminder of the close friendship between Singapore and the Maldives.
This primary and secondary school is a gift of Singapore. I take this opportunity to thank you, Your Excellency, and the Government and people of Singapore for this generous contribution to our national development. May I also thank the Singapore Red Cross for their assistance towards the construction of the school and other post-tsunami reconstruction projects in the Maldives.
It is an added pleasure for us that the beautiful Ghaazee School is on the island of Hulhumale’. It was only a decade ago that we began the reclamation of this model island. The first group of residents moved into Hulhumale’ in 2004. As the island takes shape into a modern and vibrant city, our objective is to provide all essential facilities and services for the residents. Ghaazee School is, therefore, a major step towards the realization of this dream.
The Maldives and Singapore have been friends and allies since we both gained independence in 1965. It was over 31 years ago that the two countries established diplomatic relations, and our ties have grown steadily ever since. Our shared values and beliefs and active collaboration have led to the strengthening of bilateral and development cooperation.
Both our countries have similar views on many important international issues – the reform of the Security Council, matters related to the security of small states, international terrorism and the protection and preservation of the environment.
We also share membership of many important international organizations, broadening our realm of cooperation and the basis of our common principles. In fact our two countries attained membership of the United Nations on the same date, in September 1965.
It is a happy coincidence that today, the 24th of October, is United Nations Day. I, therefore, extend warm greetings of the occasion to the Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, his able staff, Mr. Patrice Coer-Bizot, Resident Coordinator of the UN Office in Male’, his staff and member countries of the Organisation.
The Maldives and Singapore are both members of the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement. Also, as members of AOSIS, we have taken common stands at important international conferences on issues related to the environment and the security of small states.
As you know, the Maldives is among the most environmentally threatened countries on the planet. This November, we are hosting an international conference, entitled “The Human Dimension of Global Climate Change”, to prepare for the upcoming Bali Summit in December. Recognising environmental security as a fundamental human right will be the theme of the Male’ conference. We deeply appreciate Singapore’s continued support to our call for urgent global action to address climate change and sea-level rise.
Today, Singapore is one of our most important development partners. Your country’s contribution to our national progress has taken many forms. During the past few decades, we had signed a number of bilateral agreements, in key areas such as aviation and seafaring, which have served to bring the two countries closer together. A number of initiatives have also been undertaken to strengthen defence and police cooperation among our two countries through professional training and high-level exchanges.
Following the successful discussions that we had held during my visit to Singapore earlier this year, the two Governments have been working on further strengthening our cooperation in the fields of higher education, employment and social security. Similar efforts are also underway in the fields of housing, urban development, health, justice, economic development and trade.
The Maldives has benefited greatly from the growing interest of Singaporean investors. Today, there are major Singaporean investments in our tourism and hotel industry. The Maldives In-flight Catering and the Hulhule’ Island Hotel are successful examples of such a partnership. Singapore Airlines has also played a vital role in increasing people-to-people contact between our two countries. They have carried passengers on the Singapore-Male’ sector uninterrupted since 1984.
Your decision to include a senior business delegation on this historic visit is further evidence of the importance that your government attaches to further strengthening business relations with the Maldives. May I, therefore, extend a special welcome to the members of the high level business delegation accompanying you on this visit.
The heights of development that Singapore has attained, through sound planning and hard work, in spite of the challenges faced as a small island state with few natural resources, are nothing short of remarkable. Singapore is indeed a shining example of the benefits of national peace and political stability and the industry of the people - a model that small island nations, such as the Maldives, will do well to emulate.
The number of Maldivian visitors to Singapore has been increasing steadily over the years. Indeed, Singapore is a popular destination among Maldivians for educational, business and medical needs. Today, there is a relatively large Maldivian community in Singapore.
I am very pleased, therefore, to announce that the Maldives is going to open a resident diplomatic mission in Singapore shortly. I am confident that the mission will serve to bring our two countries, governments and people even closer together.
It is now almost three years since the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami, which had left a trail of death and destruction in the Maldives and in many of our neighbouring countries. Following the tragedy, Singapore had extended prompt assistance to us in the form of packaged drinking water, a reverse-osmosis desalination plant and a water distribution network. The brand new school that will be inaugurated tomorrow is a major component of your aid package. Also, as part of your assistance to the Maldives after the tsunami, a number of our health professionals have received further training in Singapore. Similar training was also extended to management-level staff in our schools, including Ghaazee School.
I wish to thank the Government and the friendly people of Singapore for all the support and assistance extended to us over the years in some vital areas of our social and economic development.
Before I conclude, I would like to wish you, Excellency, good health and success. I wish continued peace, prosperity and happiness to the people of Singapore. May the warm ties of friendship and co-operation between our two peoples and countries grow from strength to strength in the years to come!