Vice President Faisal Naseem,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fazna and I are pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Maldives on your first official visit to our country, following my election as President.
At the outset I would like to begin by thanking you. During your illustrious career as one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent statesmen, your tireless efforts have been crucial to elevating the relationship between our two countries to even greater heights. The bond between our peoples stretches far back into the mists of antiquity.
If we go through the multitude of myths and stories linking Sri Lanka and the Maldives found in our common folklore, we will find an inescapable truth: we are more than just neighbors, we are more than just friends, we are siblings.
Indeed, historians tell us that the Maldivian people will find their origins in Sri Lanka. Realizing our kinship requires no specialist knowledge of history. Simply put a Maldivian and Sri Lankan together. Listen to how they speak. The food they eat. How they even look. You will find much that is not only familiar, but indistinguishable.
This is why so many Maldivians feel so comfortable calling Sri Lanka a second home, without exaggeration. It is why so many Sri Lankans in turn find themselves warmly embraced on our shores. So many of your countrymen Prime Minister, have found their particular niche in the Maldives to which they contribute to as productive members of our society.
We are immensely grateful for all that Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans have done for us and continue to do for us.
During the hardest of times, a number of our politicians sought shelter in your beautiful island. Your Government and your people gave us hope and confidence to strive harder and to dream bigger, to reach where we are today.
Due to these ties, it is not difficult to foresee a future in which we can take our cooperation to new heights, already evident in the many memoranda of understanding we have signed during this visit.
It is also why we are excited to have Your Excellency here for the duration of the 4th Indian Ocean Conference which will commence tomorrow, in which senior representatives from across the region will gather to discuss and deliberate on the most salient issues confronting the Indian Ocean and on how to best address them.
Increasing our general security cooperation is especially necessary now given the urgency of meeting the menace of the 21st century: terrorism.
The Maldivian people were horrified when on the Easter Sunday of this year, a group of cowards perpetrated one of the worst acts of terrorism that Sri Lanka has suffered in over a decade following the conclusion of its civil war, killing hundreds of innocent people.
We were as horrified by the senseless carnage as we were impressed by the fortitude and grace of the Sri Lankan people, who embraced what is best about the country: its tolerance; its diversity; and the spirit of kinship and warmth that exists between its many communities.
In the aftermath of that attack the Maldives expressed our solidarity with the Sri Lankan people and resolved to do our utmost to do all that we can in partnership with your country to complete the work of finally eradicating this menace.
The Sri Lankan people are our brothers and sisters; they are our friends, colleagues and partners. When Sri Lanka hurts, we hurt. When Sri Lanka prospers, we prosper. We are kin. We have endured with Sri Lanka some of its darkest days, and have shared your optimism when you opened hopeful new chapters in your history. You have, in turn, done the same for us.
This is because several of the most important journeys our countries have undertook, we have embarked on together.
Whether, it be the work of strengthening our respective democracies, ensuring the peace, prosperity and security of our part of the Indian Ocean, or ensuring an effective governance framework for the South Asia region, these are all our common responsibilities. The outcomes we desire are one in the same.
In meeting our mutual challenges, I am comforted not only by the knowledge that Sri Lanka, with whom we have always had such excellent relations, is our fellow partner; but that your Excellency, one of Sri Lanka’s longstanding political luminaries, will be there to help guide the way.
Thank you very much.