At a meeting held today with President Nasheed, an Australian High Commission’s delegation has said that Australia will send volunteers to the Maldives early next year. The meeting was held at the President’s Office.

The delegation said the Australian government re-established the volunteers programme after a request from the Maldivian government.

Ms Sally Mackay, First Secretary at Australian High Commission in Colombo said they were trying to send about ten Australian teachers under the pilot phase of the volunteers programme.

At the meeting, the President thanked the Australian government for the assistance to the Maldives. He also noted the cooperation and engagement of Australian High Commission accredited to the Maldives in the reform process.

Emphasising the importance of democratic consolidation and strengthening independent institutions, the President said he was concerned that some people believed the ‘Maldives is finished’. He added democratic consolidation in the Maldives partly depended on strengthening the judiciary.

Speaking on the priorities of the government, President said while aid was important, international business remained crucial for the Maldives. He added the Maldives wanted to ‘stand on its own’.

Mr Mark Bailey, the AusAID Regional Counselor for South Asia and who was heading the Australian High Commission delegation, assured the government of Australia would remain engaged with the Maldives.

He said, in spite of an impending recession in Australia, the approval of the aid budget, which would see Australian aid and scholarships continued, was a positive step.