بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you all for being here this afternoon. I’m really pleased that we have such a distinguished group of media colleagues here with us today.

As you know I have been here since yesterday. This is my first state visit to Sri Lanka. And I must say that I’m really moved and touched by the level of warmth and kind hospitality that Sri Lanka has extended to me and my delegation. I think this is a reflection of the very close relationship that our two countries have had for a very long time, and also particularly the close relationship that President Rajapaksa has towards Maldives.

So first of all I would like to thank the President and also the government and people of Sri Lanka, for the very warm welcome that you have given to us.

In this trip, this has been a very important opportunity for us to renew our friendship and also to open a whole new chapter of close cooperation between Sri Lanka and Maldives. We have had several discussions with his Excellency the President and senior officials of the government here. I have had a chance to visit Galle today for the very first time. And we continue to meet with particularly the private sector. We had a wonderful breakfast meeting today with a fairly large group of private sector people. And I have also been having other meetings with potential investors that we might be able to track to the Maldives. So I believe this is really a very important visit for us and will result in much greater cooperation between our two countries.

I would like to also take this opportunity to briefly to talk about Maldives and brief you a little bit about how things are going there. Most of you know that we have had a very difficult transition of administration early this year. And since then we have tried to maintain relatively peaceful and stable situation in the country.

During these past six months the economy has thrived, the tourism sector is doing well. Tourists continue to come and in more numbers than before. We are hoping that this year we’ll be able to reach the one million mark in tourist arrival to Maldives. New properties are being developed and more vibrant tourism sector is being created.

In addition to that we are also seeing developments in other areas, particularly in aviation. More flights from the Maldives’ airline Maldivian will begin soon to parts of India and Bangladesh. And we are hoping that we will also be able to create Maldivian as our national flag carrier shortly. More airports are coming up in the country. There are several in the construction at the moment. And so Maldives is gearing up for a much more vibrant tourism based economy.

With regards to the political situation in the country, as I said we’ve tried to maintain relative peace and stability. Of course there are tensions. There have been some demonstrations. Maldives is now fully a democracy. And I would like to think that in many respects, a very open society which guarantees civil and political rights for all our citizens. It’s a young democracy. Therefore it is also struggling with some of the growing pains of a young democracy.

We believe that there is much that needs to be done in order to further refine and improve the legal, constitutional framework of this very young democracy in Maldives. We appreciate the encouragement and the support that we received from our neighbours particularly Sri Lanka, which has been very understanding and very supportive of the situation in the country. So we really express our heartfelt gratitude to Sri Lankan colleagues, particularly the government and President Rajapaksa for their understanding and support they have given to us.

I have with me here today a number of senior colleagues from the government. I’ll go from here towards that end of the table. Mr Masood is my Press Secretary. Then we have Ms Dhunya, she’s the State Minister for foreign affairs. Then the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla, the Minister for Economic Development Mr Ahmed Mohamed, the Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Mr Adheeb. Dr Shakeela is our new Minister for Environment and Energy. And then of course Mr Hussain Shihab, our High Commissioner in Sri Lanka.

Together we are here with you this evening. We will try to address your questions and concerns and also I would appreciate very much your observations about what you hear and see about the Maldives, and your suggestions on how we could be better interacting with the media community. With regards to the diplomatic community, we have tried to be much more regular in the news briefings and information that we have been providing. I’m not exactly sure at this point that we have been so effective with the media. But your suggestions would be highly appreciated.

Once again thank you very much for being here with us this afternoon with us, and I apologise for the slight delay. It has been a really tight schedule. So thank you for being here, and we are open for your questions. Would you also kindly introduce yourself?