It’s a pleasure to see you again. I’m very pleased that I’m able to come here. Been a while since I’ve been trying to make this trip but for various reasons it has taken a little bit longer than I have wanted.
But now that I am here we’ve had a really excellent visit so far. I’ve had a couple of different meetings with his Excellency the President, President Rajapaksa and senior officials of the government here. We’ve been very well received been discussing some of the bilateral issues as well as how Sri Lanka might be able to support us in the political dialogue and so on of what’s going on.
I hope that at least now you have more regular and better information coming from the government on developments in the country and how things are progressing. You maybe already aware that several reports have come out recently from the government, from the various institutions in the country; particularly the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has come out with a number of reports on the situation in the country, different aspects of it.
As you know the human rights commission is an independent commission. It has been set up under legislation and appointed by the parliament. So their reports have a fairly solid legal basis. And I believe it can be taken with some weight. I hope that you will be receiving these reports shortly they may not have been translated in to English yet.
One of the reports I believe has unofficial translation already, particularly its conclusions and at least from my position that I’m standing I’m glad that it also helps to clarify some of the issues.
The situation continues to be stable, relatively calm now, although with some tension, as we draw closer to the end of the month, when we are expecting the report of the Presidential Commission of National Inquiry.
We are trying not to speculate what the outcome would be. But I’m optimistic that whatever it comes out with would be well respected by all parties because we’ve done all we can to make sure that the commission is independent that it has the representation that all the parties wanted, that its integrity is preserved. Therefore I’m optimistic that the results would be widely respected.
Now, I’m also pleased to note that in the last 10 to 12 days or so the protests have been quiet, and it seems to be again starting but generally under control and therefore it has given a little bit of a breather to everybody, especially the latter part of the holy month of Ramadan.
My hope is that if you stay that way through the end of the month and through the report’s findings. I will be shortly inviting all the leaders, all the political leaders to come together, and to begin discussions. I hope to do this within the next 24 hours to 48 hours, to send a formal invitation to all the heads of the political parties in the country, to come together to sit down and to discuss how to move forward.
Indications are that it will be well responded so. I am optimistic that we will be able to again sail through the next phase of our journey which is to examine the outcomes of the independent commission.
My hope is that these talks will lead to widely accepted schedule of events that will lead up to next presidential elections in the country next year. We have much to do particularly in terms of agreeing on a legislative agenda and moving ahead with that. It is one thing be able to agree on what needs to be done and another to actually go ahead and do it.
So we hope that it will be possible for us to now to get the parliament to come together, and begin to take those measures and that must include passing political parties act and a legislative framework for coalition government in the country. It should also include among other things the penal code and the criminal procedures act.
A fairly comprehensive list of legislation has been agreed to already by the parties, the list has been drawn up, what needs to be done is to prioritize it and to agree that, they need to meet and that they need to get the parliament to sit down and actually get on with the work. This list has been agreed among all the parties including MDP.
The agenda for the discussion includes six points. The first of which is they need to bring the situation under control in terms of street protests and so on. Seems that we have made some progress in that. Therefore we should now be able to reconvene the parliament.
Unfortunately the parliament is going into recess again at the end of this month. So my understanding is that next week there will be some attempts to bring the parliament together, hopefully at least once before it goes into recess. And then after one month on 1st of October it will reconvene.
In the meantime I think the most important thing is for us to continue the dialogue. And to stay quiet, not jeopardize each other. I’m optimistic we could do that. So that’s where really we are at the moment.
Going back to the reports that have come out from the Human Rights Commission I think there is some good news in that in the sense that one of the reports have clearly said that the former President was never physically under any threat during the transition that took place. I hope that’s some good news at least.
As for the commission’s report, the CoNI report, it’s being put together primarily being written by Singaporean judge the co-chair of the commission and he will returning to Maldives I believe day after tomorrow, and then he will sit down with the other members of the commission and agree on the final version of it.
So I believe it will be ready by the 29th and will be shared with me and others including the Prosecutor General, the Attorney General and the Speaker of the Parliament. The contents of it will be public by the 30th of this month. I’m hoping that at that point we’ll be sitting down to discuss how we proceed.
So that’s on the political front. In terms of the economy I am also pleased to note that the tourism sector is doing reasonably well. The economy is not growing as fast as we’d like to, but my understanding is that the economic growth rate is about 6-7%.
More concerning is the fiscal situation. The budget, the tight budgetary situation because of the heavy debt burden and some of the expenditures incurred in the past few years, that have not been really paid so we are also having to deal with that. So the budget situation is really very tight at the moment. We are trying to keep the expenditures down and the Finance Minister has come up with a package of both cost reductions and also revenue measures that will try to address budget difficulties.
I am also exploring possibilities of getting some standby credit facilities as a short term measure to address budget requirements. With the economy doing alright we should be able to come out of this shortly.
What is most difficult at the moment is you know, the current constitution and this legislation we have in place requires us as the executive branch to reach out and go to the parliament for very miner decisions and it is a very difficult way to run an executive presidency.
I will give you a very simple example. We had some machinery in Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture that could be handed over to one of the island councils. But it can’t be done without the approval of the finance committee of the parliament. That for us is a little bit extreme. But this is the situation at the moment.
And so fairly soon what is also required is to put together a team of people including some constitutional lawyers to examine the current constitution and laws to see how we can improve them and refine them so that we could actually run the country more efficiently
So that is something we really need to do as it’s something that is anticipated. I think many of you are aware that we are having the difficulties that we have; partly because we have a new constitution that has not been tried out, partly because we have new institutions that have come into being with a very little coordination with each other.
So these are some of the difficulties. As always I greatly appreciate the assistance that we have been receiving from you and we look forward to further support, in terms of achieving some of the things that I have outlined.