Your Excellency Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I thank you, Excellency, for the kind sentiments that you just expressed about me, and about the Maldives.
Before proceeding any further, I wish to thank you, and your government and the friendly people of Japan, for the very warm welcome and generous hospitality that you have extended to me and the members of my delegation since our arrival in the great city of Tokyo.
I am extremely happy to visit Japan on your invitation, and to observe the nation’s rich culture and to admire the technological advancement achieved by its industrious and friendly people. It is an honour for me to be the very first Maldivian Head of State to visit Japan on the invitation of the Japanese Government. This visit, therefore, symbolizes the close friendship and cooperation between our two countries, since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1967. It is also a reaffirmation of our joint commitment to advance our bilateral ties in the time ahead.
May I congratulate you, Excellency, on your sagacious leadership and the tremendous advancements that Japan has continued to make since your re-assumption of office in December of 2012.
Japan has, in the post-independence era of the Maldives, been the most generous development partner for the country. Our bilateral relations have been founded on mutual understanding, deep respect and reciprocity in global exchanges. Japan’s place in our contemporary history is unprecedented. Successive governments of Japan have focused on further strengthening ties with the Maldives, and Japan continues to be our biggest bilateral donor in development. A cumulative total of nearly USD 300 million has been extended by the Japanese Government as Overseas Development Assistance to the Maldives, so far.
Our relationship has stood the test of time, with tourist arrival numbers to the Maldives from Japan remaining consistently strong over thirty years at approximately 40,000 per annum. I understand that the Maldives has, yet again this year, been selected by the Japanese people as their “dream destination”.
Japan’s contribution to the socioeconomic development of the Maldives has indeed been pioneering:
In our fisheries sector, Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and their subsidiary Hoko Fisheries took their place as the very first exporters of chilled raw tuna from the Maldives back in 1970.
Modern satellite communications began in the Maldives with the installation of a Satellite Earth Station and International Switching Centre in 1976, by NEC and Mitsui of Japan.
Modern primary schools in the capital Male’ were built during the years of visionary leadership of my brother, Former President His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, by Taisei Corporation of Japan, with the generous assistance of the Japanese Government.
The security of enhanced coastal protection for the capital Male’ was established in the 1990s by Japan, which subsequently saved the city during the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
Furthermore, Japan’s response to our appeal for assistance in recovery and reconstruction after the Tsunami was the most comprehensive of all our development partners.
The respect, admiration and love for the Japanese people in the hearts of every Maldivian came to the fore on hearing the tragic news of the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on 11 March 2011. Our people rallied to provide, even if a mere token gesture, our support and solidarity in the hour of distress for the Japanese people. Maldivian tuna cans – a popular delicacy in Japan – were donated in thousands by ordinary Maldivians, to be dispatched to the affected areas in Japan.
Any account of Maldives-Japan cooperation will not be complete without acknowledgement of the long-standing technical support of JOCV and JICA. Over 300 volunteers and experts have so far been dispatched to the Maldives over the years, and nearly 1000 Maldivians were trained under various schemes and initiatives. It is a pleasant coincidence that two members of my delegation – Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed had benefited from such training during early stages of their careers.
Finally, I note with deep satisfaction that trade and commercial ties between our two countries have shown steady growth in recent years. While exports to Japan have almost doubled over the past three years, imports to the Maldives from Japan too have indicated sustained growth. This, however, remains an area of focus for further improvement in the time ahead. I am hopeful that the Maldives Investment Forum and the Maldives Tourism Promotion Reception, scheduled for tomorrow, will contribute to strengthening relations in areas of trade, investment and tourism.
From human resources to environmental protection, sustainable fisheries to modern communications and broadcasting, humanitarian assistance to post-tsunami recovery and reconstruction, sports cooperation and youth empowerment, Japanese assistance to the Maldives and contributions to national development spans the length and breadth of the archipelago. It is likely that, today, there is not a single Maldivian who has benefitted, both directly and indirectly, from support and assistance by Japan.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
While reminiscing about 26 years of special friendship and committing to a future of sustained and enhanced relations between our two countries, may I request you to join me in a toast:
to the health and happiness of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan, and of His Excellency Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan:
to the continued progress and prosperity of the friendly and hospitable people of Japan; and
to everlasting friendship and co-operation between our two Governments and peoples.