President Rajapakesa, the Speaker of the Majlis, the Vice President, everyone present, a very good afternoon:

We are indeed very glad today to receive the President of Sri Lanka on a state visit to the Maldives.

As we all understand, the relations between both our countries go a very, very long way back. Ethnically, we are of course cousins. So to find where it starts is an archaeological exercise rather than within the rim of diplomacy.

People were first populated in the Maldives, myth has it, by people who arrived form Sarandib while we ourselves are the Mahaldeeb. Since then, we’ve gone on our slightly different and separate paths but we have always maintained our good relations and our connectivity and our sameness. Our languages are very similar. We are also a Sanskrit based language. Our customs are so very similar. Our behaviour, our emotions and our whole way of life are entwined.

During the course of the very difficult period in Sri Lankan history, the Maldives has always tried its best to render whatever assistance, whatever support that we can. Of course, our means are very modest but we have always tried our best to assist our neighbouring Sri Lanka.

I would like to assure the people of Sri Lanka and its President His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa that this will continue. We want to build better relations and we want to get closer. We are of course bound by agreements and understandings in the SAARC and it is our intention to strengthen that association as well so that we can have a better multilateral framework. During the recent SAARC Summit, all SAARC leaders were able to come to a number of understandings. Mainly, we were able to say that economic matters and issues should proceed even in the face of other political difficulties among some SAARC nations. We also agreed that SAARC connectivity in terms of developing a better transport network was vital.

I hope that during the course of this visit we will again also be able to follow up on that exercise and come to a better picture on how we may be able to link Colombo, Male’, Gan, Galle, Hambantota, Kulhudhuffushi – the whole of the Maldives with how we may link it to the whole of Sri Lanka through a better transport network. That was the idea that we entertained during the last SAARC Summit.

I’m also happy to announce in front of the President, though we have had some political difficulties during the past week and with very good consultation and discussions and conversations with the President, and also we have had discussions with the former cabinet and all the political parties, as well as with the Leader of the DRP Mr Thasmeen and other alliance parties of his party. I’ve also had discussions with our Maldivian Democratic Party and we have therefore decided that it is possible for us now to come up with a cabinet during the course of today. So we will hopefully swear-in a cabinet soon after lunch and I hope to have this function around 3 o’clock at the President’s Office.

Again, I would like to stress and I would like to maintain that we will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Sri Lanka. It doesn’t matter who is in government in the Maldives or it doesn’t matter who is in government in Sri Lanka. We are same people and we will stand and stay together.

Again, just before I finish, I would like to raise a toast to continued better relations between Sri Lanka and the Maldives.