Assalaam Alaikum; and Good morning.

When I was told to come here to open Athuruga, my office was telling me, “President, there is actually no one to vote here, and we should be spending, especially elections coming, more time in where we might be able to capture a few votes.”

But then if we understand who Sarah is, and if we understand Franco Russo has done to this country, and if we try to understand what tourism is doing to this country, I think it is very justifiable and it is my duty and I am very pleased to be here. Thank you very much for inviting me here.

Long time ago, in 1979 when we were very little, I first came to know of Sarah’s father. He apparently came to the Maldives, first in 1974. Since then the family has been a development partner of this country. We recognize their work and we recognize their contribution to the development efforts of this country as much as we recognize development agencies such as the United Nations, UNDP, UNICEF or WHO.

We have very often come to define or come to understand investors simply just as investors. But in my mind, to the people of this country and to the development effort that tourism has been able to contribute, I think it is very clear who actually our long-term committed, stable foreign investors are.

Sarah has been investing and living actually in this country as a second home for the last 20 years, she says. But her relationship, her connection to this goes long way back to 1974. I am sure that was when her father first visited the country. They have been committed in coming up with excellent properties, brilliant ideas, and new concepts.

Through their help, through their assistance and their beautiful and amazing minds, we have been able to tap in to it, because, again, we have another extremely clever connection people.

I am here, and I am very blessed to have Mr Afeef and Mr Shafeeq here, who are again captains and pioneers of this industry, who have, from the very beginning, understood how we may be able to make a living out of the Maldives and out of the beaches.

In the past, we have always thought and believed that these beaches are only fit for birds to lay eggs and they are not good for anything. In fact, we have many sayings at home, you know, when you talk about an island it’s almost the worst thing in the world. There is no point going to an island, there is no point going anywhere outside Male’. So we were always fed and we were always brought up saying these islands are just totally nothing and completely useless.

But back in the 70s, Afeef and a number of other young, upcoming people, they realized that there is a lot we can do with the natural resources that we have and that we may be able to use them sustainably for our development and our betterment.

We have been using our natural resources, and I am also pleased to say that we have been doing it very sustainably. And in fact, the whole essence of our product, of our industry is the environment. That is what we are selling, that is what we are providing to the people. Therefore, for the industry, for us maintaining it, treasuring it is very important. So for us, to treasure the Maldives, is the climate change issue that is the essence of what we are trying to do. I believe messaging the Maldives, selling the Maldives must have similar connotations as other government policies. I am glad to say that we have a programme, where we will be able to hopefully assist the industry in coming out and marketing the new product and the new changes that we are going through in this country.

When I first came and as soon as I saw the villas, of course, it is very different. Usually it’s very brown and now it’s very white and marble and Taj Mahal – extremely beautiful and milky.

I am sure that we have not actually seen this colour in the Maldives, in villas, especially in water villas, and therefore, this must make an impact. I am sure they are very beautiful; I am very impressed by it. Therefore, I congratulate the architect who came up with the idea and with the picture.

The Maldives is going through; this country is going through a number of changes. We have been able to come up with multi-party elections; we have been able to come up with a new constitution; we have been able to galvanize people into political activism. With that there are also a number of other industry related issues that we have to now address, most importantly, labour.

I am again blessed and pleased to have, again, Afeef and Sarah are here. They completely understand the nature of our people – what they want from this industry and how they should look after them.

Again, I am happy to say that they have never had industrial relations problems on their islands and I don’t think they will ever do. So we will have to learn from them, others will have to learn from them.

We will have to understand how we will define industrial relations, how we may be able to live both the entrepreneur as well as the worker together. I am sure we have the capacity. I am sure our people have the vision to achieve that.

Again, I would like to introduce our new Tourism Minister Dr Zulfa. Dr Zulfa has been in the industry and she has understood the Maldives for a very long time. By training she is a human rights lawyer but she has a bigger vision of how we may be able to come up with the industry that feeds us. We are mindful of what gives us our bread, we will not spoil it and we should not spoil it.

And again, thank you very much. Thank you.