Good afternoon, and again, welcome and thank you very much for coming.
As Zaki pointed out, we are primarily here because of South Asia Center for Policy Studies had a conference on South Asia: Democracy, Sustainable Development and Peace.
We have also had a number of meetings, as Zaki pointed out. For us the conference and the topic and the discussions and the conversations were very important. Very recently we had our first multi party elections. In 2008, it was the Presidential election. Prior to that, we were able to amend our constitution, we were also able to galvanize the people into political activism, form political parties, amend the Constitution and then have a free and fair multi party election.
After the presidential elections in 2008, we had parliamentary elections in 2009, and then, this year, just recently, we had our first local government elections. We have been fortunate to have powers separated. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, all the fundamental freedoms safely safeguarded by the new Constitution and most importantly looked after by political parties. We have a strong capacity now on peaceful, organized political activity.
We have also this year graduated from the least developed country list to a middle income developing country. That, of course, brings challenges and promises, so does democracy. We are now in the process of consolidating democracy in the Maldives.
Also during the last two days, we have had very fruitful and constructive discussions with the Indian leadership and the Indian government. We have had a number of conversations with government ministers, the Prime Minister and the President of the Congress Party. They have centered around greater economic cooperation and connectivity within the Indian Ocean, mainly, through a ferry system. This is a concept that has been initially brought up and agreed upon by SAARC leaders some 10 – 15 years ago, and we, again, want to see how we may be able to, more rapidly, start implementing the project.
As you will know we chair the SAARC this year and the Summit is going to be held in the Maldives during November. We also would like to suggest to other countries and I have had discussions with the Indian leadership as well to see how we maybe able to get SAARC moving more rapidly and more forcefully, mainly through empowering the Secretariat and granting more powers and more leverage to the Secretary-General.
We have also had discussions on Indian Ocean piracy as well as climate change issues. We congratulate India and more specifically Minister Jairam Ramesh for his very constructive role in Cancun. Cancun COP16 was more of a success than Copenhagen, partly, we believe, because of Jairam Ramesh’s more positive engagement and India’s ability to get the whole conference and the whole process moving.
I will now go on to answer your questions in the best manner I can.