Good Evening,

Ambassador; Captain; French Officers; French nationals in the Maldives; Director of Alliance Française; Ministers and everyone present here.

For us it is a happy evening, mostly we will see many French films after the ceremony is over. I understand that we have a full week of French films. I am sure this will be highly appreciated by a number of people in the Maldives who would definitely like to experience more French culture, not just simply language, but also everything to do with France.

The Maldives has had a long relationship and connections with France, dating back all the way to the 1700s. I have had the opportunity to have this conversation with the captain and the ambassador. But with the risk of boring you again, I will say this, our long relations with France.

During the early 1800s, Male was sacked, attacked and occupied by the Malabar and they established a garrison here. They were ruling us and they ruled us for about 8 – 9 months. After which the French Captain in Pondicherry decided that he was going to assist a group of Maldivians who wanted to retain, regain their country back to themselves. So with the French arms, with their assistance, a Maldivian family was able to again liberate the Maldives. That was the last ruling dynasty of this country. They came for the near by island, Huraa, we call them the Huraa Dynasty.

Since then they have, of course, had very close contact and touch with French nationals. There are a number of references to that relationship in many libraries in France. As we get more of our people to read French, I hope more of that would come to light. And we will also be able to have this knowledge with us here in the Maldives.

We are again turning a leaf over wanting and seeking out for new friends, mainly, because recently we have had our first multiparty elections. We are now in the process of consolidating democracy here. I am sure many people in this country are looking for friends who see more eye to eye with what we have become and what we are trying to become, which is more democratic, more liberal, and more free.

We have, of course, an excellent ambassador to work with us in this regard and we will be seeking out for that touch and for that contact and for that relationship. And in the process we hope to teach our children more French. We hope to include French culture, French history and French language in our education curriculum. And we hope to understand France and the French culture and we believe that through that understanding we, ourselves, will become better people.

We want to welcome everyone to this country; we want to become a multicultural country. We are moving along these lines and with our new found friendship, I am sure we will be able to achieve that.

The ambassador forgot to mention one little that was happening simultaneously today. The first of the French development assistance to the Maldives have actually started – I am going to start that project. It’s a sewerage programme, it is a sewerage project. There are two harbours and two sewerage systems and we are going to star them tomorrow. So all the bidding, all the processing is over and we will actually start the physical work tomorrow. These sewerage systems and these harbours and water systems are very important for us. We have to be able to provide our islanders, our people with adequate sanitation, with adequate facilities. And working with friends, working with international agencies, we are able to do that.

Recently we have been promoted from being a least developed country to a middle income country and we want to stand up to that. We want to be able to fend for our selves and we want to be able to live within our means. We do not want aid but we want more understanding and we want trade. It is not aid that we are seeking. But it is friendship and understanding that we are looking for. And I am sure; we will find that in France.

Thank you.