His Excellency Dickson Dela, the High Commissioner of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Maldives, Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On this happy occasion of the Sixty Fifth Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence, let me convey heartiest congratulations and sincere best wishes to the Sri Lankan government and the friendly people of Sri Lanka, especially those who are residing in the Maldives.

The Maldives and Sri Lanka enjoy a special bilateral partnership, based on close ties of friendship and mutual respect. I am pleased to note that the close bilateral relations that we have shared for so long have strengthened over the years, and I have confidence that this relationship will continue to grow in the years to come.

As our closest neighbor with whom we share strong ties of kinship, Sri Lanka is an important partner in our development.

It was about 52 years ago that the first batch of Sri Lankan teachers arrived here in the Maldives to begin English medium education in the country. Since then successive generations of Maldivian students have been educated by Sri Lankan teachers, both at home here in the Maldives and also in Sri Lanka. This has continued to strengthen our friendship for many years now. I am happy to note many of them feel more at home in Sri Lanka than in the Maldives and therefore today, we have several thousand Maldivians who reside in Sri Lanka and find Sri Lanka a very comfortable home for them. I want to thank the government and people of Sri Lanka for the hospitality they continue to extend to the Maldivians who are residing in Sri Lanka.

I am also pleased to note that many of our citizens travel to Sri Lanka to seek medical assistances. In this aspect, Sri Lanka has been very generous to the Maldives. For this reason we hope that this year we will be able to further strengthen our relations in the field of medical care for Maldivians in Sri Lanka.

We also note with gratitude that Sri Lanka contributed immensely to the economic development of the country. In addition to the teachers who have worked here, many other professional have come and served here in various industries. Almost every new ventures that we start here, we find Sri Lankans assisting us, whether it is airline business, or tourism or fisheries. Just last night I was fortunate to be with a group of about 300 young people who have started motor racing in Maldives. Their first event in Maldives was organized few weeks ago. The whole event was supported and organized by Sri Lankan Association of Motor Racing.

I am very pleased to note this and if you look at tourism for example, many of the resorts in Maldives have been developed with Sri Lankan expertise and also Sri Lankan investment. This I note, with great appreciation and I am confident that this relationship that we have had with Sri Lanka will continue to grow and prosper and for this, the people of Maldives and the government are very grateful for the people and government of Sri Lanka.

I also extend my heartfelt congratulation to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the government of Sri Lanka on the very happy occasion of the Independence Day.

Thank you.