Beloved citizens of the Maldives;
Today we are celebrating the Maldives’ 55th Independence Day. I extend sincerest felicitations from the bottom of my heart, on this joyous occasion, to all the citizens of the Maldives.
Of all the festive occasions typically celebrated by a nation, it is the independence day that is celebrated with the most pride and enthusiasm. This is true of every country.
The reason we cherish our Independence Day is because of the value we place on independence itself. Independence is the birthright of every human being from the moment they draw their first breath; it is the most fundamental of their rights, and one they should never be deprived of.
When we cast our eyes upon this concept of independence, we realize that it is the defining feature of a sovereign country. Independence is what allows a country to have an equal voice to its peer nations in the international arena.
We too celebrate our Independence Day with joy and high hopes for the future. As we do so, it is important to reflect upon our journey and contemplate on where we are now.
The world remains under a dark cloud due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a crisis unlike any other experienced by recent generations. The shadow cast by the virus has affected every single family in the Maldives. Though it is a virus, the danger it poses is not only to our health.
The arrival of Covid-19 on our shores forced us to close our borders. Our lives have been transformed. We face difficulties in educating our children. Businesses are going bankrupt. Transportation and tourism have come to a halt. Our import/export system has been altered and our whole economy is treading water.
After a three-month lockdown due to Covid-19, we have reopened our borders. However, we foresee difficult and trying times for the economy. Our hope is for the tourism industry to recover and for our economy to revive by the end of this year.
However, our hopes will not be realized unless the international community is convinced and assured that the Maldives is a safe place for tourists to visit. Our assurances will only carry weight if we follow the instructions of doctors and exert a collective effort against the spread of Covid-19.
During these times, when the country is celebrating its Independence Day, what comes to my mind is the responsibility that rests upon our shoulders in protecting and preserving our independence and sovereignty - and the numerous efforts and sacrifices we have to make in order for that to be achieved.
One of the things that negatively influences a country’s independence is its economic downturn. If there is no life in the country’s economy, its independence will always continue to face threats.
Highlighting on the notion that political independence is not necessarily a guarantee of full independence, the President of the First Republic, the late President Mohamed Ameen said the following:
“Although political independence grants us freedom in name, true freedom comes with prosperity”.
The Maldives’ economy remains primarily driven by two sectors that we developed through our own efforts. Pole and line fishing is globally noted to be a distinctly Maldivian practice. And the Maldives’ Tourism Sector, which has achieved such high global repute, was built through local innovation.
I believe that the time is ripe for us to diversify our economic activities. We need to further involve youth and women. And we need to enhance our efforts to best utilize the natural blessings contained on our land and ocean.
As we commemorate Independence Day, we must not forget how we achieved independence and the continuous work we must render to ensure our independence. It was through peaceful means and foresight that Maldivians gained independence. As such, our independence must be maintained by peaceful means.
This is the basis that shapes our policies. We will carry on our development efforts while being mindful of our multi-party system. In that regard, we will take into account the voices of those who disagree with us politically. Our constitution was founded upon the ideal of diverse voices contributing to our national affairs.
On this happy occasion of our Independence Day, I wish to say to all political actors, that despite the differences in our political ideologies, there are certain matters of national interest that require our mutual agreement. Politicizing every issue in order to create division is not in the nation’s best interest.
Such actions harm the country and all its citizens. I call upon all politicians to work closely with the Government in matters of concern to the national interest. I will always welcome your opinions and advice.
A foreign policy built upon peaceful diplomacy is essential to preserving that national interest, and promoting it within the context of the international community. While we celebrate the joy and honour of our nation’s independence, many common critical challenges require strong global cooperation and solidarity.
The Covid-19 crisis has starkly demonstrated this truth. It is now evident that no country can resolve challenges in isolation. Preserving our planet from environmental challenges also requires strong global partnerships, built upon a shared vision.
No country is immune to the threat of terrorism. Strong global cooperation that promotes peace and stability, is needed now more than ever to eliminate the threat of terrorism from the world. The Maldivian people stand ready to closely engage with other like-minded countries to address these global challenges.
The foundation of our national identity and pride is our Islamic faith. The pillars built on that foundation are our way of life and our mother tongue, as well as our heritage and traditions. I am certain that no one will wish to lose any of these aspects that unify our society.
As we mark 55 years in our journey of independence, there should now be no doubt as to the direction in which we must set our compass. In my heart I am convinced that all of us Maldivians must make it our personal responsibility to help this country develop.
This can be accomplished when we make progress a part of our personal lives; when rather than dwelling on the past, we look towards the future, and shape our lives in the expectation of brighter horizons.
Progress can no longer be merely defined by having access to an income that allows us to meet our basic necessities and stave off hunger. Progress must be continuous, with today’s prosperity exceeding yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s prosperity exceeding that of today’s. Let us never be content with our present situation and always embrace change.
We must rapidly develop our human resources to effectively overcome the obstacles to national development that Covid-19 has forced us to confront. That is why we have made building up our people’s potential an important national policy priority. With the concerted efforts of our Government and citizens, this goal, so crucial to maintaining our political and economic independence, will not be difficult to accomplish.
Before closing my remarks, I offer tribute to the late President Ibrahim Nasir, whose efforts won us our independence. I pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) to have mercy on his soul and to grant him eternal blessings of paradise. I also pray for the souls of the heroes who sacrificed their lives and were martyred for the sake of the Maldives’ independence.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) always protect the Maldives’ independence and sovereignty. May God give us the courage to keep changing our country for the better, while keeping us within the holy principles of Islam; and may He protect us from Covid-19 and help us recover from the effects of this virus. Amen.