The honorable president of our party, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, my brother MDA leader Ahmed Shiyam Mohamed, my brothers, honorable MPs, energetic members of my cabinet who are working with me to develop our country, members of both parties, members of the public who believe in our philosophy and who are watching and listening to this rally. Assalamalaikum varahmathullahi vabarakath.
It gives me great pleasure tonight that so many Maldivian citizens have expressed interest in our rally and are here with us today. Without doubt, a new year begins with hopes. Our hopes are to bring progress, prosperity and happiness for all Maldivians.
Those who have a stake in this hope and those who will benefit from his hope are those of our members who are part of this rally, and those Maldivian citizens who are interested in us and will at some time in the future become members of our party. I’m appealing to you tonight – Maldivians are aware of the state of the Maldives today – hurry up and join us. Being in the opposition does not mean obstructing development. Being in the opposition means going forward with those who are doing constructive work. I would like to note our party is working to bring happiness and prosperity to the people, to ensure that the Maldives is a pleasant place. We will bring to you this Maldives. We do not know another Maldives. Maldivians have always lived in the Maldives. This is our nation. This is a very small, proud and honorable nation.
For hundreds of years, we have survived the shocks of this rough Indian Ocean. The kings and queens of this nation have shown us resilience. We have a long and proud history. We ended last year happy and free, fifty years of taking breath in a free atmosphere. As we ended that happy year, I want to say – since this is the first time I am meeting you after a happy year – we attained this happiness through the struggles of many. As I stand here to speak at this podium, to speak about the past two years, we must remind ourselves of Allah’s blessings. All that we have achieved, we achieved by Allah’s blessings.
Along with that, we – the active members of my cabinet, the councils of both our parties, the MPs who represent both our parties in the parliament, and the capital of both of our parties, our members – we celebrated the fifty long years of the journey of our independence, thinking that the past year would be a happy one.
In the past year, my government would have been the one government that suffered the most major political shocks. I am the only president who removed two vice presidents [audience applauds]. I am the only president who removed two defence ministers [audience applauds, shouts out bravo!]. I am the only president who has seen the resignation of some eight ministers. I am the only president who nearly saw the end of a person who fought to bring peace, happiness, order to this nation despite enduring the most difficult of days, a person who worked very hard and made major sacrifices, but with Allah’s grace, she was saved. Without a doubt, this is Allah’s blessings. These are events we must learn from.
The work we do is that done by humble and weak humans. We are able to do what we do because Allah has blessed our work. We must not only remember the lessons of the past. Our memories and happiness must join with our hopes. Many who spoke here noted the turbulence of the past five years.
I will not repeat that. But even now, we hear Western countries telling us that the Maldives must maintain constitutional order. This is the philosophy we believe. The Maldives must have a government of the people. The Maldives must have a government based on the principles acceptable to the majority. Constitutional rule. This philosophy is not unknown or unfriendly to the Maldives. We have constitutional rule. It was President Nasheed who won the first election held under the constitutional order. We do not contest that. However, it was also President Nasheed who did not want to maintain the constitutional order. That is also the truth. It was President Nasheed who acted outside of the law in all matters and brought darkness and insecurity to the Maldives. His end was, as fated by Allah, an end he played a major role in.
We fought to reinstate all rights that Maldivians had lost. We cannot accept that judges who administer justice should disappear. We cannot accept that political leaders should disappear. We cannot accept that [a party] should be on the streets regardless of whether they are in power or in the opposition. We do not accept that there should be other religions in the Maldives. We accept happiness, satisfaction, order and peace for the Maldivian public. That is why, I say, we had to make sacred sacrifices when we were in opposition. Even if I do not go into the details, the destitution we bore during those three years can be demonstrated by a poet’s following verses: this particular verse you may not have seen in the books, but these are words poets have used to describe the Maldives –
A place where thoughts of destruction thrive
A place where thoughts of death thrive,
A place adrift, where evils thrive,
This is the Maldives of the past. The people who fought to save us from that evil are now sitting here in the front rows of this rally. We fought to bring back constitutional order to the Maldives. We fought to ensure Islam never fades from the Maldives, that we remain on the path of Islam, and follow its message. We did not try to see if we could establish temples of other faiths. We fought to support the work of the judges who administer justice. We did not try to lock up the building where judges are appointed. We tried to maintain rule of law. We did not deploy police and military to the streets, to break the law on the orders of the president. The result of all of this is tyranny, pain. We were met with dark nights and dark days then. Those who came out to end that, with prayers to Allah on their lips, are now sitting in our front rows.
It is very sad that many of those who fought with us, or many of the leaders among them, have once again switched sides. That was not a result of a change in their philosophy, and definitely not a result of any weaknesses in our rule. I say, it is because of a problem in their thinking.
We believe we have democracy in the Maldives. A government of the people. Independent institutions choose freely how they should act. The judiciary is in the hands of the judges. Eliminating corruption is the mandate of a body established by the law. In my heart, I believe that justice will meet one for [wrongs] committed even if one is the president or the vice president. These are days we are experiencing this pain. However, if our thinking changes, if we believe a specific individual’s weight is more than that of all of the citizens, the Maldivian state will once again face this pain.
We sign off our letters with “your servant,” we must accept that there are people who do not believe in this. If one wants to serve the people as the head of the state, why don’t they try to ensure their name is on the ballots for 2018? This is my appeal for tonight. The Maldives needs stability. Maldivians cannot bear again the difficult days that began seven years ago, we do not want to suffer through more of that again. We are too poor, lacking in resources for that. But we have hopes of progressing; we are a country of a free people who are determined to go forward. We do not want another faith in the Maldives.
We want everything to proceed and end within the law. This applies to former presidents and others too, accepting the principle of equality before the law is the basis of our criminal justice and justice systems. I must bring it your attention that there are some who do not accept this. If a man who does not believe in this principle wants to stand for the presidency, you must accept that – what kind of rule of law will that president administer in this country?
Even as I ask your forgiveness for doing so, I must remind you of this. It is not easy for me – every former president of the Maldives is an individual who served the nation – when one of them falls ill, and asks to be allowed medical care abroad, it is not easy for me to block their travel abroad. I remember the pain I myself had to bear a few years ago. Arresting people and holding them against their will, outside of the law, must not be allowed in the Maldives. When a person asks to be allowed abroad for medical care, humanitarian principles mandate that that person be allowed to leave for medical care. However, I believe, as a man who served as president, and as per his promise, I would like to say that we are waiting for him to come back and serve the country after he undergoes treatment and recovers.
As we begin the new year, the biggest complaint and worry of our opponents is what will the president do as President Nasheed completes the judicial processes? Even though the judicial process is far from over, the president chose humanitarianism. [Nasheed’s] case is now before the Supreme Court. It is up to him to prove his innocence. That is not up to me. So I appeal tonight, and apologizing to the Maldivian public, I want to say it would not be easy for me to deprive a person of that status from medical care in the Maldives, medical care abroad.
As I continue with this speech, I would like to note, as two years pass by, it is not just progress that we have seen in the Maldives. [They] have challenged and obstructed everything that the Maldives has sought progress in. [They] have brought Maldives hardship. Maldivian citizens are experiencing this hardship. That is why as I said many high-level people who were working with us left us. Some of them chose to offer themselves up as individuals that needed to be brought to justice. That was not a result of the president’s actions. What the president will not do is – when they are brought to justice because of their actions – this president will not be an obstruction between that person and justice. The appropriate punishment for their actions, or proving their innocence is up to them.
As I speak here, I am speaking with pain. I say this because we were trying to bring happiness and prosperity to all Maldivians. To bring order and stability to the Maldives. To maintain decision making powers in Maldivian affairs in the hands of Maldivian leaders.
This was not how it was seven years ago. The Maldives was not like a boat traveling in the rough waves of the Indian Ocean. We have suffered much worse than that. Our patience has been stretched. Even then, there were many among us who refused to accept those events. The results of the 2013 polls changes with Allah’s blessings, with the hard work of the Maldivian citizens, and because of the belief that Maldives deserved leaders who would serve them sincerely. I once again thank Maldivians for that, and I pray to Allah for this blessing, I want to say we still want order. We still seek peace. We still want progress. Prosperity for our souls. I will not speak about corruption. We want prosperity and wealth by all means.
With the very active members of my cabinet, I am working to revive Maldives from the destroyed state it was in. When I stood for elections, and when we sold our manifesto to the public, the slogan we shouted at the top of our voices was: where there’s life, there is hope. We start the 16th year, with Allah’s grace, with hopeful satisfactory work, for every individual, family, island, the whole state.
As we do so, we must recall our own weaknesses. No president can go to sleep, wake up the next day and resolve everything. However, our work is based on a particular philosophy, the pledges in the manifesto that we sold to the people. With Allah’s blessings, we have achieved some amount of success. Those who deserve thanks for these successes are here at this rally. One who is not here, but who deserves thanks, is the leader of our parliamentary group. May he recover soon.
Our main focus is to cater to the needs of the youth, because we believe they are the fuel that drives this country’s productivity. Our dynamo is the energy of the youth. Without effort by youth, there cannot be economic or social stability in the Maldives. All of our work is based on this belief. We are trying to empower youth in all fields, young men and young women, because we believe in the afore mentioned principle. Our young must be constructive. We do not want them to be behind bars. This is the difference between then and now. We have introduced the Get Set programmed. We introduced a system of loans to encourage youth entrepreneurship. The government has over the past two years disbursed MVR25million to 72 leading young people. The government has a stake in their work. It is not beneficial to us when their projects stray off the path. Young people are also involved in fishing, but they are not so practiced in farming. To encourage youth participation in farming, we have disbursed loans too. This is what we are doing to bring progress to the youth.
The young must have physical discipline in order to be constructive. Those who are distant to exercise and sports will become lethargic. Those who remain at their desks at work will become lazy. I believe that young people, in addition to performing good religious practices, must be involved in sports too. That is why my government is establishing sports infrastructure in all regions of the Maldives. I have received reports that 45 futsal pitches have been built in 43 islands for the youth. Volley and bashi courts have been built in many islands. We will continue our commitments pledges to the youth in the future too. We will celebrate when our teams win in regional elections- sorry, sports competitions. This is without doubt what is making us most proud. That is why we included in our manifesto and are implementing a policy of paying those athletes who are included in the national squads. There are now 193 athletes included [on the government pay roll]. Any athlete who is on the national squad will receive a salary from the state.
The biggest challenge, biggest evil, facing our young is drugs. All governments have worked to save the young from drugs. And all governments, according to resources, have been successful in this matter. As I lay out my achievements in my yearly report, I want to say my yearly report will only concern the youth and social issues. I will not remember at all to speak on economic matters. Some 50 young people have been rehabilitated from drugs. It is not just rehabilitation, the state has ensured that all of them now have jobs. Rehabilitating drug users is ensuring that they are useful to society. But this cannot be successful unless we are able to complete all that we must do. Our children, who are studying in our schools, not the children who receive the love of a mother and father – In our society, there are many at the margins, of every age, or every social class, we want our government to be compassionate. We must accept that those who have a particular disability can also serve the nation. When we celebrate the day of the disabled, since such children also do not want to be called people with special needs, we now use the disabled children.
In all parts of the world, those who shine and lead in the fields of music, poetry and literature are people who have at some point in their life have suffered a defect in one of their faculties or senses, this we know from many people. Even in our society, there are many unfortunate people who have such disabilities.
Among children, there are those who have been deprived of the love of a mother and a father. Long ago, President Maumoon’s administration set up the Children’s Shelter. And having seen the work done by the government and individuals, a man from Dubai, who has helps us, a humanitarian, has set up a big building in Hulhumalé for a children’s shelter. That building will be handed over to the government this month. If we do this kind of work, with God’s blessings, Maldives will receive aid from philanthropists. The children’s shelter will accommodate children of all ages, separated by gender. This facility will be bigger and will have more resources than the shelter in Villingili.
Education is the issue of most concern to the young. I will say some points on this topic – I am aware my speech has become quite lengthy – In the past two years, we have opened up higher education opportunities for some 4500 students, via scholarships and loans. Young Maldivians have made use of most of the opportunities to study in the Maldives and abroad.
In the health sector – this is not just for the young, old, women or men, every individual will want to be healthy, for the elderly, their families would want to ensure that the remainder of their lives are in good health.
We have prioritized the very young, or those in schools, in our health efforts. For the first time in history, we have completed a health screening for many students. I have received reports that some 10,500 students from across the Maldives, from Malé and the atolls, have undergone a health screening. We did not just stop there – we have afforded specialist care to those students who required specialist care. And some of them have now received care and have recovered. My government’s aim is to ensure that such children receive care at the expense of the state. As [one] starts their young lives, enters into new marriages, the one thing we must ensure is that the children we bear are happy. To ensure that a child is happy, they must be safe from dangerous diseases during birth and the stages before that. The prevalence of thalassemia is very high in the Maldives. We have worked on this. We have screened some 8000 children for thalassemia in Malé and 30 other islands. In the remaining days of my government, we will ensure that we screen all young people for thalassemia. It is painful to bear a child who is a thalassemia major. This is not something any mother, father or relative would want. My government knows that there are people at the margins, who are not fully provided for. Helping them is something my government will undertake with pleasure.
Women. I am going to talk about women in connection with the youth. One big challenge we face, and we said as we campaigned for the election, and we noted in our presidential pledges, that we will ensure that a woman will receive a share of her husband’s business when their marriage breaks apart. This was a matter that caused divisions among us. Those who help me, and because of the extent MPs prioritise public interest in their hearts, they have brought this amendment to the Family Act. Now that law has been ratified and is being implemented. And we have already begun an awareness program under this. In the first program, some 50 young men and women have participated. This program was about pre nuptial agreements and distribution of property after a divorce – as Saleem is sitting on the front row I would like to say thank you – I would like to note that despite the differences in our opinion, we wanted to do this for our women.
Next, I would like to say that all people of all ages and classes want health care. Education is not easy to attain once you reach a certain age. But I remind myself of the proverb, you must educate yourself from your mother’s lap to your grave. But our ears and eyes will tire, our brains and intellect will become dull, but we cannot deprive anyone of healthcare, because of their age or social class. This will not happen. We cannot even imagine what may happen to those who are in the best of health now. That is why we prioritize health. I will not go into the details. But with God’s blessings, we are now treating people at IGMH for multiple illnesses that they previously had to seek treatment for abroad, that were not available here before. We will establish a cathlab that will rival those in the region during this year. The aim of this – this will help those with cardiac issues. We do not know these things, but it is not easy to go abroad every time one suffers from problems of the heart. In most cases, time and the seasons do not allow [one to seek treatment]. If we establish a cath lab here, I am sure it will make available treatment that is not available now, and help many who do not receive care now. We have also discussed and decided on setting up another super specialist field here – God willing, we will set up a center for people who suffer from kidney or illnesses of the renal system during this year. We will carry out kidney transplants there. We will bring qualified doctors from the region for this. God willing, this will happen in the course of this year. We need to improve diagnostic and laboratory facilities. During the election, among the pledges we sold to the people, I said I was interested in setting up the best diagnostic center in the region here. God willing, that is almost nearly done. God willing, by mid-year, god willing, at the latest by September, we will establish a national diagnostic center, god willing, the best in our region, at IGMH.
Is it because I do such things for the citizens that [they] want to kill me?
I want to say, our work is aimed at bringing happiness for the public. My work is aimed at alleviating to some extent the plight of ordinary Maldivians. Every state, every government does these things. But according to the resources they have, and according to the changes in their priorities. So, God willing, we want the sick person who is flown to the airport from the atolls to receive care at the IGMH dialysis center or for a kidney transplant to be brought to the hospital by land [via the Malé- Hulhulé bridge]. That is where I will end my talk on economic matters. I wish happiness for the Maldivian public. I wish stability for all Maldivians, for our streets to be safe and pleasant for everyone, we must ensure that it is a place we can all breathe freely. A government must not stay in power if they cannot ensure this.
The public wants stability. The public wants security of self, none of us fathers would want our children to suffer physical harm, no husband would want his wife’s handbag snatched by people who slit her hands, we do not accept this. We must make all of our streets safe. Accepting that there are all sorts of people, of different ideologies, and whose minds are incapable, is learning to live with humans. It is not the Maldives that suffers from all evils. But without a doubt, all of the world’s evils, according to the Maldives’ size are here, the Maldives is now known for this. There’s so much we need to address. Among actions we are taking to address such matters – establishing justice and maintaining the rule of law, the accused will, without a doubt, be unhappy. But this is how things are. Even in the allocation of flats and plots of land – not something the government is in charge of.
[Bangs fist on the podium] When action is taken in major criminal cases, the president is deserving of anger, that is alright. But everyone must accept that this president is also the man who has to [uphold] the rights of the victim and listen to their complaints. It is not the president who decides on the verdicts for those who commit major and petty crimes, regardless of the status of the individual.
It will be decided by judges. The Maldivian state, the executive and the parliament must arrange for resources to administer justice through the state budget. Along with that, we provide public services, many projects are ongoing. I will not list them tonight. But I will say the result of this will be that the Maldives will once again become a pleasant place – the place we inherited from our ancestors, yes, a safe Maldives. A Maldives with welcoming Maldivians. May Allah bless our work.
Translator’s note: This is a full translation of President Abdulla Yameen’s January 21 speech. Awkward phrasing and idiosyncrasies in the translation are a function of Yameen’s particular style of speaking