The following are translated extracts of President Abdulla Yameen’s Independence Day address to the nation. The speech was delivered after a flag-hoisting ceremony at 12am on July 26, which heralded the Maldives’ 51st anniversary of independence from British protectorate status.
The president’s address featured recurring themes of his speeches: an alleged conspiracy by unnamed foreign powers to undermine the country’s Islamic identity, independence and sovereignty; the threat posed by “traitors” to peace and stability; and the importance of economic independence.
On foreign pressure and “traitors”
The various parties who are jealous today because the Maldives remains an independent and 100 percent Islamic country are not few. Every day that the sun sets and rises is a day that the government is pressured to allow religions other than Islam; a day that warnings of imposing sanctions on Maldivians pour in because we enforce Islamic sharia and teach Islam in schools.
There are traitors who are jealous and want to disrupt the country’s peace, beauty, and development.
It was such Maldivians who invaded the Maldives with a group of Tamils on November 3, 1988. The assurances they gave to a terrorist group fighting in neighbouring Sri Lanka at the time is that they would create a haven for terrorists in the Maldives.
It is for this reason that the wise say history repeats itself. Today, too, we see the same work done day and night by a group of Maldivians in self-exile who have sought protection from a foreign state: boycotting Maldivian tourism; obstructing investments and foreign assistance the Maldives receives; imposing sanctions on Maldivian citizens; inviting foreign influence on Maldivian independence and selfhood; stopping the adherence to Islamic principles.
On building nationhood
In my work of building the nation, I am working on mapping and devising how the whole Maldivian state will function. This work is being done with academics who research nation and state building. They note that developed countries in the world faced democracy after building their state. But in the Maldives, the work of bringing democracy started before building the Maldivian state up to function as a state.
We should accept that we have lost a lot of time for national development in the 12 years or so since [the pro-democracy movement began] in 2004.
On the death penalty
While some countries are unhappy with implementing the death penalty in the Maldives again, some others are expressing concern about this by pointing to concerns about the Maldivian judiciary as their reason. And still others are expressing concern because the heirs in one case have requested delaying the death penalty.
Given the Islamic sharia, the Maldivian constitution, and how the Maldives’ legal framework is set up, [enforcing the death penalty] is not under the power of the country’s ruler now. The punishment in Islam for deliberate murder is death. This is stated clearly in the holy Quran itself. Therefore, enforcing the death penalty to implement the legal framework is something that has to be done.
Just as we respect the domestic independence of other countries, they should also respect our domestic independence. If other countries meddle in our domestic affairs, this would give room to open up the country to unimaginable influences.
On Maldivians fighting in Syria
Maldivians, no matter how few, going to Syria and participating in acts of terrorism in the world, are by each such act, blasting a hole through the defensive fortress of the Maldives; a crossing by Maldivians to participate in serious global crimes; an invitation to bring in the influence of others to the country.
Even if some believe that this is done in their individual capacity, the whole Maldivian ummah shares in its consequences. Therefore, as we believe that measures against terrorism and extremism need to be further strengthened, a specialised institution has been formed and the Maldives has taken the initiative to work with neighbouring countries in the international arena. And the government has submitted [a paper] to the People’s Majlis to debate and decide upon further steps.
On economic independence
The nation cannot gain full independence without not having to beg anyone else.
In this 21st century, our whole economy is based on tourism. Tourism is not by any means an industry that we have power over.
Likewise, we have to consider the vulnerability of our country’s infrastructure. Therefore, the work of broadening the economy and increasing other investments must be undertaken today unceasingly. Job opportunities must be increased and the reins of the economy must be brought into Maldivian hands today. […]
Each [inhabited] island of the Maldives will now have 24-hour electricity. This government will assure water and sewerage services for 75 percent of the population before 2018. A project worth more than a thousand million rufiyaa targeting the Malé area and the atolls will be undertaken to solve the problem of waste management.
Numerous steps have been taken to improve the quality of health services in the Maldives. Each island will now have a pharmacy with the ‘Aasandha’ [state insurance scheme] available. The whole country will now receive the service of sea-ambulances to transport patients with serious illnesses or emergencies to hospitals. And we are improving the quality of Maldivian hospitals and paving the way for offering modern health services. […]
Only 2,000 or so flats were built in the 12 years since Hulhumalé was populated. God willing, we will build more than 16,000 flats in the first five years of this government. As a result, many families will have the assurance of their own shelter.
Maldivian tourism is now reaching a whole new level. Guesthouses are increasing on islands and the benefits for individuals are growing. Renowned global tourism companies are investing in the Maldives. Resort development in the Maldives will increase with the latest changes to the tourism law.
While the projects to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and [construct] the bridge connecting Malé and Hulhulé are worth about MVR1.2 billion [US$80 million], a similar expenditure will be made for the Hulhumalé youth city project during these five years.
[We] are working with a strategic partner now after deciding to build a regional-level capacious port in Thilafushi to solve the capacity problems of the Malé commercial harbour. In the Thilafushi port, all the facilities and services needed for such a port will be established under this project; the goods storage, logistics, and distribution networks will be broadened, the price of goods and services will change favourably, and God willing, the whole Maldives will reap the benefits.
Under this project, in addition to transhipment services, free zone and value addition work, Gulhifalhu will also be developed.
On “curing social ills”
One of the things the government is doing for this is enforcing the law equally for all. Under the present system of governance, the judiciary is an independent power free of executive influence. The government’s policy for developing the judiciary is to provide all the resources we can to complete that sector: establishing a legal system that can protect business investments; creating an arbitration process; expediting trials; providing the involvement and assistance of international judges and experts to the Maldivian judiciary.
In the two and a half years of this government, we have brought positive changes to strengthen the judicial and legal systems. We have brought a penal code suitable to the modern day. The criminal procedures law has been ratified. High Court branches have been established in the north and south to bring the judiciary closer to the people.
The true meaning of independence is not for people to live as they please. No matter how advanced or prosperous a nation, if harsh actions increase, if the law is broken, if the streets are in turmoil, and if unrest is incited, things will reach this state. The country’s economy and development will feel the tremors. For a small nation like ours, the effects and impoverishment will be bigger.
[…] This government has made the holy Quran a compulsory subject in the national curriculum for the primary stage. One of the most important goals of the government is to ensure from 2017 onward that each student who finishes the primary stage has completed the Quran.
[…] May God save Maldivian land from deceitful plots, discord, and all dangers. May God grant the good fortune for the Maldivian flag to continue to wave with independence, glory, and honour. Amen.