It is with great pleasure tonight that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of UN accepting the Maldives as its member state.
Since the Maldives became independent, the Maldivian people and senior officials of the state worked to become a member of UN’s large family as a mandatory step in maintaining our freedom. We note the attention paid by the leaders of the government even then, to maintain Maldives’ independence. Also, in the efforts to ensure Maldives remains an independent state, it is believed that foreign policy plays the most important role. If we try and recall [our past], it may be a good thing for us to question why the system of governance changed from ancient monarchy to a republic. From what we see from books, the monarchy changed into republic because the leading official at the time, minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Amin, had to travel abroad frequently for various purposes of the state, to speak on behalf of the Maldives. During that time, there were not many people among us who could do such work. Therefore, due to the importance of diplomacy to the Maldives and as Mohamed Amin was the only individual who could carry out the task efficiently, the Maldivian people chose to change our system of governance into a republic.
The king cannot travel abroad all the time to participate in the foreign affairs of Maldives. But such travels can be carried out while in the post of the president or a prime minister in a Republic. He [Mohamed Amin] made such travels abroad as a president of the Republic. This is how important diplomacy or foreign policy is to Maldives even then. We brought about change and replaced the monarchy with a republic for these reasons.
The Maldives became a UN member state around one and a half months after gaining independence in 1965. Without doubt, Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefaanu, the prime minister then, played the most significant role in the process. Also, late Abdul Sattar Moosa Didi aided his Excellency [Nasir] in the efforts. Our sincere gratitude goes to these two deserving individuals and God grant them eternal paradise.
President Nasir’s government built diplomatic relations with Islamic states, neighbouring countries and other nations of the world. He did tremendous work to make sure Maldives is marked on the globe’s map. President Maumoon Abdul Qayoom then continued, and by the hard work of both the president’s, Maldives was successfully identified as a nation on the world map.
Moreover, every single person who lifted this strong sense of pride, the torch of pride, has had to continue in their footsteps, continuing their work. We saw ourselves a friendly nation with the rest of the world. The Maldives continued to participate in the international organisations and also regional organisations and associations. However, the fundamental principle on which the participation rested upon was the notion that Maldives is a friend of all world nations and that Maldives fully respects the independence, sovereignty and autonomy of all of the world’s nations. We have so far proved that the Maldives, we are a country which accepts that when working in a family of all world nations, we must work for the benefit of the entire family of nations, giving consideration to the overall friendship and unity, by accepting the points of weakness within the family.
We became a member of UN for this purpose. Because remaining in isolation is difficult. We must pay deserving gratitude to the individuals who served in the foreign service for the diplomatic successes our country has had so far. They include Ibrahim Nasir, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and individuals who filled the post of minister of foreign affairs along with individuals who served in the foreign service.
We have had to face notable events in the field of foreign policy in the two years we have spent so far. Current foreign minister Honourable Dunya Maumoon has unwaveringly worked in establishing our foreign policies and in achieving its goals. All staff members of the ministry also continue to serve in accordance with the foreign policy, along with her. This is not an easy journey. We must remember this even as we celebrate the 50 years anniversary of our independence. Dunya is the top official in explaining the view of the Maldivian state, in promoting the values of the Maldivian state and in defending the country when the Maldivian state is targeted.
With this, I would like to say that we must accept the reality. As we accept this reality and as world nations believe that participating in UN is essential and as world nations view this as a pride, we must even in a brief manner contemplate about the questions surrounding the UN.
The problems with the UN is obviously casting a shadow on the foreign policy and the events occurring in Maldives. UN was, during its inception, an organisation which captured the hopes of the entire humanity. However, as cries and grief erupted in different parts of humanity, researchers and scholars noted UN’s inability to stop these things. The failure in ending old wars is highlighted as one of UN’s weaknesses.
Many note the lack of democratic values and democratic system in UN security council or in the UN as a whole, as they exist in the UN general assembly. Moreover, the UN has failed to facilitate any resolution or reconciliation in cases where big nations act in violation of the UN charter while being members of the organisation, by stepping beyond UN corridors in taking particular steps in external and internal matters of countries. What we are seeing is small nations being unjustly treated in issues apart from issues of principle. The same thing which happens in the World Trade Organisation is happening in UN. The World Trade Organisation was formed for the benefit of the entire humanity. These organisations were formed following the Second World War, to escape from the widespread perils and dangers and to revitalize the world economy which was in shambles into a constructive one.
The same changes that were brought to the World Trade Organisation was also brought to the UN. What we see in the World Trade Organisation is that space has been provided for the operation of regional blocs within the organisation. Such groupings are formed in the belief that differences of opinion in such a large international organisation must be consolidated through group efforts. That was the political economy philosophy of the time and it remains so, even today. However, formation of such groupings result in some parties being deprived of particular rights in contravention of the principle trade agreement and the deprivation of such rights to parties who are not signatories to the agreement.
We are not seeing much difference in the UN. The UN is the biggest family with most members. Political and diplomatic organisations and associations exist within this family. These organisations and associations sometimes act as policeman, criticizing and penalizing small nations over events that occur in small nations. The Maldives is a nation that has been targeted in this manner in the recent times. However, the UN is an organisation with a charter based on the sacred principles and values of respecting every country and every country’s right to self-determination. But formation of groupings, pave way for a different interpretation and for discriminatory practices within the UN member states. As there are five permanent members and a security council, we cannot fully believe that UN is democratic in the manner we know democracy. This is the narrative of researchers and observers. I guess that is how it would be, and in acceptance of that reality there seems to be no better solution than UN. None is in the near future either.
Therefore, even with such weaknesses, we move forward in the belief that the UN is the only organisation working towards the safety of the entire world. We believe that such weaknesses are not weaknesses of UN itself, but we believe that UN will be an organisation of the United Nations when its family members respect its charter. If member nations believe in discriminatory practices based on ideology and opinion, discrimination will occur in UN and other such organisations. This is the reason why we are witnessing bigger nations getting “big” justice and smaller nations getting “small” justice. We believe that these realities can be changed.
Nevertheless, I would like to note that Maldives has unwaveringly worked to defend our neighbouring countries in the UN and other such international forums, in every tribulation they have faced, despite being a small nation, as we believe in the right to sovereignty and unity.
Therefore, we believe that our neighbouring countries also will assist us during hard time as we do to them by raising political voices and stepping up diplomatic efforts. We have voted for and defended neighbouring countries when they faced massive problems. We would like the UN member states to view the problem we are facing today in a fair and just light. The world will not be safe if particular countries have the license to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. If [you] are working for the benefit of humanity, [you] must believe that everyone has rights. NATO has the best researchers, comprised of first world nations. I personally believe that the terrorist activities we see today is the failure of NATO’s foreign policy in the past 15 years. The works of researchers say this.
Thereby, we must accept that rights and internal matters of individual nations must be respected by other countries. There will be no stability if one country can interfere in another’s internal affairs and there are not many things the UN can do when such interferences occur. Perhaps [you] may be able to call and appeal for steps to be taken against small nations. But that does not provide a solution for the problems. Problems will be resolved when the resolution is accepted by the people of the nation. The highest value we hold in esteem, as does the countries of the first world is the indiscriminate and fair implementation of the rule of law. The majority of our population does not believe that bigger nations deserve big justice and smaller nations small justice, while particular individuals receive special privileges and rights and are immune from being prosecuted for particular crimes.
The Maldivian foreign policy is based on these realities. Dunya just talked on the foreign policy of Maldives here. Our foreign policy is not at all as arrogant as the video showed. Our foreign policy is maintaining close and friendly relations with our neighbours and all member states of the UN. If we take a look at our neighbours, India is our closest friend and ally. India has always remained our most friendly nation. Even in this government, we view the relationship with India as the closest and significant relationship with a foreign nation.
In the same note, I would like to highlight that we can only move forward, and be respected if we are a self-sufficient, strong economy which can stand on its own feet. We see that in pursuit of the rights Maldivians have been prevented from realizing, empowering its people economically would be a great stride for Maldivian domestic affairs. This is the reason why we are trying to protect the rights of women and children while trying to pave the way for the youth.
Moreover, we must believe that while we work towards increasing our economic resilience and productivity, votes cast in particular organisations are based on financial contributions. If votes are cast on financial contributions, and if Maldives can increase its financial contributions, we will be able to gain much more benefits from such organisations, along with increased respect towards us. I believe that we will be able to find happiness for our people on a challenging rainy day, only if were are economically resilient and self-sufficient.
However, it does not mean that we are saying no to the nations who assist us [in developmental efforts]. In the long period, 50-year period Maldives has spent in UN, the country has received massive amounts of aid and help from all corners. We also receive much help and aid from our neighbouring countries. Despite this, as today’s world is one that is extremely competitive and fast paced, it is not easy for us to sit back and relax as aid and help takes too much time through the bureaucratic processes and protocols.
Therefore, we are trying to find easier ways for us to have access to aid by bringing in big investments. As we bring large investments into Maldives, as we work towards achieving economic sufficiency, we must note the close relationship we have with India. We must also keep in mind the relationship we have with Arab Islamic states, especially the close relationship we have formed with Saudi Arabia. Similarly, the major economic projects with China. These works will not at all make this region a dangerous one. Indian ocean is a region of our neighbours, the ocean’s neighbours. This region will be kept away from the influence of major powers. That is how it should be for the safety of our neighbours and every one of us.
With this, our relations with Islamic states will be further strengthened. Similarly, relations with nations who help us economically will grow stronger. We will never disrespect the relationship we have with our neighbours. But we have to accept the fact that perhaps there are points of contention between our neighbours and us. However, resolving these matters is the aim of our foreign policy.
In the work we are doing with the UN, we cannot change our focus, our government’s targets, not the work we do in our defence. As I emphasized before, [sic] the main work is obtaining help for our economic agenda, the most important work, the second is advocating for human rights as we advocate for it domestically, third is, a global problem, but especially for small island states, the work we must do to face the environmental challenges, the huge challenges.
In 1987 when Malé experienced a series of large tidal swells and waves, then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, brought it to international attention, after which followed the Malé declaration and formation of AOSIS. We must proudly highlight the fact that we have been given the opportunity to chair this organisation in garnering international support, especially to demand attention from major world powers to counter environmental challenges and dangers faced by small island nations. Our aim now, under our chairmanship is to ensure major powers pay attention to the environmental tribulations of small states.
Especially in the COP21 environmental summit held in Paris, we will make submission on behalf of small nations. By the grace of God, according to unofficial work that is being done, we will receive the full support of major world powers for the submissions along with compensation. Hopefully, this environmental summit will be the best one ever held. The previous agreements and meetings [of this nature] have not been complied by major world powers. This is the reason why environmental problems have escalated.
Further, I would like to note, as Dunya just now highlighted, the aims of our foreign policy. I would like to repeatedly say that there are neighbouring countries beside us who have remained friends since time immemorial. If we face something, like in 3 November 1988 [coup attempt by Tamil mercenaries], the first door we knock on is India’s. That has not changed. Our closest nation is India, therefore it will, by the grace of God never change.
Other regional neighbours are also very close to us. That relationship also will not change. In developmental efforts, we are growing closer with another nation. Doubtlessly, if we are to carry out economic works, we must build relations with countries who have excelled economically. Therefore, bringing large projects from China and receiving aid and help the Saudi government, is parts of a larger effort to bring economic development and prosperity to Maldives and its people.
One of the major aims and parts of our foreign policy is consular services. Many Maldivians are living abroad, especially neighbouring countries and Malaysia and Singapore, if we are to gaze a bit further. Easing the lives of the Maldivian people living abroad, and to provide them with necessary legal protection when engaging in different walks of life abroad, is one of the main aims of Maldives’ foreign policy. Much work is being done to achieve this.
I would also like to say that we need the cooperation from all sides in implementing our foreign policy. The biggest challenge to our foreign policy is not diplomatic problems we face externally but rather internal issues. The problems we create within ourselves. That is what foreign policy is addressing and contemplating the most.
The reason why we took over the state is to bring prosperity to the Maldivian people, to increase the financial sufficiency of the people. What we are trying to do within these five years is to ensure lost rights of particular groups in society are afforded back and realized. This is the reason why this government is working for the protection of women. This is the reason why we are trying to increase youth participation and empowerment, as they claim the biggest proportion of the population. Even in these efforts, due to the crimes that are carried out by individuals and due to the untrue perceptions and narratives, much time, energy and resources are being wasted of foreign policy, cabinet minister and the government in general.
These things will not benefit Maldives. Maldives belongs to every one of us. Therefore loving Maldives should be our number one priority. Political differences should not even once be considered a justification to do harm to the entire nation. This is not something our government will accept. However, we must not doubt that during such cloudy times, influences from bigger nations will reach smaller nations.
Recently, a powerful nation called on the world to be aware of the Maldives. This is our wish, but in the same note, we would like them to say that the reason why you are taking the decisions is the lack of awareness you have about the events that occur in Maldives. Come to Maldives, our books are not closed with regards to the actions being taken or carried out by the government. Come, we will open our books to everyone.
Therefore you should increase your awareness further. Then would you realize that Maldivian is acting in line with the laws and guidelines and within the boundaries of the legal system. Everyone who visited Maldives left after accepting this reality. Even though this is the reality, if they are unable to change their views, I would like to note, that even though we are a member state of the UN, and [they are] member states too, they are unable to make room for the UN charter in their hearts, only when it comes to small states.
The UN is a family in which every state and every citizen has the right to self-determination and the right to stand on the same platform as other nations as independent and sovereign nations. Without doubt, this is a sacred aim. The most harmful thing to UN or humanity in achieving in pursuing this aim is bigger influential nations treating small nations in a discriminatory and prejudiced manner.
To this date, such practices have only left the world a dangerous and bitter place. The reason why major disagreements have not been resolved along with dangerous occurrences due to the reluctance to abandon the previously mentioned ways by trying to understand each other’s issues, engaging with everyone by accepting that everyone has their unique cultural, religious, philosophical and views. The biggest challenge created within our foreign policy is to think that all countries and the entire human race must have the same mentality and culture. These problems can only be resolved when it is accepted that differences in culture, history, philosophy and mentality.
The UN can only become a success when it also engages in some soul searching by asking why these criticisms are being levelled, by re-evaluating the expert groups, by questioning why UN’s influence is weak despite being larger than the biggest and most powerful nations.
I conclude my address, by asking almighty God to bless us in our efforts to remain a responsible and proud nation in carrying out the responsibilities of each and every international organisation we are a part of.