بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم
Members from the British High Commission, Human Rights Commission, Members from Democracy House, invitees and my very good friends from the Youth Leader Ship Programme;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
As salaam Alaikum.
A very good evening to you.
Before I start my speech, I would like to congratulate to you. You have done a wonderful job. And you would be great teachers to our politicians. I can guarantee this to you.
My speech may not be very much like a Vice President’s speech because I’m always getting involved with this Youth Leadership Programme. And because it’s held most of the time in Bandos by Maree, and Naafee, and Anil. I think you all had done a great job, I sincerely say this. Because if we could open our eyes to what the youth is saying today - you have addressed the issues of building blocks, flats; you have addressed the issue of health; you have also very professionally addressed the issues of the discrimination of the island population and the Male’ population. And you have also addressed the dreams, the bridges. Is the bridge more important or is health more important?
I think these messages should go to the politicians, real politicians. I’m not a real politician. And these messages must go to the parliament members. They make the constitution. And I wish today there would be some parliament members here. And I hope next time Democracy House would invite some of them. And Anil says he did invite.
You see it’s very important when a nation is changing to listen to its people. Because the government serves the people. People who work in the government are servants of the people. They should first listen to them. And unfortunately on many occasions that’s what is missing. I have said many times a democracy begins from the bottom, not from the top. And I think that’s what you young children, or youths have said that today.
So I’m very grateful you express yourself. And I see a true democracy being born. But I don’t think it should take so much time. If we can change our mindset, our thinking, not wait for 23 years and 30 years, then we can change our mindset. But we waited almost for 53, 57 years to think of democracy.
Doing good things early in life makes a huge difference. But doing it later makes a world of a difference, and the effect is less. And I think that’s what we see in the Maldives today. This occasion is a launching ceremony and announcing of a great partnership between Democracy House and with the Youth Leadership Programme, the UK Youth Exchange Programme. This is organized by the British High Commission in Colombo.
In my opinion this is a great way forward in teaching democracy to youth and the younger generation. First of all I would like to thank the British High Commission for organizing this event and giving the opportunity for these young people from the Maldives to expose them to different cultures, different races, different religions and the cosmopolitan city of London.
I’m also very grateful for the organisers from Democracy House in conducting the Youth Leadership Program and helping to bring out the talents of the youth, and in particular the talented youths of the Maldives. The objectives of conducting this programme are to create a platform for the youth to make their voices heard, and to increase youth awareness on democracy and democratic practices in a global world. And also to work on a grass root level back in their communities and engage themselves in youth activities.
It is a fact that the youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. If we neglect to give them the attention they need today, tomorrow will be a sad day. I remember one incident at one of the Youth Leadership Programmes, fortunately I had the chance to address them, and I said tomorrow you are going to be the Presidents of this country. You will be, and you will be taking that position. Some of the Youth Leadership Program members called their home and said “I could be the President” to their mother and to their father. I hope it was not a surprise to them. Because Presidents do not come from one special family, they do not come from one sect of the community. Those who love the nation, they will work for it.
Today we blame the youth, we blame the gangs. Today we say they are committing crimes and they are committing murders. But we must stop and think twice of why it happened, how this happened in these beautiful, sunny beaches. Please believe me, it did not happen overnight.
For me personally, this is an experience that I went through in 2007 and in 2008. Especially when I was in the Ministry of Youth. I met these young people who have lost their direction and those parents who are supposed to be loving, taking care of them, have disowned them and blamed them for being who they are. I wonder whether they were born through love, through passion. Were they not born through people who loved each other? Didn’t the father, didn’t the mother love? But they are discarded. They are on the street.
Today the government must be responsible to look after the youth, and the youth programmes must be incorporated in such a way that it is creative. At the same time it should be productive and the youths’ full participation should be accepted by the government.
I would also like to point out that the Youth Leadership Programs are the most important programmes in any nation. Youth and the youth leadership are most important for the future of the nation.
Very often those who are in power feel that they will stay in power forever. Very often developments, discussions, and creating a platform for the youth to take over the country are taboo subjects. Very often many countries including the Maldives never prepare their youth for tomorrow’s challenges and leadership.
The problem with the same leaders is we all try very hard to stay in power. We all try very hard to continue in the powerful positions in the government. And we neglect or we rather not create opportunities for successors and youth leaders for the future of the country. We often forget how to create a successor, although we know that we are going to die; although we know that we are going to be old. But we forget that someone has to carry on with the work they have done and that’s the greatest mistake that we have made in this country. We do not create leaders for tomorrow. This is the sad truth of many nations today, including the Maldives.
Therefore these programmes that give encouragement to the youth and show the importance of youth involvement in the development of the country are highly essential. Also we should teach them the importance of tolerance in the society, teach them to love the nation and teach them the good governance. That is the way forward.
If we forget to do that or if we neglect to do that or if we purposely do not do that, we will be facing a dangerous and sad future without hope, with anger and frustrations and revenge. Unfortunately we are seeing a lot of that in this country today.
Therefore I believe strongly, the support given by the British High Commission in organising these events are highly important. And so far they have been extremely successful and you have already witnessed it from these wonderful youth.
Democracy is a wonderful philosophy. I would like to remind you that changing constitutions, changing Presidents can never bring democracy. Democracy is a philosophy that you have to understand and you have to accept. It’s in your mind.
In a democratic world, in a democratic system, we should be able to accept tolerance, we should be able to understand and accept the different opinions of different ideas. I might differ from you in doing something, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. That must be clearly understood.
Even today when we talk of democracy and good governance, I’m in fact embarrassed to say this, but political science, civic education and even our own constitution is not mandatory, or not even taught at most schools. I wonder what democracy we are teaching the school children.
Today, I’m one of the responsible citizens in this nation to implement what I have just said. Believe me, I would do my utmost to see that in the school curriculum these are included. Unless we do this we cannot create a democratic tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen;
I’m very impressed with the work carried out especially by Nafia, who was operating the Youth Leadership Programme as a leader. And also I would like to thank all those who contributed immensely for the success of the Youth Leadership Programmes of the last two years. Very soon we’ll be starting the third Youth Leadership Programme.
Through the institute of governance and development we promised that we will continue to do this. Thus we strongly believe by creating this platform for the young people we are creating leaders of tomorrow.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank the US government, and the UNDP for their support and today the UK. Thank you very much for your support. I would like to thank the British High Commission for all the support they have given specially a great trip to a very democratic nation, a nation which is still today leading in education.
Therefore the trip to UK for these students are highly important as they say travelling is a part of education. I’m sure they have benefitted immensely from the trip to UK. Public recognition of youth as key performers in social development processes have been strengthened through the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - the most ratified international agreement which recognizes that participation is a right for all children and young people and the youth.
As a matter of fact the past decade has been a growing acknowledgement of the position of youth participation in decision making, as successful efforts and determination by governments to engage youth have led to better policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. And that I believe is what you young people were expressing today.
I would do my best to ask my colleagues in the cabinet and the President to see that your interests and your desires are respected and accepted. Youth must be supported so that they can better organise themselves. Network within their countries and with their peers in other regions of the world as well. Youth should be given opportunities to express genuine voice, able to speak out on topics that affect them. Which in turn can make effective outcome.
This gives youth the power to shape both the progression and the outcome of any development of the country because you are a part of the development and the future of the country. Like you said these flats are built for us. But I think you forgot to mention that you have also been paying for those flats, although somebody else built it.
Before I conclude let me also thank the founder members of Democracy House and for the work Maree, Anil and Nafia are doing and the rest of their team in Democracy House. Maria, Anil, Nafia and all the staff are effectively working to change the way young people think and to show another day, another world, another tomorrow for the youth of the Maldives.
The voice of the youth must be heard and the government should make their decision based on the youths’ determination for a better future.
Thank you very much and may God bless our beautiful Maldives.