SAARC centre 60 percent complete, says Foreign Ministry

The convention centre being constructed in Addu Atoll for the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit is 60 percent complete, reports the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

This is the first time that the SAARC has been held off of Malé, and south of the equator.

Director of Communications for the Foreign Ministry, Irushaadha Abdul Sattar, said official invitations had been sent to participating countries, and teams were working round the clock to ensure the facilities were ready.

Workers were currently on a three shift a day schedule to complete the facility on time, Sattar said, noting that the physical structure was now complete and workers were focusing on internal wiring and landscaping.

“There has never been this amount of development for a SAARC Summit in the Maldives,” she said. “Roads are being built, buildings put up, wiring is being done, and this time it’s all going straight to the people.”

The Sri Lankan government has pledged to build a six kilometer road as part of project, with teams expected to arrive soon. The Foreign Ministry predicts that the facility will be completed by mid-September.

Addu City Mayor, Abdullah Sodiq, meanwhile forecast October 15 as a likely completion date for construction project, which covers 70 hectares. The Summit will be held in November.

Sodiq told Minivan News that the people of Addu were happy to see the infrastructure being built.

“The only concern is that it may not be completed on schedule,” he said, “At the beginning, progress was very slow, but now they are working very hard around the clock to be finished by October 15,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry said 30 groups have been chosen to perform sideline activities, such as entertainment, during the convention. Sodiq noted that youth groups and NGOs will be included, as well as some groups from other countries in the region.

The government has previously announced that the theme for the 17th SAARC Summit will be “Building Bridges” between member states, both in a physical and diplomatic sense.

One anticipated topic for the summit – heavily promoted by the Maldives – is the introduction of ferry services between the Maldives and destinations such as India and Sri Lanka.

President of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s youth wing, Shauna Aminath, previously observed that SAARC member nations included those the lowest-lying in the world – the Maldives – and the highest: Nepal.

“There are differences, but we want to use these as an opportunity to celebrate as a united force to build bridges of friendship, peace and security,” Aminath said.