An event to celebrate 234th anniversary of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence was hosted by the American Embassy yesterday.
Speaking at the function, the new US Ambassador to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis, said the event marked a special occasion not just because it was America’s national day “but also because today marks the first time in recent memory that our embassy has hosted a July 4th celebration here in Maldives.”
American embassy staff and dignitaries played host to members of Maldivian government, the
opposition, Majlis speaker, diplomats, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police personnel, representatives of NGOs and other invitees at the Holiday Inn in Male’.
The function began with the arrival of President Mohamed Nasheed and Vice President Dr
Mohamed Waheed, followed in quick succession by a hurried Ambassador Butenis.
A beautiful rendition of both the Maldivian National Anthem and the American National Anthem
was sung by a little girl called Medison, to kick start the event
“Medison is uniquely placed to sing it, as she is American and turned six years old on
July 26th – Maldives independence day,” said Glenn Davis, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US High Commission in Colombo.
Medison did perfect justice to the Maldivian anthem, pronouncing every word correctly, followed
by an equally beautifully-sung American anthem.
Complimented by President Nasheed on her singing, she said she had learned the Maldivian
anthem “from soccer practice”.
Ambassodor Butenis took the stage next, thanking President Nasheed for delaying his arrival to
coincide with hers.
Noting that Embassies across the world mark this event she said she could think of no better
place to celebrate July 4 than the Maldives.
“In many ways your own path to democracy resembles ours. Although you were never a colony
like us, you too achieved your full independence after a period of British influence in your affairs.”
She highlighted that this month, the Maldives marks the 45th anniversary of that event and that
looking back at America’s experience over the past 234 years, “I can tell you, the road to an
even more perfect democracy is both long and full of twists and turns.”
Noting the many obstacles faced along the way, she noted the civil war, racial and gender
inequalities, to the more recent bitterly-contested presidential election that had to be taken to the
Supreme Court to resolve.
Ambassodor Butenis said “overcoming each challenge required leadership, compromise and a
shared commitment to strive towards a strengthening of democracy.”
Noting that Maldives has undergone tremendous transition on multiple fronts, she said such
transitions always face difficulties.
“I wish I had the secret to make this work, but in the US partisan disagreements also impede
progress on some of the issues most important to Americans. I think the message from citizens
of both our countries to our political leadership is the same: seek compromise, dialogue and
civility and never lose sight of your charge to strengthen democracy and promote the common
President Nasheed was invited to the podium next and started by addressing the
Ambassodor Butenis, Speaker of Majlis, the Vice President and adding, “I’m sad to say I cannot introduce any
Ambassodor Butenis, standing nearby, interjected that “they were all invited,” evoking laughter
from the assembled dignitaries.
President Nasheed said that it was difficult days for Maldives, that there were things that could
be learned from Americans, and that despite the help and advice from many sides it was a big
challenge the country was facing.
“This is the biggest challenge the nation has faced – we are having a constitutional crisis.”
Hoping that the worst of it was over, the President said “there is no better course of action than
He went on to assure all those present, “including the good people of America and all citizens of the
Maldives, we will not do anything illegal, anything which is not prescribed by law.”
Alluding to the controversial tapes released today, he said voting in the Majlis was based on
corruption and bribery and not based on merit.
“When a cabinet resigns and accuses a whole institution,” things are gravely wrong, he said.
Nasheed added that he had been informed that MPs had been approached to sell their votes and telephone
conversations had come to light in a manner that “clearly implicates MPs in the act of buying and selling
President Nasheed said “this is not the kind of government, nor the kind of country we want to
Stressing the importance of dialogue and reaching agreement with those involved, President
Nasheed thanked the Speaker of the Majlis.
“The Speaker of the Majlis is an honest man. We may have issues but I would like to work with him,” Nasheed said, adding the way through the impasse now was to find amicable solutions.
He said Maldivians had not just elected him to be in the government, “but Maldivians have asked
us to implement democracy in Maldives.”
President Nasheed thanked the United States for “being a strong partner of the Maldives in
democracy – we have the same ideology and share the same beliefs.”
Afterwards Ambassodor Butenis and President Nasheed mingled with the invitees. The
Americans played perfect hosts, and along with the live music and delicious buffet, the first
Fourth of July celebrations in Maldives would have made even the Founding Fathers proud.