President promises Hithadhoo hospital construction

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has stated that the construction of a new 100-bed hospital in Hithadhoo, Addu City will be begin this year, according to local media Sun Online.

The announcement was made at a Progressive Party of Maldives event in Hithadhoo last night (March 18).

Sun Online quoted President Yameen as saying “Construction of a 100-bed hospital in Hithadhoo will also begin, God willing, within this year.” According to their report the new hospital will be funded by aid from a foreign government.

According to the report, President Yameen also highlighted a number of other construction projects underway, including a new operation theatre in Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.


Government will not seek to speed up Nasheed’s trial, says President Yameen

Read this article in Dhivehi

President Abdulla Yameen has said that the current government will not try to push the courts to speed up the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was charged for “unlawful arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’’.

Local media did report, however, that Yameen noted the opposition leader must be sentenced if there is rule of law in the country.

Speaking at a ceremony held to open the campaign office of the Progressive Party of Maldives’ Majlis candidate for the Maafannu-West constituency, Yameen noted that there were things the government could to expedite proceedings, but said that the government did not wish to enter the criminal justice procedure.

Yameen also said that international groups had no concerns over this issue or any other other issues such as the delay in appointment of a new prosecutor general (PG) – which has led to a backlog of over 500 cases.

A UN report on the independence of judges last year did make mention of the Nasheed case, noting that it was “difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another [Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years.”

In July 2012, Nasheed and Former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged with violating Article 81 of the penal code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.

If found guilty, Nasheed and Tholhath will face a jail sentence or banishment of three years or a fine of MVR3000 (US$193.5).

The case was first filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court before Nasheed’s legal team argued that it did not have jurisdiction to preside over the case, filing a procedural issue at the High Court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) appointed a three member panel consisting of judges Shujau Usman, Abdul Nasir Abdul Raheem, and Hussain Mazeed to hear Nasheed’s procedural issue.

Before the court reached a conclusion on the issue, however, the  JSC suspended Chief Judge in the High Court bench Ahmed Shareef before changing Judge Mazeed and Judge Usman to the Civil Court.

Since this time, no hearings of the case have been conducted or scheduled.

Abdulla Mohamed’s arrest

Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of the former president. He was detained by the military in January 2012 after the government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime.

The home minister at the time described the judge as “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

The chief judge was detained after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of the current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations that the administration was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

Prosecutor general (PG) at that time – the recently resigned Ahmed Muizz – joined the High Court and Supreme Court in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest, requesting that the judge be released.

The police are required to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, Muizz said, claiming that the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law. They could be charged with contempt of the courts.”

Muizz subsequently ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN with reform of the judiciary.

As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging that Nasheed’s orders to arrest the judge had been unlawful. A Commonwealth legal delegation had landed in the capital only days earlier.

Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, later saying he had been as forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. A Commonwealth led investigation would later rule the transfer to have been legal.

Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of February 7, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, however, after mounting international concern.


Broadcasting commission asks DhiTV to stop using upside down photo of EC chief

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has today asked private TV station DhiTV and its sister company, the radio station DhiFM Plus, to stop using upside down images of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement issued on the MBC website, the commission asked the TV channel and the radio station – a pioneer of ‘visual radio’ in the Maldives – not to broadcast that content until the commission had concluded its investigation into the case.

MBC said that a letter had been sent today by commission President Mohamed Shaheeb advising the two stations not to broadcast anything in a way that it might encourage unrest, and to keep in mind that the parliament elections are ahead.

The Supreme Court has today launched a surprise trial against Thowfeek and his EC colleagues, using ‘sumoto’ proceedings to both initiate and preside over contempt of court hearings.

The president of MBC also advised the two stations to be aware of the code of practice established under the Broadcasting Act’s article 37.

MBC gave similar advise to the two stations in November after they again showed photos of three members of the Elections Commission – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – upside down with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

Following the incident, MBC sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that complaints regarding the disrespectful use of photos had let to it taking action against media outlets for violating the broadcasting code.

CEO of DhiFM Masood Hilmy told newspaper Haveeru that the photo of the EC president was displayed after the Supreme Court had sent summons to the EC, but it had been removed upon MBC’s request.

Last month, MBC ordered both the Maldivian Democratic Party-aligned Raajje TV and the Jumhooree Party-aligned VTV to issue apologies for the content broadcast during the prolonged presidential election period.

While Raajje TV was found to have aired content defamatory to the Supreme Court, VTV was asked to issue an apology for material defaming the MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, MP Rozaina Adam, and EC President Thowfeek.


British High Commissioner calls on President Yameen

The British High Commissioner John Rankin has paid a courtesy call on President Abdulla Yameen on Monday morning, where discussions were held on how to strengthen relations between the two countries.

President Yameen emphasised his administration’s focus on economic development and briefed the High Commissioner on prospective investment projects in the Maldives.

He also stated there is a crucial need to “impress upon the EU the pertinence of extending GSP Plus facilities to the Maldives for a further period, to ensure the country’s fishery exports could remain competitive in European markets”, according to statement on the President’s Office website.

It further revealed that the High Commissioner had inquired about possible areas in which Britain could assist the Maldives’ development efforts in the future, while highlighting the recent collaborative efforts between the countries.

Discussions were also held at the meeting about the current political atmosphere in the Maldives and the importance of maintaining a peaceful community.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director Farzana Zahir were also present at the meeting.


“Nothing precedes ties with India” although ties with China also “very close”: President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has stated that while the Maldives has “close ties” with China, “nothing will precede ties with India, which are far more precious”.

Yameen told Indian media during his recent official trip to the country, that he had assured its leaders that the bond between the two neighbouring countries is “heartfelt” and “based on sentiments”.

“India’s primary concern has been security in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean and our views on the issues are exactly similar to India’s views. So it was not a difficult proposition at all.”

“We have agreed and we have exchanged views on areas of concern such as security, fighting against terrorism and fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean. So we are largely to gain from these matters that are a concern to India while we share the Indian sentiments and we have totally endorsed them,” he continued.

“While we have had a slight rough patch with India, the time of good relations far outweigh the rough patches we had. I suppose it is easy for us to be on the right track again,” Yameen said, referring to the issues between the countries following the cancellation of the airport development contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

“My trip here is the testimony to that fact. This is my first visit after I assumed office and India has been a gracious host to me. The Prime Minister of India has been very generous and kind. The talks were absolutely satisfying,” Yameen opined about the outcome of the visit.

The two countries agreed on numerous plans to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation, to increase and protect businesses and investments, as well as assistance in multiple development projects.

However, Yameen dismissed questions regarding rising religious radicalism in the Maldives, stating that “there is nothing to worry about at this time”.

“There are people with different thoughts. Very orthodox views. But that has not escalated into an issue of concern. It has not been a source of concern. But yes, India and Maldives, we have both agreed on our position against terrorism, on piracy in the Indian Ocean,” he continued.

“Islamic sentiments are a thing that people hold privately. I would not like to categorize that. This is however not an issue to worry about at this point in time,” he said.

As recently as May 2013, however, both the Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam and then Attorney General Aishath Bisham warned of increased risks of terror attacks and of Maldivian youth enrolling in terror training camps.

In the same month, Reporters Without Borders labelled Maldives’ extremist groups as “predators of press freedom”.

Development project agreements

India and the Maldives have agreed to begin implementation of an agreement on cooperation in development projects signed in 2011 titled the “Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development”.

The Agreement, signed during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, mandates the establishment of a joint commission to oversee projects implemented under the programme, and a minimum of one annual meeting of the said commission.

A joint statement released by the two governments announced that the commission’s inaugural meeting will be held in 2014.

President Yameen stated on Monday that the ties between Maldives and India has been at their closest in the past 50 years during the time when his half brother and leader of ruling Party Progressive Party of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was in power.

Yameen stated that the close ties are a direct result of Gayoom’s foreign policy, and the maintenance of mutual respect between the two countries since that time. He asserted that the current government will be re-implementing the foreign policy that Gayoom had made during his administration.

He stated that dignitaries from among India’s leadership had stated the same during the meetings held in his official visit.

Following Yameen’s return to the country on January 4, Gayoom made an official visit to the President’s Office on Monday to assure the government of unwavering cooperation and assistance from the ruling party.


Religion and nationalism key themes on National Day

The government held an event inaugurated by Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed at the Republican Square on Wednesday night to mark the Maldives’ 440th National Day.

The day is marked to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence from the Portugese invasion.

Members of the cabinet, foreign dignitaries, members of independent commissions as well as the security forces attended the event.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who is currently in India on his first official trip abroad after assuming office in November 2013 – also gave a pre-recorded national address via the state broadcaster on the occasion.

In his address, the President stated no individual must be allowed the opportunity to take away the nation’s peace for political purposes or to gain personal benefit.

While it is important to view every citizen as a stakeholder in matters of the country, people should not be given the chance to challenge nationalism or conduct any activity that may threaten independence and sovereignty in the guise of freedom of expression or through differences in political opinions, Yameen continued.

“We must instill the spirit of nationalism in the younger generations who will inherit this country in future. The moral we must take away from National Day is for those in power and leading the country, citizens and all responsible leaders to raise national and community interest over personal interest as we work to overcome challenges. This is the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu [Maldivian ruler who saved the country from the Portuguese conqueres who ruled the country from 1558 to 1573]. This is the true meaning of his jihad in national interest back on that day,” Yameen stated.

“We must repeat the work our ancestors conducted in rain and shine. The reason we are to take breaths of independence today is due to the glorious jihad and sacrifices they made then for the sake of gaining independence. The country will not be able to take breaths of independence tomorrow unless we succeed in doing major work to overcome economic slavery and establish economic contentment,” he continued.

He pledged to fulfil his term serving all citizens equally and justly.

“I will make this government into one that is kind to its people, and loved by the people. I will bring swift changes as is desired by people and take the Maldives into a new era of development. My team and I will not be deterred in our work regardless of how rough the political seas we must cross become,” he concluded his address.

National Pride

“The spirit of nationalism can be maintained in its purest form only when social justice is established in the country,” Vice President Jameel said, speaking at Wednesday’s event.

The current government would work following the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu, Jameel said and called on citizens to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.

“True nationalism can only be experienced with the improvement of living standards, and the country develops its health and education sectors,” he said.

“The nation must today be covetous of its national pride, of increasing self-sufficience, and should not let go of the national character. Today, if one has love for nationalism, one will not damage the country’s social fabric. One will not give away the country’s economic power into the hands of a foreign party. They will not sell off the national identity to a foreign group with no consideration towards national pride just for political gain. They will not let things go to the point where the country is stripped of the right to speak up about its own internal matters,” Jameel continued.

He appealed to the public to ensure that no one allows any other person to “damage the brotherly bonds between us in the name of establishing democracy, or in things that arise from differences in opinion, or any other cause”.

He then said that the day emphasizes the bridge between nationalism and islam in the country, adding that thus what must be given highest priority is the strengthening religious faith.

“Psychological war against religion, nationalism”

Home Minister Umar Naseer warned in his speech at the same event that there is an “ongoing psychological war aiming to lead astray our faith in Islam, and break up our ties of nationalism, a war that is escalating at a very fast speed”.

He stated that while this is a global danger, the Maldives is not far removed from being in its “line of fire”. Stating that the currently is already being affected by it, he appealed to all Maldivians to refrain from joining the “war” against the nation.

“For a Maldivian son to become a slave of this psychological war is like a cancer cell forming in the body of this nation. It is a huge danger,” he stated.

“It is important to become more independent in the country’s development work, and to give up depending on foreign labourers. There is no reason that the sons of fathers who scraped moss off the underside of fishing boats have to depend on a foreigner just to dust off their motorcycles,” the Home Minister said.

“Ours is a blessed land. It is a land that breeds heroes. Every time a foreign power has tried to meddle with our independence or our Islamic faith, Maldivian soil has brought out heroes that will cause the whole world to step back from,” Umar stated.

Irreligious acts are common today: Adhaalath Party

Religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also released a statement today, extending greetings on the occasion.

The statement spoke of the heroic events of Mohamed Thakurufaanu who had “slain the Portugese commander who had tried to force alcohol down the throats of pious Maldivians”, and then proceeded to compare heroes of the past with present day Maldives.

“The biggest difference is the mentality of Maldivians then and the mentality of Maldivians today. Then, when attempts were made to force alcohol down their throats, they resisted. Yet today, alcohol and narcotics is an epidemic which is alarmingly common among Maldivians,” it read.

“Then the Portuguese tried to force other religions unto Maldivians. Yet today, irreligious acts against Islamic norms are abundantly observed among Maldivians. This is not something the government can deal with by making it the mandate of a specific ministry, but a goal that all institutes must unite to reach.”


Police and MNDF on recruitment drive

The Maldives Police Services has issued an advert today seeking 50 new police officers.

Meanwhile, the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) has said it has received 470 applications for 45 newly opened jobs.

The recruitment drive for security officers comes amidst criticism over high defense spending.

The proposed state budget for 2014 allocates MVR 876.7 million (US$ 57 million) for the defense sector – 5.3 percent of the MVR 17.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) budget.

Meanwhile, the World Bank in a report published in November said the Maldives’ already excessive wage bill had ballooned in 2013 due to salary increases for the police and military, as well as the Supreme Court ordered back payment of civil service wage cuts.

The Maldives is spending beyond its means, the World Bank has said.

According to the MNDF, 45 recruits will be chosen based on a process involving aptitude, fitness, medical tests and a final interview.

The current recruitment drive is expected to staff Marine Corps, Special Forces, Fire and Rescue Service, Special Protection Group, Military Police, Medical Service, Corps of Engineers, Service Corps and Coast Guard. The minimum requirements for recruits include being of 18-28 years of age and completing tenth grade with at least four passes.

MPS is seeking 25 female and 25 male officers for the police constable rank.

The former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan and current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have both courted the security forces, offering increased pay and benefits to the military and police.

Mutinous elements of the police and military precipitated the resignation of the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

A special housing program for military personnel was announced during Dr Waheed’s administration after retired colonel Mohamed Nazim was appointed as Defence Minister.

Nazim, whom the opposition MDP accuse of playing a lead role in bringing down President Nasheed’s government in a ‘military coup’, was reappointed as defence minister by President Yameen.

Earlier this year 50 Hulhumalé flats were awarded to MNDF officials, and foundations were for another 300 were laid.

During his presidential campaign, President Yameen pledged to retain this program and to further improve the military by providing resources and amending laws to empower the institution.

Yameen also pledged to provide accommodation for families of soldiers posted outside their residential islands. Some of these have been included in his first 100 days road map.

Following his re-appointment under Yameen, Defence Minister Nazim announced 72 new flats will be built for the MNDF in Male’, and said he intends to establish a TV Channel and a day-care center for children of military officials. Facilities at the ‘Senahiya’ military hospital are to be improved and the hospital is to be opened up for public.

Nazim has also said the military intends to establish a welfare system that does not rely on the state budget.

The MNDF cooperative society SIFCO has registered a joint venture “Sifainge Welfare Kunfuni (SIWEC)” with the government to fund military welfare services. SIFCO owns 90 percent of the company.

SIWEC has already invested in the tourism industry and has started development of “Uthuru Thilafushi” for military use and has expressed an interest in real estate in the future

In his recent trip to India, Nazim sought India’s help in strengthening the Maldives military, obtaining a helicopter. India has also pledged to provide a landing craft.


International community welcomes end of democratic uncertainty, notes high voter turnout

The international community has welcomed the conclusion of the Maldivian electoral process, after two months and six attempts at polls that suffered delays, annulments and obstruction.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen was sworn in as President yesterday, after a last-minute coalition with resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim netted him 51.39 percent in Saturday’s run-off vote against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) recalled its earlier decision to place the Maldives on its agenda due to concerns about democratic progress in the country.

“Ministers welcomed the successful conclusion of the presidential election and noted the interim statement of the Commonwealth Observer Group, which stated that the election had been “credible and peaceful”. They congratulated the people of Maldives for showing their firm commitment to democracy, and for exercising their franchise in record numbers,” read a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also observed in a statement that people in the Maldives “turned out to vote in impressive numbers, showing their determination to choose their next president, despite the many obstacles and delays.”

“The close contest highlights the need for the new administration to engage the opposition in a constructive manner and to lead the country in the interest of all Maldivians,” the UN statement read.

“The Secretary-General strongly urges all political leaders, state institutions and the Maldivian people to work urgently toward genuine reconciliation and to advance the country’s democratic process through long-term institutional reforms, in particular strengthening the judiciary and accountability mechanisms, and promoting a national dialogue.”

The UK’s State Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, said he “congratulates the people of the Maldives for showing their commitment to democracy, as evidenced by the very high turnout in the presidential election.”

“I urge the new government and the opposition to work together constructively in the interests of all Maldivians and to avoid any acts of recrimination or retribution,” said Swire, who is currently visiting the Maldives,

“It is important that the forthcoming local and parliamentary elections go ahead in line with work of the Elections Commission and are not subject to the delay and legal interventions that marred the presidential elections. The UK looks forward to working with the new government,” he added.

The US Embassy in Colombo congratulated Yameen on his election as president, noting that “extraordinarily high turnout on November 16 was a tribute to the Maldivian people’s commitment to the democratic process and democratic values. The United States Government reiterates its friendship with the Maldivian people as they work to build a peaceful and prosperous future.”

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird declared: “After a turbulent period in the Maldives’ young democracy, a new government has finally been elected. Canada congratulates the people of the Maldives for once again exercising their fundamental democratic right to vote in a peaceful manner, under the capable stewardship of the Elections Commission.”

“Confidence in the democratic process has been seriously undermined since the events of last year, particularly by the Supreme Court’s repeated delays to this election,” Baird noted.

“After such a close result, it is now incumbent upon President Abdulla Yameen to begin the process of reconciliation and govern for the whole country. Former President Mohamed Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected President, has shown magnanimity in defeat, and hopes for the future will be raised if all parties come together to establish positive working relations,” he stated.

“Democracy is not just about the counting of ballot papers – it is about principled voting, a strong civil society, a trusted judiciary, free media, effective opposition and responsible governance. It is a journey, not a destination. Canada and the international community will remain watchful for progress in this journey.”


Yameen inaugurated as President

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Abdulla Yameen has been inaugurated the sixth President of the Maldives at a People’s Majlis Sitting today, bringing to a close months of political uncertainty over delayed, annulled and obstructed presidential polls.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz administered the presidential oath in the presence of People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid during a red carpet ceremony held at 1:00 pm at Dharubaaruge.

After Yameen took the oath of office, the army fired a 21-gun salute. The ceremony was attended by Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed who sat side by side, Members of Parliament, judges, high ranking police and military officers, foreign ambassadors and state dignitaries.

Addressing the nation, Yameen said the Maldives was in an economically vulnerable position due to sky high debt, extremely high budget spending and pledged to reduce state expenditure.

“Today the Maldives is in a deep economic pit, in an economically vulnerable position. State debt is sky high. The state budget’s expenses are extremely high. Hence, we have to prioritize reducing state expenditure. I will start work very soon to reduce state budget expenditure,” he said.

He vowed to increase revenue for fishermen and farmers, expand job opportunities for youth, improve social protection mechanisms, eradicate drug abuse, provide the opportunity for women to work from home, increase the role of youth and women in the public sector, and strengthen the education system with a particular emphasis on good behavior and respect for Islam.

Claiming his government will be “one of results,” Yameen said he would protect the country’s assets including the airport – the “the main economic door of the country.”

Yameen’s administration will “uphold Maldives’ honor with international organizations,” strengthen relationships with neighboring countries and Arab Muslim countries, he said.

He appealed to the People’s Majlis, state institutions, NGOs and industrial workers to help him realize his vision for the Maldives.

“I take over the presidency of the Maldives today with a vision of tomorrow and new dreams, heralding new thoughts, giving new hopes to the people,” he added.

Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, narrowly won yesterday’s run-off vote against President Mohamed Nasheed with 51.39 percent of the vote.

Yameen received 29.72 percent (61,278 votes) in the first round on November 9, compared to Nasheed’s 46.93 percent of votes (96,764).

However by refusing to sign the voter lists for the run-off scheduled for November 10 – a position backed by a Supreme Court ruling hours before polls opened – he gained time necessary to convince third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim to support him.

The resort tycoon initially remained neutral, briefly flirted with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but finally on Wednesday urged his 48,131 first round supporters to back the PPM, awarding Yameen a narrow coalition victory over the MDP.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round – suggesting the coalition was also successful in persuading many recalcitrant voters to head to the polls.

Following his win, Yameen said he would draw half the Presidential salary and would prefer to live in his own home in Male, security permitting.

“God willing, just the way I have promised, I will not say no to the pledges I made. So my salary will start, just as I’ve said, from half the salary,” Yameen declared.

He speculated that it would take two years to return the country to a surplus.

Regarding his pledge to reduce the number of political appointees, he noted that “we still plan to reduce political posts. But along with that, when we have so many parties with us, we will try to do whatever we can to make sure they participate. But even with that, our main plan has not changed,” he said.

The Indian government extended “hearty congratulations” to President Yameen “and the people of Maldives for the successful conclusion of the Presidential elections process in a peaceful manner.”

“The high voter turn-out in every round of Presidential elections is indicative of the strong desire and determination of the people of Maldives to participate wholeheartedly in the process of choosing their President,” read a statement.

“We welcome the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives by all sides and commitment expressed to take the country forward on the path of stability, progress and development.”