President returns from Malaysia

Last Friday President Mohamed Nasheed returned from his official visit to Malaysia for the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum.

Before his return, the president visited the Maldives High Commission in Malaysia. He urged the staff to set an example for Maldivians living in Malaysia, and to participate in Malaysian cultural events.

President Nasheed also met with a delegation of Malay business people, where he spoke of the importance of broadening economic relations between the two countries.

He said Maldives is now open for business, and invited them to invest in the country. Senior officials from State Trading Organisation (STO) and Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) were present at the meeting.

The president also met with a group of Maldivian students in Malaysia. He advised them to pursue their higher education and asked if they were having any “difficulties that needed attention.”


“Islam and commerce are synonymous”: President Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed addressed the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, outlining the links between Islam and trade and expressing hope that the forum, and commerce between Muslim countries, will grow in the future.

The forum, which was held from 18-20 of May, was a platform for governments of Muslim and non-Muslim nations, and business leaders, to meet and discuss trade and economic issues.

This year’s theme, Gearing for Economic Resurgence, focused on the role of Islamic banking and financing, and how it can play a role in building a more stable global finance system.

Speaking at the forum, President Nasheed said he believed it was “appropriate that modern day Muslim nations meet to trade and invest with one another.”

He added it was important to “forge ties with nations of other faiths, just as Muslims have done over thousands of years.”

Nasheed noted that “it was through trade and commerce that Islam was introduced to many parts of the world.”

The spice trade brought Islam to Central and South East Asia, China, and Sub-Saharan Africa, he continued, and it was trade that brought Islam to the “then Buddhist Maldives.”

Arab merchants were attracted to the Maldives in the 12th century when they found out about the “abundant supply of Cowry shells…[which] were used at the time as an international currency. “

Because of the islands’ geographic location, said Nasheed, many merchants also stopped in the Maldives during their travels from the Spice Islands to the Middle East, and waited for the monsoon.

President Nasheed noted that the famous 14th century explorer, Ibn Battuta, also came to the Maldives during his travels and was “impressed by combs made from turtle shell, as well as rope and fibres, which were exported abroad.”

Nasheed reiterated that Islam and trade have always been closely tied, as “in the past, trade brought Islam, and Islam brought greater trade. To my mind, Islam and commerce are synonymous.”

Moreover, he said, “Muslim people have a strong culture of commerce” and the Qur’an was “explicit about correct terms of trade and commerce.”

President Nasheed said although “some people belittle Muslims and Islam—they like to portray Muslims as backward and impoverished people,” he believes “the signs of growing Muslim prosperity are everywhere: from the glittering desert cities of the Arabian peninsula, to the vibrant export economies of Malaysia and Indonesia.”

He added that, “as Muslims, we can be confident in trading and investing with one another.”

Open economy

Although the Maldives’ economy was once “relatively closed”, the president told the delegates, the current administration had “introduced a radical programme of privatisation and public-private partnerships.”

“We believe that the free market is the most efficient and effective mechanism to deliver goods and services,” he said. “We are offering investment opportunities across the board: from housing to hotels; from energy to education.”

The president said historically Maldives “exported cowry shells and provided respite for sailors. Today, the mainstays of our export-oriented economy are tuna and tourism.”

He added that Maldivian tuna is “caught sustainably” by pole and line, making it “some of the best tuna available on the market.”

A ruling made in March by the Cabinet has now allowed long-line fishing for Maldivian vessels, which is more harmful to the environment. Although the government has defended its decision, there are still concerns from the fisheries industry and environmentalists that long-lining will adversely affect the industry and the environment in the Maldives.

President Nasheed ended his address by saying Maldivians and other Muslims have “always been entrepreneurial people” and the “dynamism and creativity of the Muslim peoples” should be harnessed and built upon.


Kosovo thanks Maldives for recognising its independence

President Mohamed Nasheed met Kosovan President Dr Fatmir Sejdui yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, as part of his official visit to Malaysia for the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum.

Dr Sejdui thanked the government of the Maldives for being one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Maldives extended full diplomatic recognition to the Republic of Kosovo in February 2009.

The country declared its independence in February 2008.

The two presidents also discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations, particularly in the areas of trade and culture.


President Nasheed meets leaders in Malaysia

As part of his official visit to Malaysia for the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum, President Mohamed Nasheed met with leaders of the Islamic world.

The president met with the Chairman of the Forum’s Foundation, Tun Musa Hitam, yesterday.

President Nasheed spoke about expanding the forum, and assured Maldives’ assistance in doing so.

He thanked Hitam for his work as Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, which he began in 2005 and assisted in the democratic developments of the country.

President Nasheed then met with the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah.

The president thanked Brunei’s government for its support and assistance to the Maldives, especially in education.

Sultan Hassanal assured Brunei’s continued assistance to the Maldives and hoped to enhance bilateral relations.

President Nasheed also met with Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dató Sri Mohamed Nahjib bin Tun Abdul Razak.

They discussed ways of furthering bilateral relations and the close friendship and cooperation the two countries have shared.


President departs for Malaysia

President Mohamed Nasheed departed for Malaysia last night to attend the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum, being held in Kuala Lumpur from 18-20 May.

The forum is expected to attract 2000 participants this year, and will serve as a platform for governments and businesses to meet and discuss trade and economic issues.

The president will address the forum on the issue of climate change at a special plenary session.

He will also meet the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other leaders of Islamic countries.