It has been a little over one and a half months since the brutal terrorist attacks which left over 250 people dead and plunged Sri Lanka into an utter chaos.
Today we are a nation desperately trying to move forward, leaving behind the scars and the fear of the bombs and the threats and trying to surge ahead. What we as a nation suffered on April 21 is beyond words. The lives we lost will never be forgotten while we all pray for the speedy recovery of those who were injured.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Infact our strategic location is such an advantage that we have the talent and capability of emerging as a powerful international hub and be in par with countries such as Dubai and Singapore.
When in 2009, Sri Lanka won the war and eliminated terrorism from our shores, the country began to make use of its strong location by attracting vital investments. Infact back then, under the strong leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his strong foreign policies, Sri Lanka began attracting the right investments from the globe and the region.
Sri Lanka’s elimination of terrorism back in 2009, was not only an advantage for us, but it also benefitted our neighboring countries, especially our immediate neighbor and true friend – the Maldives.
Sri Lanka’s safety and political stability had an indirect impact on the Maldives too as this area was considered safe and a vital hub for tourists to enter. Today many tourists transit in Maldives and Sri Lanka to visit each other’s countries as both our nations have flourishing tourism industries. Even in areas such as trade, both countries have benefitted due to peace in this area of the region.
While Sri Lanka suffered a huge blow on April 21, the impacts of these attacks had an outcome on the Maldives too. Firstly, this area of the region went on high alert due to the movement of the terrorists and there were threats of more attacks in regional countries. Then Sri Lanka’s main international airport too bore the brunt of the disaster by implementing strict security measures. Those who transitted in Sri Lanka to travel to the Maldives obviously thought otherwise and many cancellations were faced. This obviously had an impact on the Maldives tourism industry too.
Maldives has always been a true and valued partner to Sri Lanka. Following the April 21 attacks, it was only right that our politicians, whether it be in the government or the opposition, travels to its neighboring countries to assure them of the measures taken at home and assure them that Sri Lanka is a safe destination once again. Gaining back these countries’s trust was of utmost importance. As we all know, Sri Lanka has a huge Maldivian population right here at home, and urgent steps need to be taken to ensure their safety and also assure them that the major threats of terrorism have been eliminated from our shores.
If we do not build a strong people to people or leader to leader contact at this moment of time then how can we move forward in the international arena?
Keeping this in mind, I led a delegation to the Maldives earlier this week and briefed the Maldivian leadership of the steps taken in Sri Lanka to address the latest threat of terrorism. During my short visit, I held fruitful discussions with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and appreciated his valued knowledge on how countries in the region must unite to eliminate terrorism from Asia and the globe. I was also able to brief President Solih on the steps taken by our security forces since the terrorist attacks and how the country was slowly returning to normalcy.
I was also fortunate enought to hold fruitful discussions with former president and current Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed himself is an experienced politician who has always had a strong vision to maintain peace in the region as well as lead Maldives towards the path of prosperity. Nasheed has always maintained strong ties with the respective Sri Lankan governments and I enjoyed our shared concerns for the protection of marine life.
I also held discussions with former president and ‘father of the nation’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. His insights into our bilateral relations and the political situation in Sri Lanka was extremely helpful.
During my visit, I also held talks with Maldives’ young and dynamic Vice President Faisal Naseem and Minister of Defense, Mariya Didi. Their experience in how both countries could play a pivotal role in securing peace in the region was of immense knowledge, especially to young politicians such as me.
As I have always played a strong role in fighting for the rights of the youth and athletes, I also held successive discussions with Minister of Youth, Sports and Community, Ahmed Mahloof. Discussions were also held with Minister of Finance, Ibrahim Ameer and Minister of Economic Development, Fayyaz Ismail. Discussions were held on a range of issues especially on economic stability in both our countries.
Sri Lanka right now is batterd in severe political instability. The leadership and the government seem to be on two different paths and this crisis has costed us very heavily as a nation. The irresponsibility of all those in government at the moment is nothing but pathetic and while Sri Lanka has suffered for the past four years, with lies and red tape, our situation is now only worse.
This government will have to answer the people over the 250 lives lost and the compromise in national security. But right now people are fed up of the blame game and they need to see results.
Although we are in opposition, our work has begun to brief our regional partners. Our sectors need to re-grow again and our people need to re-start their earnings and businesses.
If we as politicians cannot serve our people when they need us the most then I call on each and every one of them representing the people in Parliament to pack up and go home. The government have failed us, but enough is enough. Our work has begun.