Ambassador Atul Keshap’s Remarks for Maldives American Corner Reopening

I’ve had a very productive set of meetings today.  I met with His Excellency, the President, and also the Foreign and Defense and Economy Ministers.  It’s a real pleasure and a delight to be back in Male and to see so many friends from around Maldivian society.

I had the privilege of visiting Addu yesterday for my first visit down there.  I learned a lot about how big the Maldives is and how many many islands there are, and it was really a voyage of delight and discovery for me to see a little bit more of Maldives than Malé.

It’s an immense pleasure for me and all of the people, women and men from the American Embassy who are here today to be here at this American Center, which is very much a symbol of the continuing commitment of the American people towards the people of Maldives.  So if you will permit me now, from the bottom of my heart I want to say on behalf of all of the people, the women and the men of the American Embassy in Colombo, all of whom follow Maldives so very closely, I want to say Assalaam alakium and Ramadan Mubarik.  It’s great to see all of you, and I wish all of you and all Maldivians a very happy, peaceful, and joyful time, full of spiritual rejuvenation and reflection.  It’s a great honor for me to be here again in the Maldives during the holy month of Ramadan.

Lades and gentlemen, the United States and the government of Maldives have worked together since 2004 to manage the American Center here in Malé.  The Center is one of a network of over 700 such spaces around the world.  Through these centers we provide employment and leadership skills for young people.  We also promote English language learning.  We encourage study in the United States of America.  We showcase American culture and American values, and we foster goodwill and mutual understanding.

We have worked very closely with the government of Maldives and have partnered over the past four years to move to this new location.  We’re excited to work with the National Library and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to expand this partnership, as we share the same vision for the success and democratic citizenship of the next generation of Maldivians.

We are so excited today to publicly launch the new American Center here in Malé, with its modern design, computer work stations, iPads, books, DVDs, and perhaps most importantly, an open space for communities to meet, discuss and implement ideas related to democracy, tolerance, freedom of expression, and human rights.

The United States government has invested heavily in construction and equipment, and the government of Maldives has also generously provided the space as well as the staff to manage construction and programs.  Through this Center, we will conduct outreach programs across the atolls to strengthen our people to people connections with Maldives and increase understanding, collaboration, friendship, and partnership.  This Center, ladies and gentlemen, serves as an important platform to significantly strengthen our partnership with the government of Maldives and with civil society and with ordinary people.

I know that you all saw the June 7 statement by 30 countries including the United States expressing our concerns about events in Maldives and calling for positive changes.  As your partners and your friends, I want to assure you that we remain engaged in Maldives because the American people and the American government believe in a vision of a Maldives that is peaceful, prosperous, moderate, democratic, and stable.  A Maldives that can serve as a pillar of stability, democracy, and prosperity all across the entire Indian Ocean region.

Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely want to thank Ms. Mahasin Ahmed Didi, the Director General of the National Library of Maldives, for working daily with the U.S. Embassy over the past two years in order to move forward on this construction project.  We appreciate all of the support that has been provided to us not only on construction, but the implementation of American Center of Male programs since 2004.

Special thanks also go to the Assistant Director General of the National Library of Maldives, Ms. Shafeea Shakir, for her efforts in assuring the project went very smoothly.

I also want to thank Ahmed Ibrahim, head of the Department of Sports and the Ministry of Youth and Sports; and Mr. Ali Shameen, Director General of Maldives National Institute for Sports for closely partnering on programs including the Sports Diplomacy Skateboarding Program, sports programs for women, and upcoming soccer programs for the Visually Impaired Society of Maldives.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of all of us, the women and men of the American Embassy team in Colombo and Male, let me conclude these brief remarks by acknowledging all of you for your efforts in coming here to help us join in the relaunch of the American Corner at its new location, and all of your help in joining all of our programs throughout the entire year.

We believe that working together, we can shape a positive future.  We believe that your ideas, your passion, your talent, your engagement, can build a wider world.

Thank you all so much for coming.  I’m deeply honored to see all of you.  Thank you again.