Gary Streeter, Member of the UK Parliament for the Conservative Party, told over a thousand people in Thinadhoo, Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, last night that their country, â€œisnâ€™t paradise because you do not have the government that you deserve and you do not have the freedom and the democracy that you deserve.â€
He spoke as part of a five day-visit to the Maldives to explore the possibility of further cooperation between his party and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). â€œWe are here from the British Conservative party not to tell you how to run your countryâ€¦your form of democracy must be your own and it must suit you, your country and your culture.
â€œWe are here to lend a good, old-fashioned British helping hand,â€ he said.
Streeter, who is Chairman of the Conservativesâ€™ International Group, told the party faithful that their work was: â€œnot just about electing the MDP to government. It is about electing the MDP to government for a purpose, and that purpose has to be to make your country better.â€
He told the party: â€œIt is now time to move onto the next levelâ€¦we want to help you with training and know-how and expertise.â€
â€œYour duty is to prepare and get yourselves ready so that when those elections are called it will be the MDP that will take its message to the people and will triumph,â€ he said.
He also discussed the importance of democracy, saying: â€œIt isnâ€™t something that comes from the west. It isnâ€™t something that comes from Christianity. It is a system of government that has been thrashed out it many parts of the world, over many generations, by many countries.â€
â€œWith democracy comes those essential building blocks that we need to build a prosperous and stable country. With democracy comes freedom of speech. With democracy comes the rule of law so that nobody is above the law and that the cases are settled by independent judges. Democracy brings with it a strong civil society, organisation and charities which are the lifeblood and strength of any community,â€ he said.
â€œDemocracy brings with it a respect for human rights so that you do not fear a knock on the door and two in the morning, so the police do not come after you with their truncheons, just because you simply choose to demonstrate in a peaceful manner,â€ he added.
He urged the MDP to continue its work, promising: â€œEven better than electing a government of your choosing is getting rid of a government that you donâ€™t want any more. And that is the best thing about democracy.â€
Echoing the words of the British High Commissioner, Dominick Chilcott, he said it will take time: â€œItâ€™s taken the British people 800 years of grappling with our own democracy and we still have not arrived at our final destination â€“ it is still not perfect.â€
But he also praised the MDP on the â€œremarkableâ€ achievements they have made: â€œI want to congratulate the MDP for the great progress and advancement it has made in a very short space of time.â€
He ended the speech on a positive note saying: â€œI believe it will be your experience in the near future is that you will have the reforms you want and you will have the elections you want.â€
Founder of the MDP, Mohamed Latheef, also spoke at the regional council meeting. It was his first speech in the country since returning from three years of voluntary the day before.
Speaking to people from his native island he said: â€œA very old gentleman from this island came from me and said, â€˜look, I have only one request from you son and it is: I never asked my islandâ€™s name to be changed. He – the president – does not have the right to change the name of our island without our permissionâ€™. And he said, â€˜all I ask is for you to give me back my name and my island.â€
Responding to Streeterâ€™s observation that the British and Maldivians have a long history of cooperation, Latheef said: â€œI think when the Maldives republic failed the British didnâ€™t do much to help us but I am very glad that you are making amends. I am very glad that we have so much support from the Conservative Party and other people in the Labour party.â€
Latheef went on to promise that the MDP will try to establish rule of law and will not seek revenge if it is elected to government. Instead, he promised a â€œprocess of conciliationâ€.
â€œTogether we shall overcome and we shall prevail,â€ he promised the people of Thinadhoo.