New US Ambassador Michele J Sison revealed of her plans to continue and enhance the "robust" bilateral cooperation that exists between the US and the Maldives.
Speaking during the press conference after presenting her credentials to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik yesterday morning, the Ambassador highlighted the areas in which she would focus on to direct US assistance to the Maldives.
“We would try and meet the aspirations of the Maldivian people particularly looking at ways we can support the hopes and dreams of youth, women and all across the broad base of society,” she detailed.
The US Ambassador expressed belief that the US has a useful role to play in the Maldives particularly in the areas of maritime security, economic and education sectors. On that note, she stressed that she would look for additional ways to partner with the Maldives to work together to combat the transnational challenges such as piracy and illicit narcotics trade.
She further labeled environmental protection as one area which is very dear to her heart and pledged to continue to look for ways to enhance the vital role of proper stewardship in the area. To that end, she highlighted the ongoing programs under the bilateral assistance arm USAID to combat the effects of climate change. The Ambassador pointed out the USD7.1 million ongoing sustainable water supply and waste management project in Haa Alif Atoll Dhihdhoo under USAID initiated last year.
“The initiative is meant to serve as a model not only for the other Atolls, but we hope that the climate resilient model will have use for some of the other island nations as well,” she added.
Ambassador Sison also expressed her intention to deepen the partnership in the field of education in the Maldives and revealed the imminent arrival of a distinguished US educator from the Dominican University of California under the full-bright program to work with the Education Ministry to help develop quality programs to respond to the needs of students, businesses and the community. The professor would also provide expertise in curriculum development and general professional development of local educators, she added.
She also wishes to expand and enrich the English language program currently ongoing in four sites of the Maldives which includes two in Male and one each in Addu and Kulhudhuhfushi.
“I hope to visit these centers very soon to interact with the students. English is a useful tool and hence we are looking to expand the English language training front,” she detailed
According to the seasoned diplomat, the US is also looking to step up activity in the economic and commercial front of the Maldives. On that note, she added that 13 US companies including agents and distributors are expected to arrive in the Maldives later this week for the hotel Asia exhibition.
“We are looking to expand commercial ties with the Maldives to bring businessmen and women together to help in job creation and facilitate access to new technologies and products,” Ambassador said.
She also said that the US Embassy would bring in trainers to work with the Police as an important professional exchange that highlights the importance of community policing and protection of human rights to guarantee a free, fair and a just society.
“We also partnering with civil society together with the Police force and the local community to launch a very innovative program called soccer diplomacy,” she said.
“The US Embassy is facilitating the Police and the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports working with NGOs to sponsor training and to develop mutual understanding, promote favorable relation with the youth and the Police by taking part in these local soccer matches.”
Ambassador Sison also highlighted the strong ongoing military to military relationship to provide training and professional exchanges to members of the Maldivian Defence Force, specialized maritime equipment and look to increase activities in that arena as well.
She further assured to maintain the US programming in the field of arts and culture in the Maldives and revealed that the national museum would be presented with a grant of USD20,000 from a fund at the Embassy for the conservation and preservation of the artifacts at the Maldives National Museum.
“My goal in the next few years to come is to look for additional possibilities to expand this cooperation and listen to what the community desires in terms of assistance, education, training and support. We are here to partner with you.”