Prime Minister to address Maldives parliament

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Maldivian lawmakers voted unanimously on Tuesday night to invite Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to address parliament during his official visit to the Maldives next week.

During a brief debate on the matter, MPs from all political parties backed the invitation and stressed the historically close ties with the South Asian neighbour.

Wickremesinghe is due to arrive in Malé on September 2 for an official visit on the invitation of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. He will be accompanied by a delegation of high-level officials including cabinet ministers, according to the Maldives president’s office.

“During the visit the two leaders will review the existing bilateral ties between the two countries and explore new areas for cooperation, including global matters of mutual importance,” the president’s office said on Tuesday.

The Sri Lankan prime minister will also be chairing the two-day Indian Ocean Conference 2019 scheduled to begin at the Paradise Island Resort near the capital Malé on September 3. The conference is organised by the India Foundation in association with the Maldives government and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Singapore.

President Solih visited Sri Lanka in February to attend the country’s 71st Independence Day celebrations as the guest of honour. During the state visit, Solih led bilateral talks with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, and invited Sri Lankan businesses to invest in the Maldives.

“Sri Lanka is not just a neighbour; it is a country with whom we share deep similarities – language, customs, and even in our cuisine. Sri Lanka has always welcomed Maldivians,” Solih said at a meeting with Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.

“This is why Sri Lanka so often feels like home and we visit each other so often.”

The Maldivian president and first lady also met the Maldivian community residing in Sri Lanka. About 15,000 Maldivians are estimated to live in the country, predominantly in the capital Colombo.