Male, Nov 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today (Nov 12) had the unique distinction of being the first foreign head of government or state to address the 'People's Majlis', Maldives' Parliament, in its history of 78 years.
After his speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Singh was given a standing ovation by members of the 75-strong House. Majlis Speaker Abdullah Shahid welcomed the Prime Minister with generous words, saying he was a leader and statesman from a great parliamentary democracy.
He also said India had come to Maldives' help whenever it was in difficulties. Men MPs were generally wearing lounge suit while a sprinkling of women MPs were in their traditional full-length gown with a scarf tied to their plait.
Each MP had a computer in front of his seat. On his first visit to Maldives as the Prime Minister, Singh said it was an "unforgettable journey" to the country for him which he will cherish. "I am overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty and serenity" of this country, he said.
The Majlis Speaker said that his country has lot to learn from India, a leading economic giant and the largest democracy in the world. Singh acknowledged that it was a unique honour for him to address the Majlis.
"I am truly honoured by this gesture accorded to me and my country," he said. The Prime Minister also conveyed belated greetings to the people of Maldives on their Republic Day, which was celebrated yesterday. Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur and Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed's wife Laila Ali Abdullah were present at the Majlis during the address.