Mr. President,

Allow me, at the very outset, to congratulate Mr. Arenales on his election as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations at its twenty-third session. While wishing him a speedy recovery from his illness, my delegation is fully confident that under his wise and able guidance our deliberations will be conducted in an atmosphere of understanding, and that with the sincere co-operation of representatives here they will be brought to a successful conclusion. I wish also to convey the gratitude and respects of the Maldivian delegation to His Excellency Foreign Minister Manescu of Romania, who conducted the proceedings of the twenty-second session so tactfully.

I should like here to take this opportunity to record our deep appreciation of the untiring efforts of the Secretary-General, who leaves no stone unturned in finding methods to solve the many problems that confront this body and the world as a whole.

Permit me also to offer our felicitations to the Vice-Presidents, who have an unenviable task before them.

We are happy to welcome Swaziland as the 125th member of this Organization and to count Equatorial Guinea amongst the independent countries of the world.

I am fully conscious of the fact that I speak here on behalf of the smallest member of this Organization. However, the Maldivian Government and people are no less anxious that the greater nations to add their contribution, however small it may be, to that of the rest of the world towards the cause of world peace and the settlement of vital problems.

As we gather in assembly here, we are all sadly aware of the struggles going on in different parts of the world - struggles in which man is confronted by his fellow-beings with weapons of destruction; struggles in which human blood is flowing freely; struggles caused by generations of enmity and mistrust. This has been, and continues to be, a situation which constitutes a threat to world peace, international harmony and the very survival of mankind.

One of the most explosive issues confronting us exists in the Middle East. The Maldivian Government is deeply concerned at the gravity of the situation, which remains virulent. It should not be permitted to worsen any further. The Maldive Islands, therefore, welcomed the unanimous decision taken by the Security Council on 22 November 1967 {resolution 242 (1967)}. We support that resolution in all its parts and consider it a very sound basis for a lasting peace in the Middle East. We were fully aware of the difficult task that lay ahead of Ambassador Jarring, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, when he accepted this most challenging assignment. We are deeply appreciative of his efforts to bring peace to the region. We admire his patience and tactful handling of the issue. However difficult the task may be, we believe that a lasting peace can and should be achieved in the Middle East, based on justice, with due consideration being given to the root factors underlying the entire problem. We appeal to all the countries involved to co-operate with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the creation of conditions leading to a permanent peace in the area. We should like to remind you that this is the best method of solving the issue, and the any action which conflicts with the spirit and the principles of the Security Council resolution 242 (1967) would only jeopardize the chances of an early settlement.

We welcome the preliminary peace talks now being held in Paris on the Vietnam War. However, it is most regrettable that the passing of each day brings more deaths and a greater flow of human blood in that country. This was is a tragic reminder to us all of the evil forces which attempt to wreck international peace and harmony. It is our view that peace can be achieved only by peaceful means.

Although the lack of progress in the Paris talks has caused considerable concern, we are hopeful that they will lead to an acceptable cease-fire. Nevertheless, we are convinced that a final settlement of the issue can be reached only through the noble process of self-determination by the Vietnamese themselves. The people of North and South Vietnam should, after a cease-fire, be allowed to decide on their future. That decision must be made according to the free will of the Vietnamese, free of any force or pressure from any foreign country. It could be supervised by a United Nations commission or by a special representative of the Secretary-General.

Just as the people of the Vietnam has a right to self-determination, so does the people of Czechoslovakia to chart the course of its destiny. These are basic rights which cannot be denied to anyone, be it in Asia or in Europe. Indeed, no country has the right to determine what is good for another. Nor should a people be subjected to unpopular minority rule, suppressing its basic freedoms. I refer to the peoples of Namibia, Southern Rhodesia and the African Territories under Portuguese administration. We, the members of this Organization who have dedicated ourselves “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights.... to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest”, should make a collective and concrete effort to practise these very noble principles and bring about conditions in which these issues can be solved in conformity with the free will of the peoples of the respective countries.

I now come to another question which has evaded an acceptable solution in this Assembly for many years: the representation of China in the United Nations. The Maldivian Government cannot support any move to expel the Republic of China, which is a founding member of this Organization. However, if the People’s Republic of China desires membership of this Organization, and this body aiming at its goal of achieving universality wishes to include the 700 million people of the People’s Republic of China, it is time for this Assembly to strive genuinely to find an acceptable and practical solution to this most important question.

This year has been declared the International Year for Human Rights. While we continue to discuss human rights and adopt numerous resolutions to end racial discrimination, we are gravely concerned that a highly deplorable practice is being followed even today. I refer to the policy of apartheid practiced in South Africa. A halt must be brought to this inhuman practice, and an end must also be put to other acts of racial discrimination and religious intolerance in all parts of the world.

The Maldive Islands has a foreign policy based on goodwill towards all who value our friendship - irrespective of size, political ideology or cultural background. Our consideration of vital issues is not weighed down by the greatness or power of any country. It is, therefore, with sincerity that we appeal for the understanding and whole-hearted co-operation of one and all to make a determined effort to solve these international problems which have brought untold suffering to millions throughout the world. It is with the same sincerity that the Maldivian Government endorses and extends its most vigorous support to the steps taken by the Secretary-General to relax tension and harmonize strained relations between conflicting parties, since our concept of world peace is based on the continued goodwill of all countries.

While I have thus far commented on some of the most acute international issues, there are other major world problems which need equally serious consideration. Much concern has been expressed at the disappointments of the first United Nations Development Decade. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor countries has been viewed with the same concern. While a considerable increase was registered in agricultural production in 1967, with record rice and wheat crops, the race between population explosion and food production still continues. In his introduction to the annual report the Secretary-General has observed:

“Still, the population problem remains a major source of anxiety for it has to be viewed in a much wider context than the food population equation” (A/7201/Add.1, para 69).

And again,

“Even if the most optimistic predictions about decline in the rate of population increase should be realized and even if the most hopeful predictions of a significant increase in food production should come true, millions of people would continue to suffer from malnutrition” (ibid., para 71).

Although population has not posed any difficulties to the Maldive Islands as an individual country, we join in the chorus of voiced expressing alarm at the rapid growth of the world population. We must take every measure not only to win the food-population race, but also to save coming generations from protein deficiency.

Two of the greatest enemies of progress, right thinking and social progress are illiteracy and ignorance. A world wide campaign must be launched to wipe out illiteracy and to bring the torch of education to the innumerable dark corners of the world, for development cannot be achieved without a basic education. We were heartened to note that the 1967 Report on the World Social Situation showed an improvement on the conditions of educational sectors in developing countries, for it is only through education that an awareness can be created among their people of the need for an over-all development.

The year 1968 has seen some significant achievements. The work on the study of the peaceful uses of the sea-bed and the ocean floor is highly commendable. We deeply appreciate the excellent report of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/7230) and congratulate the Chairman, Ambassador Amerasinghe and the members of the Committee for the excellent document. The initiative taken in this respect by the delegation of Malta deserves much credit. The Maldive Islands fully supports the proposal for the reservation exclusively for peaceful purposes of the sea-bed and the ocean floor underlying the high seas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Further measures connected with the study should be considered as a matter of high priority.

In the field of nuclear disarmament, the year witnessed the memorable resolution {2373 (XXII)} commending the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by 95 votes in favour at the resumed session of the twenty-second General Assembly. The Treaty has now been signed by more than eighty countries. The Maldive Islands is proud to have supported the resolution commending the Treaty and to have signed it since then. While the Treaty is far from being perfect, it is a major step towards nuclear disarmament . However, much remains to be accomplished. We were, therefore, encouraged by the report appearing in the Washington Post on 2 July that “agreement had been reached to begin, in the nearest future, discussions on the limitations of both offensive and defensive nuclear weapons”, and on the “urgent measures for stopping the arms race” - the remarks being attributed to President Johnson and Premier Kosygin respectively. We were further heartened during this debate to hear from the representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union of their readiness to work on these lines, despite the repercussions of recent developments in Eastern Europe on East-West relations. It is our fervent hope and prayer that concrete measures will be taken without undue delay. Too much is at stake for any postponement.

Finally, let me recall that we constitute a forum which was set up to achieve international co-operation to solve international problems and to preserve world peace. Let us, therefore, set aside our desire for individual gains and work collectively to dissolve the problems that pollute the international atmosphere. Let us resolve here and now to uphold the Charter of the United Nations and work together in all earnestness to achieve fully the objectives to which we are dedicated as one family - the family of mankind.

Thank you.