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Cablegate: Public Diplomacy Programs Enrich First U.S. - Maldives

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

180202Z Oct 05






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Public Diplomacy Programs Enrich First U.S. - Maldives
Friendship Week


1. (U) SUMMARY: Post's public diplomacy programs formed a large
part of the first annual U.S.- Maldives Friendship Week September
25 through September 28. In addition to a trade show organized
by the Economic/Commercial Section, PD organized the signing of
the first Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation grant to
the Maldives; a speaker program to benefit the Maldivian Human
Rights Commission; book donations to a center for neglected teens
and to a grade school on a tsunami-affected island; EducationUSA
seminars; a film festival of great American movies; a children's
book donation to the National Library; and an Ambassadorial press
conference with local press. The active PD schedule of events
established strong contact with new audiences and made Maldivians
aware of the many programs we have to offer. END SUMMARY

Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation

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2. (U) The Friendship Week started with the signing of the first
Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation grant to the
Maldives. Arranged by post's PD section, the grant to the
National Centre for Linguistic and Historical Research (NCLHR)
for $22,000 will help restore the Eid Mosque, a 19th century
coral stone mosque on Mal. Ambassador Lunstead toured the mosque
with Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the NCLHR, before signing the
grant. The tour was covered by Television Maldives, which
broadcast news of the event the same evening, and local papers
ran the Ambassador's photo with an article on the signing on the
front pages the next day (reftel).

Book Donation to Education Training Center

4. (U) On Monday, September 26, the Ambassador boated to the
island of Maafushi for a book donation to the Education Training
Center (ETC). Arranged by PD and the Maldivian Ministry of
Education, the Ambassador donated 100 young adult books to the
students at the Center. The ETC is a government residential
institution for 70 children aged 10 - 18 who have troubled
backgrounds. The December 2005 tsunami washed away virtually
all equipment, machinery, furniture, computer labs and library
resources. The Ambassador also visited the Maafushi primary
school, equally damaged by the tsunami, and donated teaching
materials and library books to the principal of the school. TV
Maldives covered the visit and related donations on the evening
news. The book donation to the ETC and the Maafushi primary
school demonstrated the U.S. commitment to helping areas outside
the capital of Mal.

EducationUSA Seminars

6. (U) Cultural Affairs Officer presented two seminars on
studying in the United States at the site of the trade fair. The
seminars were attended by young professionals and senior
secondary students. The Maldives has no university and students
must go abroad to pursue higher education. The usual
destinations for Maldivian students are the U.K., Australia,
Malaysia, India, and Lebanon. Post prepared a 24-page booklet
"Study in the USA: A Guide for the Maldives" and distributed more
than 250 copies during the course of the week. The second
seminar was covered by Television Maldives.

Speaker for Maldives Human Rights Commission

(U) Simultaneous to its other activities, PD programmed an
expert speaker on forensics to work with the Maldivian Human
Rights Commission and the Maldivian police. In three days of
lectures and meetings, Dr. Ronald Singer, the Crime Laboratory
Director of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office (Fort
Worth), emphasized forensic investigations into human rights
abuse cases and domestic violence cases, as well as drug abuse
cases. Singer's program allowed Maldivian investigators to
better identify specific instances of abuse, and could result
in the Maldives starting up its first forensic laboratory with
assistance from Singer's office in Texas.

Film Festival

7. (U) Alongside the trade fair, PD organized a series of public
film screenings that offered great American cinema for the first
time to young Maldivian audiences. The festival also permitted
the mission to strengthen ties with the new Minister of State for
Arts and the police department, which donated the A/V equipment.

Children's Book Donation to National Library

8. (U) On September 27, the Ambassador donated 162 children's
books to the National Library. The new Minister of Information
and Arts told the Ambassador that the donation "will comprise an
important component of the planned new National Children's
Library" that is proposed to open in 2006. The National Library
is home to the Embassy's first American Corner and the donation
solidified that already good working relationship between the
Embassy and the library.
Press Briefing

9. (U) Following the book donation at the National Library, the
Ambassador gave a press conference with all Maldivian media
present in which he laid out the current state of U.S.-Maldivian
relations and stressed the U.S. desire to see even further
progress on democratic reforms in the country. While the
Maldives had taken important steps down that road, the Ambassador
noted, the U.S. hoped the Maldivian government would permit full
freedom of expression and non-violent assembly. The press
conference appeared on TV Maldives news programs and was widely
covered in the newspapers.

10. (U) Comment: PD's extensive contributions to the first U.S.-
Maldives Friendship Week enriched the overall schedule and made a
positive impact on diverse audiences. This impact was then
magnified by the broad media coverage of all the events. As a
result, many key Maldivians not only better understand our
policies on democratization and other issues, but also appreciate
the importance we attach to this relationship with a moderate
Muslim country. We will continue to report on results of the
week as we engage with Maldivians over the coming year. End


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