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Ambassador Blake's remarks to the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, hand-over of grant documents ceremony.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Good evening.    It’s a pleasure to be here tonight, during this historic week in the Maldives.  The people of the Maldives and the United States share something very important right now…the people of both of our countries are very much focused on elections in our countries that will have far reaching consequences.

But tonight, I am not here to discuss elections, but rather to launch the 2008 U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation project for the Maldives. 

This year, the government of the United States is contributing 370,000 Rufiyaa ($28,950) to the people of the Maldives to conserve the Kaashidhoo Archaeological Site. 

Excavations on the Kaashidhoo site began in 1996.  Archaeologists soon discovered that it is the largest pre-Islamic remnant on the island.

During the excavation work a number of historically significant artifacts were unearthed.

Archaeologists uncovered parts of a Buddhist Monastery that existed in the 7th and 8th Centuries AD.   

They also found bones from two ancient Maldivians; sacrificial bones of fish and other similar artifacts that shed light on how the early inhabitants of the island lived; and they even found a fossil from a giant tortoise---a species that is now extinct. 

The project that U.S. Government is supporting focuses on conserving the area that’s already been excavated.  The project will help protect the area from erosion and weathering.  Since the site is built almost entirely of coral stone, the conservation work is essential to making sure that generations of Maldivians can continue to view this important site.

This marks the second time the U.S. government is supporting the preservation of a cultural site here in the Maldives.

In 2005, the United States contributed $22,000 or roughly 280,000 Rufiyaa for Restoration and Conservation of Eid Mosque

Both of these projects, as I mentioned, are part of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.   This is a worldwide initiative from the U.S. Department of State to assist countries in preserving their endangered historic sites and arts.   Since 2001, the Fund has supported more than 500 projects worldwide. 

About a year ago, our Embassy started working with Mr. Mohamed Waheed and his team to design this project proposal.  The State Department selected the Kaashidhoo project as one of a limited number worldwide to receive funding. 

I congratulate all those who are involved in this project.  We wish you continued success in preservation the important cultural heritage of the Maldives.  We at the Embassy are proud to play an integral role in this important project.