|FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS A GREATER DEGREE OF COMMITMENT
FROM EXPATRIATES TO HELP SRI LANKA
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met with
the Sri Lankan expatriates living in the Greater Washington DC
area, on October 4, 2007, to brief them of the current situation
in Sri Lanka, to appreciate their assistance to Sri Lanka and
to encourage their future efforts on the country’s behalf.
Minister Bogollagama in his address explained
the current ground situation in Sri Lanka in relation to the LTTE.
"The mistake we made was giving parity of status to the LTTE
in the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002," said the Minister.
He dwelt at length on the allegations of human
rights on which the international community, especially the western
nations, has raised concerns with Sri Lanka. The Minister explained
the situation in terms of what Sri Lanka is doing to counter these
adverse opinions, particularly the allegations of impunity. He
spoke of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the government
in 2006, to probe into fifteen incidents of extra judicial killings
and other incidents that have occurred since August 2005. These
include the massacre of 17 NGO aid workers, the killing of 68
bus passengers in a landmine attack, and the assassination of
foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. The commission is made up
of prominent Sri Lankans and their investigations are being observed
by an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIEGP),
whose members are from Australia, Britain, Canada, the European
Union, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. The Minister
said that Sri Lanka has a functioning judicial system where people
can seek redress. "There can’t be impunity when there
is the rule of law," he said.
The Minister also spoke on Sri Lanka’s
devolution process, tracing the political negotiations the government
of Sri Lanka has unsuccessfully pursued with the LTTE since 1985.
There can’t be a divide in the southern polity. This is
the challenge the challenge the President took upon himself,"
said the Minister, explaining why the government established the
All Party Representative Committee (APRC), to get in motion a
political process to address the core issues that have confronted
the country for close to three decades and build consensus among
political parties represented in the parliament.
While thanking the community for their many efforts
to help Sri Lanka over the years, the Minister said that there
was yet a lot to be done and that he looked to the expatriate
community living in various parts of the world for an even greater
degree of commitment to help Sri Lanka toward a better tomorrow.
Before the Minister addressed the gathering,
Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke in his introductory remarks, recalled
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s words to Sri Lankan expatriates
in Los Angeles, California, recently. "President Mahinda
Rajapaksa is deeply appreciative of the generosity and support
of expatriate Sri Lankans toward bringing peace and prosperity
to Sri Lanka, and he wants you all to be Ambassadors of Sri Lanka
in your individual capacities and in the various opportunities
that present themselves to you," said Ambassador Goonetilleke.
The gathering comprised nearly 200 Sri Lankans
living in the Greater Washington DC area.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
07 October 2007