|FOREIGN MINISTER ROHITHA BOGOLLAGAMA ADDRESSES SRI
LANKAN COMMUNITY IN WASHINGTON DC
Large numbers of Sri Lankans based in the Greater
Washington area, representing all communities, came to meet Foreign
Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at a reception, hosted by Ambassador
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, at his residence on September 20, 2008.
Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha was also present as
one of the guest of honor on the occasion. The comprehensive briefing
by the Foreign Minister to the Sri Lankan Diaspora, on developments
taking place in Sri Lanka under the leadership of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa was widely acclaimed.
The Foreign Minister stressed that the Government
of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a Sri Lankan agenda to pursue.
That agenda has now started to pay dividends. That agenda is serving
Sri Lanka’s security interests, preserving Sri Lanka’s
territorial integrity, that has been threatened for three decades,
countering terrorism and bringing democracy and development to
all the people of Sri Lanka.
The Foreign Minister hightlighted that the Eastern
Province, that had not experienced democracy for 15 years but
is now functioning under a Chief Minister who was elected by the
people of the Province. The Provincial Council represents all
three communities: Sinhala, Tamils and Muslims. The Provincial
Administration that the people have elected is now leading development
efforts in the Province. The Eastern Province, the Minister stressed,
is an example to the whole international community of how to undertake
a counter terrorism drive and bring development to the people
at the same time.
It was noted that President Mahinda Rajapaksa
has brought a historic consensus to the Sri Lankan polity, as
all parties are working today in the widest possible coalition
to address vital issues confronting the country. The Foreign Minister
stressed that without security, we cannot have liberty. He stated
that in Sri Lanka, the Government has given top priority to the
security of our country and of our people and to the well being
of our society. The Foreign Minister called on the Sri Lankan
Diaspora worldwide to support the endeavours of the Sri Lankan
Government and the Sri Lankan Nation.
The Foreign Minister informed those gathered
that he had also taken the opportunity of being in Washington
to brief key decision makers in USA on the important developments
taking place in Sri Lanka.
The Foreign Minister noted that Sri Lanka was
elected unanimously by the countries of South Asia as the Chair
of SAARC. This is indicative of how much Sri Lanka is valued as
a major player in a region that represents 23% of the world’s
population. The Minister noted that the countries of SAARC have
successfully worked out an agenda to address critical issues that
challenge the region such as food and energy security, development
and most importantly, eliminating terrorism in all our countries.
The Minister referred to the tragic terrorist attack that had
rocked Islamabad, Pakistan, shortly before his arrival at the
Reception, as an example of the horrendous acts of terrorism being
perpetrated throughout the world today.
The Foreign Minister stressed that the Sri Lanka
Embassies throughout the world are working proactively with the
Sri Lankan Diaspora to counter LTTE propaganda and let the world
know the important steps being taken by the Government and people
of Sri Lanka towards peace and development. One has only to go
onto the internet to see the good work being done by the Sri Lanka
Missions abroad to highlight the brutality of the LTTE.
The Foreign Minister stressed that there is no
racial divide in Sri Lanka and that there is no language problem
in Sri Lanka. In fact language is a major factor in national integration
- the Sri Lanka Government spends large amounts of money to ensure
that the public service of Sri Lanka becomes trilingual, including
the police force. Tamil speaking Police officers are currently
being recruited to preserve law and order in the Eastern Province.
Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, in his welcoming
remarks stressed that the doors of his residence are always open
to all Sri Lankans, as his house belongs to all Sri Lankans. The
Ambassador also expressed the hope that all Sri Lankans in the
US would consider the Sri Lanka Embassy also to belong to all
of them. This warm sentiment was much appreciated by all those
gathered. The Ambassador also observed that all those gathered
at the reception have worked to help our country, Sri Lanka, for
many years and in many ways. The Ambassador thanked the Sri Lankan
diaspora represented both in the room and throughout the USA for
their important contribution to their country and urged them to
continue their good work.
The Foreign Minister reiterated the important
message earlier stressed by Ambassador Wickramasuriya, that the
Residence of the Ambassador belongs to all Sri Lankans, the Embassy
is the representation in the USA of all Sri Lankans and that all
Sri Lankan Diaspora members all over the world are Ambassadors
for our Country.
The Foreign Minister invited all Sri Lankans
to keep coming back to Sri Lanka to see for themselves, with their
own eyes the tremendous development effort being under taken by
the Government of Sri Lanka. The Minister particularly stressed
that all Sri Lankan expatriates should visit the Eastern Province,
to see the great strides forward being taken there - truly a transformational
In conclusion, the Foreign Minister stressed
that under the empowerment agenda that has been embarked on, the
first step will be to bring democracy to all the people of Sri
Lanka. The second step is empowerment through economic development.
He noted that it is challenging times back at home in Sri Lanka,
but under the wise leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
we will succeed.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
21 September 2008