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 change.

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
Washington DC

21 September 2008

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