Diaspora expressed satisfaction over the progress made by Sri Lanka government in rehabilitating internally displaced people
and reconciliation with the political parties of Tamils and Muslims

Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya recently expanded his outreach campaign with the Sri Lankan community in the United States with visits to both Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Ambassador has been meeting with Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and other Sri Lankan ethnics groups throughout the U.S. to discuss reconciliation following the conclusion of the 25-year conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Recent trips by Ambassador Wickramasuriya included visits to Boston and Chicago.

During the California portion of his trip, Ambassador Wickramasuriya met with the local Sri Lankan community at the Sri Lankan Consulate in Los Angeles and briefed them on development initiatives by the Government of Sri Lanka in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya noted that Sri Lanka is in a new era of reconciliation after years of conflict. Under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he said, the government has the support of most of the political parties in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya mentioned that he has personally visited the IDP welfare centers after the conflict ended and found that news stories about poor conditions in the centers had been exaggerated. Ambassador said he was confident that within the next few months the Sri Lankan Government would conclude the resettlement process responsibly.

He further mentioned that there are adequate doctors and other healthcare providers in the welfare centers, where the government has ensured that education and other essential needs are being met. The Government has already taken initiatives to rehabilitate the former LTTE child soldiers and LTTE cadres and is providing each with an education and livelihood.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya emphasized that the Government within the next few years will provide economic freedom to the people in the North and East with the establishment of free trade zones, vocational training centers and other economic benefits.

Ambassador requested that the Sri Lankan Diaspora extend their full cooperation to help Sri Lanka attract new business and investment from the U.S. He also requested that Sri Lankan community members who have let their citizenship lapse now become dual citizens by investing in fixed deposit savings accounts and treasury bonds and bills.

Those who are willing to invest $25,000 in NRFC accounts in Sri Lanka, he said, will be eligible to have their dual citizenship fee waived.

During his Las Vegas visit, Ambassador met with a large cross section of the expatriate Sri Lankan community over dinner. He discussed steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to resettle the civilians displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, and the misconceptions and falsehoods of some news reports regarding those displaced by the conflict.

When the conflict ended in May, there were about 287,000 internally displaced persons, or IDPs. Since then, about 50,000 have returned to their homes after the removal of LTTE landmines. As de-mining continues, another 50,000 are expected to be resettled by the end of this month. That means that a third of the displaced will have been resettled in just four months, putting the total number of IDPs below 200,000. The resettlement of the most IDPs is expected to be completed by January 2010.

While in Las Vegas, Ambassador also participated in a panel discussion moderated by Daya Gamage, the U.S. national correspondent for the online daily newspaper Asian Tribune. Mr. Gamage was once a political specialist in the U.S. State Department. The panel also included Professor Karunaratne Hangawatte of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).

The 30-minute discussion focused on steps taken to resettle IDPs, pro-LTTE propaganda designed to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka and efforts to engage the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in reconciliation.

Both Ambassador Wickramasuriya and Professor Hangawatte reminded the large gathering that Sri Lanka has a Herculean task in combating the overseas LTTE propaganda machine, which over two decades became adept at spreading falsehoods.

In that regard, Ambassador outlined his efforts to meet with officials of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. representatives and senators and other policymakers to explain the Sri Lankan government’s positions on a variety of issues.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya noted that he has also begun an open dialogue with members of the Tamil Diaspora in the U.S.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

14 September 2009


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