|AMBASSADOR OF SRI LANKA IN WASHINGTON CONTINUES DIASPORA
OUT REACH WITH RECONCILIATION
TRIP TO THE WESTERN UNITED STATES
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
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
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
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
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
Embassy of Sri Lanka
14 September 2009