FOREIGN MINISTER BOGOLLAGAMA INVITES THE
TAMILS IN THE USA TO VISIT SRI LANKA
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who was
on a visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly,
on September 27, 2009 met with the Sri Lankan expatriate communities
in Boston at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston.
Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was warmly welcomed
by a cross section of the people in Boston with traditional Sri
Lankan cultural parade. Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya delivered
a welcome address and thanked Hon. Minister for taking his time
out from his tight schedule to travel all the way to Massachusetts
and to have graced this occasion as well as the Boston community
who had been assisting the Embassy of Sri Lanka for a long time.
Minister Bogollagama addressed a group of Sri
Lankans, most of whom were from the Tamil community. They were
a representative group of Academics and Professionals. The Minister
in his address gave an overview of the post conflict situation
in Sri Lanka and the steps taken by the Government in resettling
the IDPs, developing the liberated areas in respect of infrastructure
development, fisheries, other industries, education etc. He further
explained to the expatriates how the government had successfully
resettled the internally displaced persons in the Eastern Province
and the development that had taken place in the Eastern Province
from 2006-2008 where elections had been held and stated that it
had been a victory for democracy.
With regard to Menik farm, he stated that steps
were being taken to resettle the IDPs as soon as possible and
currently there are fifty two NGOs who are operating in these
areas. He further stated that about 180,000 persons had been identified
to be returned and the Identity cards were being issued to them.
He emphasized the fact that of the one thousand persons, who had
been sent to Jaffna, had been experiencing difficulties in identifying
their properties after being away for several years.
He also mentioned that the political reconciliation
process will be implemented within the framework of the Sri Lankan
constitution. The Tamil National Alliance had come on board and
was engaging with the government.
He said there were improvements in the economy
especially in the agricultural and fisheries sector. Tourism has
picked up with more and more tourists are showing interest to
visit Sri Lanka. Reserves have been built up, exports have improved
and that there has been a comprehensive economical upward thrust.
With regard to the relationship with India, he pointed out that
the relationship had grown and also with Pakistan with the operation
of the Free Trade Agreement.
During the interaction session, Minister Bogollagama
responded to a question that Sinhala and Tamil languages were
made as national languages under the 1978 constitution and the
Fundamental Rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which provided
relief regarding racial discrimination and that the independence
of the judiciary was a major factor in Sri Lanka’s democracy.
There was encouragement among the public sector to learn both
national languages by giving an incentive to public servants.
On the question of steps being taken to bring
the two communities together, he stated that there were youth
exchange programmes, expansion of IT centers by setting up six
hundred centers in temples and Kovils at village level. The A
9 road had been reopened and the interaction between people in
the North and the South is improving.
With regard to settlement of IDPs, he said it
would be an opportunity to provide assistance directly to them
by having a mechanism of providing assistance to the IDPs to rebuild
their houses through an arrangement with the private banks in
Jaffna. Minister also said the demining process has been accelerated
and the resettlement in those areas could be affected only after
UNHCR certifies that those areas are suitable for habitation.
On the question of mistrust by the Sinhalese
of the Tamils, the Minister stated that several Diplomatic Officers
who were at present, were from the minority communities. He also
mentioned that 54% of Tamils were living outside the Eastern and
Northern provinces and there was cordial interaction between the
communities. He further emphasized on the necessity of wider interaction
between the communities and the need to build a society free of
terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism.
He added that relatives who need to contact those
in the IDP camps could do so through the Sri Lankan Embassies.
At the conclusion, he encouraged the Expatriate
Tamil Community to visit Sri Lanka and to see for themselves the
development taking place and invited them to assist in the development
Foreign Minister thanked all those who were present
for their participation and interaction.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
09 October 2009