Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe has urged Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in the US, that together with the larger Sri Lankan expatriate community living throughout the country they must engage with their respective State level political and business leaders in order to leverage greater opportunities for Sri Lanka. Emphasizing that that the US system works "from the ground up", he said support for measures beneficial to Sri Lanka " should be lobbied for at the State level, as much as it is in Washington".

The Ambassador made this observation when he addressed Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in the US, at a workshop held at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. on Saturday April 19th, 2003. Participating in the session with the Diplomatic Staff of the Embassy were Mr. Kevin E. Grady, Honorary Consul, Georgia, Mrs. Kusuma Cooray, Honorary Consul, Hawaii, Dr. Althea Gray, Honorary Consul, New Mexico, Mr. Jay Liyanage, Honorary Consul, New Jersey and Connecticut and Dr. Jeremy R Torsveit, Honorary Consul, Arizona.

Ambassador Subasinghe who summed up the positive trends in current Sri Lanka-US relations particularly reflected in the highly successful recent visit to the US by Sri Lanka's Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda, noted that the current Strategic Plan of the Embassy had four objectives. First, to deepen and broaden the US-Sri Lanka relationship in the diplomatic, political, economic, security and cultural areas. Second, to elevate the economic cooperation between the two countries to secure greater market access for our exports, access to US capital markets and to increase the level of investment from the US to Sri Lanka, where enabling free trade relations was a priority. Third, to access high levels of World Bank and IMF technical expertise and financial resources. Fourth, to upgrade the service and quality of the Embassy in Washington D.C, the Consulate General office in Los Angeles and the Offices of the Honorary Consuls.

He noted that in order to bolster support for Sri Lanka at the Congressional level, the 'Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Americans' was being re-constituted to reflect the current composition of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congressman Jerry Weller (Republican- Illinois) had recently assumed the position of Co-Chair of the Caucus and joins Congressman Frank Pallone (Democrat - New Jersey) who was a founding Co-Chair of this body. A "Dear Colleague" note from them encouraging membership in the Sri Lanka Caucus was already being circulated in the Congress and encouraging greater representation in the Caucus must be strongly canvassed at the State level as well.

The Ambassador also sought the more active involvement of Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in reaching out to the Corporate Community, particularly companies with headquarters in their States, which have business interests in Sri Lanka or the prospect of doing so. Promotion of high-end spenders to avail of the eco-tourism and Ayurveda opportunities in Sri Lanka was also stressed. He assured that the Embassy, as well as the Board of Investment (BOI) and Tourist Board in Sri Lanka would coordinate with the Honorary Consuls more closely in this regard in the future.

The Honorary Consuls also detailed their current level of activity and potential areas which could be explored further. The consular assistance provided to Sri Lankans, promotion of trade and tourism as well as Sri Lanka as a film location, showcasing Sri Lankan products and its arts and culture, securing greater opportunities for Sri Lankans in educational institutes in the US and exposure of US scholars to Sri Lanka, raising funds and facilitating medical projects in Sri Lanka and for Sri Lankans in need particularly in the area of open-heart surgery and in promoting closer links at the state level with military institutions that train Sri Lankan armed forces.

It was suggested that more could be done to encourage Sri Lankans in the US to spend their vacations in Sri Lanka and to keep their savings in NRFC accounts in Sri Lankan banks where there was a higher interest rate. The possibility of easing the financial burden and minimizing administrative procedures in securing dual-citizenship for Sri Lankan Americans was also discussed.

Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Janaka Nakkawita, who serves as the focal point in the Embassy with respect to the Honorary Consuls, earlier briefed them on the framework within which they must operate and what was specifically expected of them. Noting that Sri Lanka appreciated that they had offered their services without any remuneration, Ambassador Nakkawita said in future the Embassy would assist them in developing their office premises in a manner that provides a Sri Lankan ambiance.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

21 April 2003


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