U.S. President George W. Bush has said “having experienced terrorism and persevered, Sri Lanka understands the threat that terrorism poses to democracy and the world” and that the US valued “Sri Lanka’s support in the global war on terrorism”.

President Bush made this observation in remarks exchanged at the formal ceremony where Sri Lanka's newly appointed Ambassador to the US, Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, presented his Letter of Credence, which was held at the Oval Office of the White House, on Thursday 26th May, 2005.

President Bush said, “the United States and Sri Lanka have enjoyed close relations based on common support for the values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and free trade. Sri Lanka has faced great challenges since its independence in 1948, most significantly a separatist conflict with the liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which uses terrorism to achieve its political goals. No political objectives can justify the use of terror against innocent civilians. A solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement. The United States supports Sri Lanka’s peace process and a solution that respects Sri Lanka’s unity and sovereignty. The cease-fire signed in 2002 opened the possibility of peaceful settlement of Sri Lanka’s conflict. Unfortunately that process has stalled. The United States urges all parties in Sri Lanka to reengage with the peace process and reach a final settlement.”

The President also said, “Sri Lanka over the years has achieved commendable success in quality of life despite terrorism and the challenges of development” and that “ if peace is achieved, Sri Lanka has the potential to end poverty and expand economic opportunity. Sri Lanka’s highly educated population, if mobilized, could expand trade and create new industries in the technology sector. Sri Lanka’s highly educated population, if mobilized, could expand trade and create new industries in the technology sector. Completing the task of economic reform has the potential to turn Sri Lanka into a regional trade hub, one that could transform Sri Lanka and provide for all Sri Lankans a secure and prosperous future.”

"Sri Lanka had only begun the long road of recovery from decades of warfare and terrorism when it was struck by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Americans are a caring people, and all Americans were touched by this tragedy. The United States has joined the international community in a commitment to help rebuild after this disaster. I recently signed into law legislation providing funds for this recovery effort. However, beyond the United States Government contribution to reconstruction are contributions from thousands of private Americans.”

Ambassador Goonetilleke thanked the President for the personal interest he had taken in developments relating to the tsunami as well as the peace process in Sri Lanka. He informed President Bush that the Donor Conference was successfully held in mid-May and funds required for reconstruction purposes have been pledged and now it is a matter of using the resources to build the necessary infrastructure.

In his remarks, Ambassador Goonetilleke noted “Relations between our two countries in the consular, commercial, cultural and religious fields, date back to well before Sri Lanka regained independence in 1948. Our relations have since prospered based on common values, such as democracy, rule of law, commitment to uphold human rights, human dignity and free trade, which we cherish and share.”

“Despite many challenges we have faced in the past, Sri Lanka has never wavered from its deep commitment to democracy since embracing universal adult franchise in1931. Based on our commitment for upholding the rights of minorities, Sri Lanka has committed itself to a process of negotiations aimed at resolving the separatist conflict that has consumed so many lives, caused destruction to public and private property, impeded the growth potential of our country, spawned terrorism and prevented a segment of our population from enjoying their full democratic rights. We are happy that the United States of America has become a partner in that process along with Norway, Japan and the European Union. We are confident that the interest and commitment demonstrated by your Administration towards the peace process will continue until we achieve a durable and peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“For nearly two decades, Sri Lanka had to endure the devastating effects of terrorism silently and alone. In recent years, terrorism has become a global phenomenon compelling the attention of the entire international community. Whether terrorism strikes in Colombo, New York, Madrid or Beslan, as we have witnessed in the recent past, victims of terrorism are by and large innocent civilians and perpetrators are ruthless individuals or groups, who wish to impose their will on others with no regard for human life and democratic rights of people. We remain steadfast in our support in the battle against global terrorism and are confident that the strong support the United States is giving to bring an end to terrorism in Sri Lanka will be continued.”

“People of our country were overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity of the international community when nature unleashed its fury in the form of a tsunami on Boxing Day last December. The response of the US Administration, the corporate sector as well as the public was spontaneous and extraordinary. We appreciate your initiative to have President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton lead a nationwide charitable fund raising effort to assist tsunami affected countries in all phases of the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation process.”

“The tsunami not only caused loss of almost forty thousand lives but also damaged infrastructure worth nearly two billion dollars. Being a developing country recovering from a two decade long armed conflict coupled with terrorism, Sri Lanka depends on the goodwill of the friendly countries to regain its feet. While we are appreciative of the contributions already made and pledged by the US Government, corporate sector and the caring public, it must be emphasised that the recovery can be expedited by way of debt relief and providing duty free access to Sri Lanka’s exports not covered under the GSP, pending the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the two countries.”

“Sri Lanka is happy to be recognized as a “good partner of the United States”, on the basis of the policies followed in promoting good governance, investing in people, promoting economic freedom and democracy. These attributes have enabled Sri Lanka to be among the first 16 countries selected for funding under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) for FY 2004. We are further encouraged by our subsequent eligibility for MCA assistance in FY 2005.”

“Having embraced a market economy years ahead of our neighbours in South Asia, Sri Lanka is committed to multilateral, regional and bilateral trade liberalisation. We are hopeful that Sri Lanka and the US will steer the ongoing TIFA process towards speedy conclusion of a free trade agreement.”

“The close relations we enjoy are also reflected in the development assistance we receive from the USA, which has contributed considerably in improving the lives of our people. Similarly, we are appreciative of the ongoing cooperation in the defence field.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

27 May 2005

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