The Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC has embarked on a “ reaching out “ programme to network with Sri Lankan expatriates living across the U.S., with a view to involving them more directly in pursuing Sri Lanka’s interests in the U.S. “We know there are many Sri Lankans living out there, but other than for the few, who are in contact with us, particularly those in Washington, New York, New Jersey and in Los Angeles, hitherto the Embassy has maintained little interaction with the larger population. We are determined to correct this anomaly”, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke has observed.

This initiative follows an appeal made by Ambassador Goonetilleke when he addressed the Sri Lanka National Day Celebrations in Washington DC last month. On that occasion the Ambassador, appealed to Sri Lankans living in the U.S., “both as organizations as well as individuals, to play an active role in pursuing the interests of Sri Lanka in the U.S. - with representatives of the administration, members of the federal and state legislatures, international organizations, NGOs and others of influence to leverage policy in a manner that better serves the interests of Sri Lanka.”

The initial response to this appeal has been heartening, and the Embassy hoped that soon it would have a solid contact base of Sri Lankan expatriates throughout the U.S., cutting across all denominations. The Embassy was intent in mobilizing such a group, in pro-actively engaging all sections of the U.S. constituency, including those who have negative views on Sri Lanka. “In fact that is more important than preaching to the converted”, Ambassador Goonetillke added.

The Ambassador said, it was heartening to note that “in instances where Sri Lankans have been able to come together, it has been possible to achieve tangible results”, and its clear that “ the Sri Lankan diaspora is increasingly influencing the decision making process in the U.S.”. Referring to the recent resolution supporting the peace process in Sri Lanka, introduced by the Co-Chair of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus, Congressman Frank Pallone, the Ambassador has acknowledged the significance of constituency based support in galvanizing influential Congressmen to take action supportive of Sri Lanka. He adds that “facilitating and ensuring that such support grows, would become a major priority in the work of the Embassy, as it would ensure that support for Sri Lanka in the U.S. is both tangible as well as more enduring”.

The Ambassador has noted that he had also recently had the opportunity to express Sri Lanka’s appreciation to the Co-Chairs of the Sri Lanka Caucus, Congressman Frank Pallone, who moved the resolution supporting Sri Lanka’s peace process and to Congressman Jerry Weller, who took steps to introduce the Sri Lanka Tsunami Temporary Economic Relief Act of 2005, which proposes to suspend import duty on all exports from Sri Lanka to the U.S. for a period of 5 years, thereby help Sri Lanka in its efforts to recover from the disaster wrought by the Tsunami. Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Embassy is continuing to work with other Embassies of the 14 beneficiary countries of the Trade Relief Assistance for Developing Economies (TRADE) Act of 2005 to canvass support of the US Congress and the business community to ensure its passage. Ambassador Goonetilleke said, “The extent of constituency level leverage Sri Lanka could muster, would be vital in ensuring the success of these legislative initiatives”.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

15 March 2006


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