Ambassador Wickramasuriya with Rep. Joe Wilson
(Republican - South Carolina)
Ambassador Wickramasuriya with Rep. Heath Shuler
(Democrat - North Carolina)
Ambassador Wickramasuriya with Rep Mike Ross
(Democrat - Arkansas)
Ambassador Wickramasuriya with Rep Joseph Crowley
(Democrat - New York)
Ambassador Wickramasuriya in conversation with Rep.
Shelley Berkley (Democrat - Nevada)
Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States continued
meetings with members of Congress in April, offering briefings
on the coming conclusion of the government’s conflict
with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as well as prospects
for civilian resettlement and redevelopment.
Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya stressed
the government’s intent to resettle displaced persons
as soon as possible. He explained to those he met with in
Congress the success the government has realized in resettling
and rebuilding the Eastern Province.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya met six members
of the House of Representatives during the third week of
April. He will continue meetings on Capitol Hill this week
and next. All six members of the House expressed their support
for the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to conclude
its conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
Several representatives, such as South
Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, compared the struggle
in Sri Lanka to efforts by the U.S. to rid Afghanistan and
Pakistan of the Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists. Wilson,
a leader in the India caucus in the House, said a swift
end to the fighting in Sri Lanka would, “be good for
the whole region, for all of South Asia.”
Ambassador Wickramasuriya used maps and
diagrams to show each member of Congress just how much ground
Sri Lankan forces had wrested from the LTTE in recent months.
He explained the need for aid for extensive de-mining operations,
as well the disciplined approach that Sri Lankan forces
had taken to safeguard civilians in an increasingly complex
Ambassador also showed members of Congress
where the government had established welfare centers for
the 180,000 people who have left LTTE areas until the fighting
ends. Included among them are the 111,000 people who escaped
from the LTTE within the last week alone.
“Our main purpose is getting the
civilians out of danger,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya
told those in Congress. “The Tigers were firing at
the civilians who were fleeing.” Apart from Rep. Wilson,
Ambassador Wickramasuriya met with Rep. Heath Shuler, a
North Carolina democrat, Rep. Mike Ross, a democrat from
Arkansas, Rep. Joseph Crowley, a New York democrat, Rep.
Shelley Berkley, a democrat from Nevada and Rep. Chris Van
Hollen, a Maryland democrat.
Van Hollen’s father served as the U.S. ambassador
to Sri Lanka from 1972 to 1976, and Rep. Van Hollen spent
those years as a boy living in Sri Lanka.
While about 30 members of Congress recently
wrote a letter calling for a ceasefire in the conflict,
many others are expressing support for Sri Lanka’s
effort to end the fighting once and for all. Indeed, in
meetings with Ambassador Wickramasuriya, members of Congress
have called the ceasefire letter mistake.
A ceasefire, Ambassador Wickaramsuriya
noted in the meetings, would allow the LTTE to rearm and
regroup. The recent two-day unilateral pause in the conflict,
he noted, allowed the LTTE to fortify defenses to keep the
civilians form escaping.
Several of the House members have already
visited Sri Lanka, and Ambassador Wickramasuirya is helping
some members of Congress organize Congressional fact-finding
visits in near future.