EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER PEIRIS CAPS OFF SUCCESSFUL U.S. DIPLOMATIC VISIT BY MEETING WITH THE WASHINGTON AREA
SRI LANKAN COMMUNITY
Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs addresses the Sri Lankan community from the Greater Washington area.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya addresses the Sri Lankan community.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs addresses cross section of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim Sri Lankans,
including many young professionals
Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, concluded a successful six-day visit to the United States by addressing a large gathering of Sri Lankans at the residence of Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya here.
The community gathering occurred just a day after Minister Peiris met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Earlier, Prof. Peiris met with Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, as well as with a number of members of Congress.
Secretary Clinton told a press briefing after her meeting with Prof. Peiris that she was encouraged by the progress Sri Lanka had made a year after it successfully concluded its conflict against the LTTE terrorist organizations.
“There has been tremendous progress and many thousands and thousands of such internally displaced persons have returned home,” she said.
Secretary Clinton also backed Sri Lankan’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, and she said the commission was likely to do more good in healing wounds caused by the conflict than the international inquiry that some non-government groups have been calling for.
"The United States strongly supports political and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” Secretary Clinton said. “Such commissions of inquiry have played an important role in advancing accountability and redressing wrongs in other countries emerging from periods of internal strife.”
Those gathered at the Ambassador's residence to meet Minister Peiris included a cross section of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim Sri Lankans, including many young professionals.
Prof. Peiris told the group that: “You have every reason to be proud of being Sri Lankans at this moment. Your government on its own can discharge effectively the duties and obligations evolving on all of us, to project to the government and public of the United States an accurate image of what is taking place in our country today.
“In particular, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a meeting with me yesterday, paid warm tribute to the developments which are currently taking place in Sri Lanka. And I believe her remarks captured the mood of many other personalities whom I had the privilege of interacting with, both in New York, during my meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations and others, and here in Washington in the executive branch of government of the United States, including the defense establishment -- people like Gen. James Jones, the National Security Adviser of President Obama.”
Secretary Clinton’s statement of support for Sri Lanka came just two days after the U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning on Sri Lanka, a measure implemented in November 2009, during the final months of conflict with the LTTE. The department cited, “improvements in safety and security conditions throughout the country.”
Since the fighting ended on May 19, 2009, there have been no terrorist incidents in Sri Lanka. Instead, there have been elections – on the local level in Northern Sri Lanka on Aug. 8, presidential elections on Jan. 26 and parliamentary elections on April 8.
Prof. Peiris said that the government of Sri Lanka hopes to organize provincial elections in Northern Sri Lankan “shortly.”
He also told Secretary Clinton that the government would like to resettle the estimated 50,000 people who remain displaced by the conflict within the next four months.
At one point, about 297,000 displaced people were living in government-run welfare centers. Most of them have been resettled, and of those remaining, about 25,000 come and go from the centers.
“Secretary Clinton spoke of the alacrity with which this process it being carried forward,” Minister Peiris said during his talk, “resulting in the number of the camps being reduced and resettlement in an environment that enables them (resettled people) to live with a sense of dignity. We are focusing very sharply on revival of the economy of those parts of the country that have been ravaged by war, and in general, a resuscitation of those industries that are going to make a significant difference to the people of those areas.”
The community meeting was Prof. Peiris’ last event in Washington before he boarded a plan that evening for the trip home.
“This was really a most successful visit,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “The show of U.S. support from the administration and from within the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives during Minister Peiris’ meetings demonstrates a strengthening of the U.S.-Sri Lankan relationship.”
Embassy of Sri Lanka
31 May 2010