US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Friday said the US government remained committed to assist Sri Lanka as it recovers from the effects of tsunami. She noted that the US was “comfortable with the progress” made by Sri Lanka in this regard and satisfied that “the reconstruction funds were being spent in an equitable manner”. Dr. Rice said the US Government "supports Sri Lanka in its effort to evolve a Joint Mechanism” in completing the massive task at hand and that “the US recognized and applauded Sri Lanka’s commitment to democracy.”

Dr. Rice made these observations when Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar met with her on Friday (3 June 2005) at the State Department. This was Minister Kadirgamar’s first meeting with Dr. Rice, since she assumed duties as US Secretary of State. Minister Kadirgamar arrived in Washington after participating in the 25th anniversary celebrations of the CNN in Atlanta, during which he was a member of a panel which discussed “Tsunami - six month later”.

Minister Kadirgamar and Dr. Rice reviewed bi-lateral relations and issues of mutual interest. The Minister briefed Dr. Rice in detail of the efforts being made by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to evolve a consensus on the operation of a Joint Mechanism for the specific purpose of dealing with the immediate humanitarian situation at hand. He emphasised that while the Joint Mechanism was not part of the peace process, the Government was conscious that its successful implementation could serve as a confidence building measure between the Government and the LTTE. He noted that there were several sections of the Sri Lankan polity that were opposed to it. Besides the JVP and the JHU, concerns had been expressed by the Muslim community as well as several democratic Tamil groups. Minister Kadirgamar said, Sri Lanka being a democracy, the President was currently engaged in a process of consultation, but that the time will come when the process of consultation will have to end and for the leadership to lead. He noted that unfortunately recent acts of the LTTE were not helping in the process of generating confidence among the groups that had reservations in this regard. The continued acts of violence, recruitment of child soldiers, procurement of weapons and the construction of an air field and acquisition of air capability by the LTTE were matters of serious concern. The Minister also emphasised that despite its limitations, Sri Lanka had enjoyed a democratic tradition for a long time and that it was important that in order to work together, the LTTE must also act in a manner that was respectful of this tradition. He drew attention to paragraph 18 of the Tokyo Declaration endorsed by some 51 countries in June 2003 that pledged assistance to the reconstruction of the country, particularly the North and East, and said the international community should press the LTTE to remain committed to the bench marks enunciated in that document, among which was the adherence to the ceasefire, to permit democratic dissent, prevent violation of human rights, ensure the interests of the Muslims and eventual disarmament.

Dr. Rice said the US remained strongly committed to ensuring that these principles were adhered to, and the framework evolved should be one that brings democracy to the entire country. She said the US government took serious note of the LTTE’s acquisition of air capability. Dr Rice also accepted an invitation by Minister Kadirgamar to visit Sri Lanka at an early date.

Later, commenting on the meeting, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “Secretary Rice and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kadirgamar had a good meeting today”. On the distribution of tsunami aid in Sri Lanka, asked by journalists whether the US “have a reason to believe that it is being unequitably distributed”, the Spokesman said, “No, we don’t. As a matter of fact, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister had a good talk about this. They talked about how we have moved from the immediate relief phase into, really, the reconstruction phase and how the importance of working with all the various groups in establishing the mechanisms with the NGOs and the governments and other foreign governments that are involved in the reconstruction process, and make sure that it’s a coordinated process. And I think both of them were comfortable with the progress thus far in making sure that those reconstruction funds are spent in an equitable manner.” Asked whether the US did not have concerns “for example, that the Tamil population is getting less than its due?”, Mr. Mc.Cormack said, “ I’m not aware of any concerns along those lines”. The State Department also announced that the US Government had provided Sri Lanka 134.6 Million $ in funding for tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction and in addition set aside 16.6 Million $ for a regional programme to support a tsunami early warning system.

The Foreign Minister also held discussions Friday afternoon with Dr. J.H. Crouch, Deputy National Security Advisor, where he reviewed in greater detail the implementation of the ceasefire and the prospects for peace. Dr. Crouch also expressed US concern over the development of an air field and air capability by the LTTE. Given its past record, the possibility of aircrafts being used for suicide operations was discussed. The Minister noted that this development was forcing Sri Lanka to strengthen its air defense capability and urged that the international community persuade the LTTE to dismantle its air capability in a verifiable manner. The Minister also informed Dr. Crouch that the Sri Lanka government would be glad to respond to the US request to send a team of experts to the US to impart its expertise on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) and suicide attacks, to help in its global efforts against terrorism.

During his stay in Washington the Minister also held meetings with US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a representative gathering of the legislative, academic and policy community in Washington and also representatives of Sri Lankan associations from the greater Washington and New York areas. On Friday, at the conclusion of his meetings Minister Kadirgamar also addressed a press conference.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador H.K.J.R.Bandara and Minister (Political & Information) Ravinatha Aryasinha were associated with the Minister in his meetings.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

03 June 2005

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