AMBASSADOR STATES THAT PROTECTING HUMAN
RIGHTS HAS LONG BEEN AN ESSENTIAL VALUE IN SRI LANKAN CULTURE
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s
Ambassador to the U.S., notes in speech that Sri Lanka is “Asia’s
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States,
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, assured a capacity Georgie State University
library crowd Monday that his nation’s recent victory over
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists will ensure
human rights and prosperity for all Sri Lankans, especially those
harmed by a quarter century of conflict.
“Sri Lanka has no record of inflicting
misery on fellow human beings for the purpose of empire building,
commercial advantage or religious righteousness,” the Ambassador
said during a speech sponsored by the university’s Center
for Human Rights and Democracy in Atlanta. “It simply hasn’t
been done. In fact, Sri Lanka has a strong democratic history.
Ours is the oldest democracy in Asia.”
Ambassador Wickramasuriya spoke of his recent
visit to Sri Lanka, which just a month ago concluded its conflict
with the LTTE by rescuing 145,000 civilian hostages and dismantling
the remaining LTTE leadership.
"There are really two Sri Lankas,”
the Ambassador said. “One is the country you read or hear
about in America, Europe and Canada. The other is the Sri Lanka
I just visited, which is more dynamic."
Sri Lanka today is housing 295,000 people displaced
by the conflict in temporary shelters within government welfare
centers. Those civilians have access to food, medical and education
services. Ambassador Wickramasuriya explained the government’s
plan to rapidly return the displaced civilians most of whom are
Tamil to their homes in northern Sri Lanka.
But first, he said, those villages and communities
must be cleared of landmines planted by the retreating LTTE.
"It would be criminal to send people back
to villages and land riddled with mines," said Ambassador
Wickramasuriya, adding the threat is also why journalists haven't
been welcomed to the conflict area.
Eight Sri Lankan soldiers have lost their lives
or limbs in recent days during the effort to clear the conflict
zone, a small sliver of beach where the LTTE made its final stand.
Now that the fighting is over, the Ambassador said that Sri Lanka
has launched an “ambitious” plan to rebuild the north,
which was previously under LTTE control. Those plans include repairs
and new construction of roads, bridges, rail lines, 80,000 homes,
as well as water and sewer facilities. Already the government
is working to repair the sources of two primary irrigation systems
in the rural north.
Sri Lanka resettled about 180,000 civilians in
just eight months in the nation’s Eastern Province after
government troop’s wrested control of the region from the
LTTE in 2007.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya said the government will also move quickly
in the north, resettling displaced civilians within 180 days.
During his 20 minute speech and 50 minutes of
questions and answers, the Ambassador thanked Georgia State University
and its Center for Human Rights and Democracy for hosting the
first in a series of university talks on human rights and democracy.
He also thanked Dean Lauren Adamson and Doctor Unil Perera and
William Downs for arranging the discussion.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
16 June 2009