Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya with Patricia Butenis, the United States newly-confirmed Ambassador-designate to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya Wednesday welcomed Patricia Butenis, the United States’ newly-confirmed Ambassador-designate to Sri Lanka, as she prepares to take charge of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya and Ambassador-designate Butenis spoke cordially and extensively about the post-conflict situation in Sri Lanka during a meeting at the Embassy of Sri Lanka. The talks included a discussion of the condition of the 280,000 people displaced by the successfully concluded conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE.

“I go to Colombo as a friend,” Ambassador-designate Butenis said, and as, “someone who has a reputation for speaking candidly, though I hope diplomatically."

Wednesday’s meeting was the first meeting by Ambassador-designate Butenis with a representative of the government of Sri Lanka. She is scheduled to leave for Sri Lanka on Aug. 28.

The discussion focused on the government’s efforts to reconcile with the Tamil population in Northern Sri Lanka, where the government defeated the LTTE in May.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya noted that the United States, “has been extremely helpful,” with aid for post-conflict development, and with the prosecution of pro-LTTE groups in the U.S. The U.S. considers the LTTE a terrorist organization and the U.S. Department of Treasury shut down several of its front organizations.

The discussions also included a briefing by Ambassador Wickramasuriya on his efforts to develop stronger ties with the Tamil Sri Lankan community in the U.S. The Ambassador recently met with Tamil leaders in Chicago, and similar meetings are planned in other major U.S. cities in the coming weeks.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya told Ambassador-designate Butenis that the Tamil community in the U.S. had requested confidential meetings with him during the conflict, but that now the meetings are public and that he has witnessed a significant increase in the number of Tamil Sri Lankans who wish to take part. Ambassador-designate Butenis called the ambassador’s efforts, “encouraging.”

Ambassador-designate Butenis joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1980 and previously served as a U.S. diplomat in Iraq, Pakistan, India, El Salvador and Colombia.

In Sri Lanka, she replaces Ambassador Robert Blake, who was recently confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

12 August 2009


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