Members of the Sri Lankan community in the Washington, D.C. area raised thousands of dollars Saturday for a housing program that will help members of Sri Lanka’s armed forces buy homes.

The July 18 event occurred simultaneously at the homes of Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya and five diplomats assigned to the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, D.C.

The diplomats invited local Sri Lankans to their homes to enjoy traditional food and learn about the Ministry of Defense’s Api Wenuwen Api Ranaviru Housing Project Fund.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s Secretary of Defence, spoke to the crowded house parties simultaneously via a Webex internet link. He also answered questions from guests about the housing program and the successful conclusion of the nearly 26-year-long conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“Because of all their hard work, it’s very important to meet their every need,” Defense Secretary Rajapaksa said of the armed forces members. “We need to remember the people who have lost their lives for the sake of the country.”

Defense Secretary Rajapaksa thanked those who gave to the housing project and said that more homes were under construction for, “our war heroes.” The program also helps families of soldiers killed in the conflict.

He added that schools with gymnasiums, auditoriums and computer labs were under construction in the villages of returning soldiers. The Api Wenuwen Api fund, he said, is the backbone of that effort.

The funds are needed because members of the armed forces have difficulty buying homes without a guarantor. Banks do not want to risk backing defense personnel, whose lives are considered vulnerable.

The Api Wenuwen Api Ranaviru Housing Project Fund takes on the responsibility as the guarantor, and will contribute 1/3 (about US $6000) of the expense of constructing each house.

This fund is not controlled by the government, but by a Board of Trustees formed under a Parliamentary Act. This board consists of distinguished persons under the Ministry of Defence.

Following Defense Secretary Rajapaksa’s talk, participants generously wrote checks and signed pledge cards.

The total amount of money raised for the Api Wenuwen Api fund throughout the U.S. in 2009 now stands at more than $200,000.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya called the evening’s events the, “perfect private-public partnership. Now that we have done this, others will be able to do it on their own, raising even more money for homes for soldiers and their families.”

The Ambassador said that it was possible to raise $1 million a year to fund the construction of 50,000 new houses in Sri Lanka.

He said Sir Lankans in the U.S. will also hold events at their homes to support the Api Wenuwen Api program. In some cases, generous donors contributed enough to pay for a whole house. Others teamed together to pay for one house.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

22 July 2009

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