Underlines need for long term aid and trade concessions for effective recovery

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, addressed Members of the US House of Representatives and Congressional Staffers at a briefing on the Tsunami relief, recovery and rehabilitation effort in Sri Lanka. The briefing, held on Wednesday January 5, 2005 at Cannon Office Building in Washington D.C., was convened by Representatives Jerry Weller (R-IL) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ), the two Co-Chairs of the Sri Lanka Caucus of the 108th Congress.

Representatives Jerry Weller (R-IL), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) as well as, newly elected Congressmen, Representative Charles W. Dent (R-PA) and Representative Michael K. Conway (R-TX) were present at the briefing. Over 43 Congressional Staffers also attended the event.

Representatives Jerry Weller (R-IL), Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), in their opening remarks highlighted the existing special partnership between the US and Sri Lanka and underlined the significance of extending long term assistance, not only in the form of material and financial assistance, but also in terms of special trade concessions to help put the economy back on track.

Speaking on the enormity of the natural catastrophe, Ambassador Subasinghe, at the outset, expressed the appreciation of the people and the Government of Sri Lanka for the tremendous generosity and empathy of the American people, corporations and the US Government in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami. Highlighting the challenges facing Sri Lanka in the post Tsunami recovery and reconstruction phase, Ambassador Subasinghe mentioned that 70% of Sri Lanka’s Southern and Eastern coastline with major infrastructure that supported the tourism industry, was critically damaged. Mentioning that immediate relief work was well underway, the Ambassador underlined the vital necessity to address the medium and long term rehabilitation/reconstruction needs that arose from coastal agriculture, fisheries, tourism, manufacturing, transportation and employment sectors being affected. Among the urgent needs in the short- term was the restoration of a multitude of livelihoods that were lost.

In terms of specific technical assistance from the US, Ambassador Subasinghe urged the need to set up an “Early Warning System” for the Indian Ocean countries. In his concluding remarks, the Ambassador reiterated the importance of initiating and sustaining the momentum in the US Congress to chart a long term aid and trade package for Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.

The Briefing was followed by an extensive Q & A session. The questions ranged from specific needs of Sri Lanka in terms of relief assistance to leverage with the Executive and Legislative branches, status of installing an Early Warning System, assistance for urban reconstruction, state of telecommunications in coastal areas, protection of child Tsunami survivors against trafficking and sexual exploitation and child adoption programs and, relief efforts in the East, especially LTTE controlled areas. The questions were comprehensively and substantively answered by Ambassador Subasinghe.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

05 January 2005


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