Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera concluded his three day official visit to Washington on Friday (6 January 2006), expressing satisfaction that the US Government was appreciative of the restraint shown by the Sri Lanka government in the face of the LTTE provocations. Minister Samaraweera’s visit is the first to the U.S. by a member of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, since its assumption of office in November 2005 and was used as an opportunity to review the full range of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka.

In meetings held on Thursday and Friday with the Under Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Deputy Coordinator for Counter- Terrorism, the Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes of the Department of the Treasury and the Deputy Attorney General, Minister Samaraweera was assured that the United States remains committed to working with Sri Lanka to defeat terrorism, interdict financing and maintaining the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

On Friday Minister Samaraweera addressed a luncheon meeting of the US-Sri Lanka Working Group at the US Chamber of Commerce and presented the trade, economic and investment policies of the new Government. He said, the economic policy in the “Mahinda Chinthana” (Vision of Mahinda), envisions re-engineering Sri Lanka’s economy over the next 6 years and accelerating the economic growth to 8 percent over the medium term and raising investment as a ratio of GDP to an average of 30 - 35 percent, based on domestic and foreign investment and market fundamentals. To attain this goal, the new government will promote modern infrastructure at both national and rural levels and steps will be taken to improve productivity. He emphasized that the new Government recognized the importance of the private sector in its development agenda, and will encourage and facilitate their fullest participation in the development strategy. The aim of the government is to boost local and foreign investment to achieve speedy progress and build a strong economy.

The Minister also met US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman and the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration Ambassador Linton F. Brooks and discussed ways and means to expedite the implementation of the Megaports Initiative at the Port of Colombo. It was noted that Sri Lanka will be the first country in South Asia to utilize the type of new radiation detection system to be installed under the MegaPorts Initiative, when it is commissioned next month. US-Sri Lanka cooperation under this MoU will enhance security at the Colombo Port. The MegaPorts Initiative supports and complements the Container Security Initiative (CSI) of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection under the US Department of Homeland Security. The CSI will be officially commissioned towards the end of this month.

Meeting the State Department’s Ambassador -at-Large-for Religious Freedom John J. Hanford, Minister Samaraweera said President Rajapaksa’s Government was committed to ensure the freedom of all religions. The Minister assured Ambassador Hanford that in regard to attacks on churches, a concerted effort is being made by the law enforcement authorities to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice. Ambassador Hanford expressed satisfaction at the recent remarks made by President Rajapaksa concerning religious freedom in Sri Lanka and commended the Government of Sri Lanka for its diligent action through law enforcement agencies to curtail attacks on churches.

On Thursday Minister Samaraweera also met with Sri Lanka Caucus member Congressman Christopher Van Hollen, Jr.(Democrat/Maryland) and briefed him on current developments in Sri Lanka, The Congressman appreciated the measures taken by the government to seek to resume political negotiations with the LTTE.

The Minister also had the opportunity to meet with a cross section of the Sri Lankan community at interactions organized at the Sri Lanka Embassy for representatives of the Sri Lanka related organizations, as well as during visits to the Washington Buddhist Vihara and the International Buddhist Center in Wheaton, Maryland.

On Friday evening, at the conclusion of his visit the Foreign Minister addressed members of the media.

Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, Senior Advisor to the President Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Secretary-General of SCOPP Dr. John Goonaratna, and senior officials of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington were associated with the Foreign Minister at these meetings.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

06 January 2006



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