US APPRECIATIVE OF THE RESTRAINT SHOWN
BY THE SRI LANKA GOVERNMENT, IN THE FACE OF GRAVE PROVOCATION
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
06 January 2006