Hon. Hussein A. Bhaila, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs met Mr. Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, at the Department of State Washington D.C. on December 19, 2008. He was accompanied by Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya.

Amongst the matters discussed at the meeting were the remarkable progress in ongoing military operations to clear parts of the Northern Province of LTTE presence. The Deputy Minister brought to the attention of the U.S that the LTTE is holding civilians as a human shield and preventing them from coming to Vavuniya, where the Government has made arrangements to receive them. The Government, despite prevailing adverse weather conditions and obstacles placed by LTTE, has ensured that there is an uninterrupted supply of food and basic necessities to the civilians in the un-cleared areas of the Wanni, who are caught up in the current conflict. It was urged that the international community can help the civilians by exerting pressure on the LTTE. The Deputy Minister informed that progress towards capturing Kilinochchi is slow but steady as all possible measures are being taken to ensure zero civilian casualties. After successful completion of the ongoing military operation it was informed that the people of the Northern Province will be given the democratic right to choose their own political representation, as was the case when the Eastern Province was cleared of the LTTE presence.

The Deputy Minister updated the U.S authorities on the Reawakening of the Eastern Province . It was stressed that the security forces and other agencies of the Government have worked hard to secure the area, to restore normalcy and to resettle people, who had been temporarily displaced, in their homes. Arrangements for improvement of law and order in the East are also underway. New police stations have been established while existing stations are being strengthened to provide a better service to the community. Tamil speaking police officers are being recruited to serve the province. Another important recent development was the signing of an agreement between UNICEF and the TMVP. The implications of this Agreement were also discussed. The Deputy Minister thanked the U.S for significant assistance received for development projects in the Eastern Province .

The Deputy Minister took the opportunity to thank Mr. Boucher for his personal interest in Sri Lanka and the support he has extended to Sri Lanka .

The Deputy Minister also briefed a number of senior officials of the World Bank on important developments taking place in Sri Lanka due to the proactive policies of the Government of Sri Lanka. It was noted by the Deputy Minister that a priority for the Government is rebuilding the Eastern Province – which is potentially a model of post-conflict development - and where all three communities are equally represented. It was stressed that after the Eastern Province was cleared of the LTTE presence, elections were held in order to re-establish democratic institutions, to further promote development in the Province. In regard to on-going projects in the Eastern Province , the World Bank officials noted that they are working on ensuring that existing projects are made more responsive. The Deputy Minister informed the World Bank officials that in the very near future, the Northern Province too will be cleared of the LTTE presence and the Bank will be able to work closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to bring much needed development projects to the people of that Province which have been denied development due to LTTE actions. Bringing development to this Province will be an important strike against terrorism.

The senior officials briefed were as follows: Mr. Junaid Ahmad, Sector Manager (Urban/Water); Mr. Salman Zaheer, Sector Manager (Energy) ;Mr. Adolfo Brizzi, Sector Manager (Agriculture & Rural) and Ludmilla Butenko who will be based in Colombo as Operations Adviser. A significant part of the discussion focused on the Government of Sri Lanka’s ongoing investments in infrastructure development and energy. A briefing was given about the $75 million micro-hydro and rural electrification project undertaken by the World Bank in Sri Lanka, which is private sector driven. The possibilities for exploitation of alternative sources of energy was also discussed.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

02 January 2009

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