Mr. President.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to present to you Mr. President the Letter of Credence accrediting me as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United States of America.

It gives me great pleasure to convey to you and the people of the United States of America warm personal greetings of my President, Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and those of the people of Sri Lanka. I also have the honour to hand over to you Mr. President the Letter of Recall of my predecessor.

Relations between our two countries in the consular, commercial, cultural and religious fields, date back to well before Sri Lanka regained independence in 1948. Our relations have since prospered based on common values, such as democracy, rule of law, commitment to uphold human rights, human dignity and free trade, which we cherish and share.

Despite many challenges we have faced in the past, Sri Lanka has never wavered from its deep commitment to democracy since embracing universal adult franchise in1931. Based on our commitment for upholding the rights of minorities, Sri Lanka has committed itself to a process of negotiations aimed at resolving the separatist conflict that has consumed so many lives, caused destruction to public and private property, impeded the growth potential of our country, spawned terrorism and prevented a segment of our population from enjoying their full democratic rights. We are happy that the United States of America has become a partner in that process along with Norway, Japan and the European Union. We are confident that the interest and commitment demonstrated by your Administration towards the peace process will continue until we achieve a durable and peaceful solution to the conflict.

For nearly two decades, Sri Lanka had to endure the devastating effects of terrorism silently and alone. In recent years, terrorism has become a global phenomenon compelling the attention of the entire international community. Whether terrorism strikes in Colombo, New York, Madrid or Beslan, as we have witnessed in the recent past, victims of terrorism are by and large innocent civilians and perpetrators are ruthless individuals or groups, who wish to impose their will on others with no regard for human life and democratic rights of people. We remain steadfast in our support in the battle against global terrorism and are confident that the strong support the United States is giving to bring an end to terrorism in Sri Lanka will be continued.

People of our country were overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity of the international community when nature unleashed its fury in the form of a tsunami on Boxing Day last December. The response of the US Administration, the corporate sector as well as the public was spontaneous and extraordinary. We appreciate your initiative to have President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton lead a nationwide charitable fund raising effort to assist tsunami affected countries in all phases of the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation process.

The tsunami not only caused loss of almost forty thousand lives but also damaged infrastructure worth nearly two billion dollars. Being a developing country recovering from a two decade long armed conflict coupled with terrorism, Sri Lanka depends on the goodwill of the friendly countries to regain its feet. While we are appreciative of the contributions already made and pledged by the US Government, corporate sector and the caring public, it must be emphasised that the recovery can be expedited by way of debt relief and providing duty free access to Sri Lanka’s exports not covered under the GSP, pending the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Sri Lanka is happy to be recognized as a “good partner of the United States”, on the basis of the policies followed in promoting good governance, investing in people, promoting economic freedom and democracy. These attributes have enabled Sri Lanka to be among the first 16 countries selected for funding under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) for FY 2004. We are further encouraged by our subsequent eligibility for MCA assistance in FY 2005.

Having embraced a market economy years ahead of our neighbours in South Asia, Sri Lanka is committed to multilateral, regional and bilateral trade liberalisation. We are hopeful that Sri Lanka and the US will steer the ongoing TIFA process towards speedy conclusion of a free trade agreement.

The close relations we enjoy are also reflected in the development assistance we receive from the USA, which has contributed considerably in improving the lives of our people. Similarly, we are appreciative of the ongoing cooperation in the defence field.

Mr. President, during my tenure of office, I shall do my utmost to build upon the goodwill, understanding and cordial relations existing between the USA and Sri Lanka for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples.


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