STATEMENT OF AMBASSADOR OF SRI LANKA TO
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MR BERNARD A. B. GOONETILLEKE
AT THE PRESENTATION OF CREDENTIALS TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
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
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.