September 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

“Early criticism of Lessons Learned Commission undermines the work of Sri Lanka’s esteemed former civil servants and the victory over terrorism”

Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim communities Meet with ambassador and share positive Impressions of post-conflict Sri Lanka

Ambassador urges Sri Lankan-American Voters to reach out to members of Congress To share views of Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramsuriya (center, in white) with Buddhist monks during an official visit to California.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickrmasuriya, Consulate General Dr., Hector Weerasinghe and Mr. Palitha Kasthuriarachchi take part in the  Muhurath ceremony

Sri Lankan community members welcome Ambassador Wickramasuriya to a meeting at the Los Angeles Consul General’s office.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya greets Mr.  Mahesh Parekh, Commissioner of the County of Los Angeles.

Ambassador Wickramsuriya meets with the Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles.

Ambassador Wickramsuriya with Sri Lankan Tamil community members in California.

Ambassador Wickramsuriya addresses the Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES – Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States called on Sri Lankan-Americans to speak with one voice to aid reconciliation at home, noting that the government has rehabilitated hardened terrorists, held local elections and continued an ambitious development program in areas affected by the conflict against terrorist group LTTE.

“Sri Lanka’s critics and supporters of the LTTE want to fall back on the past, because they do not have a future,” Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya said. “Now the political solution is unfolding, and all Sri Lankans have something that they have not had in a long, long time: Hope.”

Ambassador Wickramasuriya met with a large group of Sri Lankan-Americans at the Consulate General’s office on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. During the visit, he introduced Sri Lanka’s new Consulate General in Los Angeles, Dr. Hector Weerasinghe.

“Dr. Weerasinghe served as director of the Colombo National Hospital for the last 10 years – a very important period — and was with the hospital for 21 years,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “Dr. Weerasinghe will now use the wisdom, patience and skill that he learned as a physician as consulate general.”

As a part of the ambassador’s visit, the Consulate invited chief incumbents and resident monks of 10 Sri Lankan Temples in California to the official residence of the Consulate General for a Sangika Dhana. During the anusasana, the monks noted the Ambassador’s efforts to consolidate and strengthen the Sri Lankan Community, regardless of ethnic and religious differences.

In all, 30 monks took part in the talks. The monks expressed their appreciation for the chance to meet with the ambassador and gave assurances that they would urge their devotees to support Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts and refute incorrect information about Sri Lanka.

Additionally, newly-appointed Consulate General Weerasinghe received a blessing from the monks for a successful tenure in his new post.

Afterward, the ambassador met with a group of leading Tamil community representatives for one-on-one discussions about developments in Sri Lanka. Several of the Tamil community members recounted their positive impressions of post-conflict Sri Lanka.

The ambassador also briefed his guests on the recent economic and political developments in Sri Lanka and the efforts of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to empower communities in Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya highlighted a wide array of improvements that have taken place in Sri Lanka since the Government’s May 2009 defeat of the LTTE, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“By far the most important investments we have made are in the North and East,” the ambassador said. “About $1 billion annually has been spent to modernize those regions. The improvements include new homes, hospitals, schools, roads, water systems, bridges, railroads and irrigation.

“We have returned nearly all of the 300,000 people who were displaced by the conflict to their homes, giving them aid to rebuild and take up their livelihoods. We have cleared over 500,000 LTTE landmines and that work continues today. Agriculture and fishing are growing. This adds a whole new sector to the national economy – GDP in the North was close to 21 percent in 2010.”

Other improvements, the ambassador, noted, include a national GDP of 8.2 percent in 2010, increasing exports and foreign investment, new port facilities, airport, roads and rail lines and a recent sovereign bond issue that was oversubscribed by seven times. US investors, he noted, led the way, buying more than 43 percent of the issue.

Several community members expressed an interest in starting businesses in Sri Lanka, and the ambassador encouraged them to go to Sri Lanka to set up small and medium-sized companies.

Amid those gains, the ambassador said, Sri Lanka also, “rehabilitated over 1,000 children who were stolen from their families by the LTTE and forced to carry weapons. These child soldiers have been re-united with their families and are recovering from the psychological wounds of war. The government has granted amnesty to 11,600 LTTE militants, giving them job and education training. They have been released over time to civil society.

“How many countries in the world rehabilitate and release terrorists?” the ambassador asked. “Just one: Sri Lanka.”

Ambassador Wickramasuriya encouraged the audience, which included Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim Sri Lankans, to “come together and speak with one voice,” when it comes to reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka. He urged them as American voters to reach out to their members of Congress.

“Here in California you have one of the strongest community organizations in the United States. Your Sri Lanka days are filled with all kinds of people, and you have been so supportive of Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “By restoring peace, our president and our troops gave us the most basic human right – the right to live without fear.

“That one human right makes all the others possible.”

During his visit, Ambassador Wickramasuriya was also the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of “Ranwan Rayak IV,” a musical drama organized by Palitha Palitha Kasthuriarachchi. The ceremony was held at the Auditorium of the Sarathchandra Buddhist Temple in North Hollywood. Monks at the temple conducted a blessing for the success of the project, which will help raise funds for an ultra-sound scanning machine for the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children in Colombo.

Consulate General Weerasinghe explained to the audience how much the government spends on today on healthcare in Sri Lanka, and how vital new equipment is for children. This type of community support from the expatriates, he said, is greatly appreciated.