December 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Assalamu Alaikum and Happy New Year!

As Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, I take great pleasure in wishing you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. The dawn of 2013 holds great hope and expectations for Sri Lankans, as we enter another year of lasting peace.

After much hard work to rebuild and recover from terrorism, Sri Lanka has now started receiving the dividends of peace. The country showed great progress during 2012, and most importantly – there was no loss of life due to terrorism in Sri Lanka.

We should all be thankful that 2012 was such a great year for Sri Lanka, and I am optimistic that 2013 will continue to show tremendous growth and positive developments in our Motherland.

Our economy is becoming stronger as we make great strides in development. Businesses in the United States and all over the world are interested in Sri Lanka, and more employment opportunities are being created all over the country. I am deeply proud of the great things happening in our Motherland, and I would like to share with you a few positive points:

  • National GDP growth has been 8.4%, and a 22% GDP growth has been achieved in the North.
  • Island-wide unemployment has dropped below 4%.
  • Sri Lanka continues to have a literacy rate above 90%.
  • The infant mortality rate has dropped to 9.47 in every 1,000 births.
  • Per capita income was doubled over the last 4 years, and we are projecting to continue to increase every year.
  • Sri Lanka reached 1 million tourists for 2012, which is an increase of 123% compared to 2009.
  • Sri Lanka is continuing to gain more international recognition as a great location for tourism and investment. Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guidebook, just named Sri Lanka as the number one destination to visit in 2013. As you know, Sri Lanka has received similar recognition in recent years from other esteemed international publications including the New York Times, National Geographic, the Huffington Post, Condé Nast, and Travel & Leisure.
  • The World Justice Project, an independent non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, recently ranked Sri Lanka first in South Asia in six of eight categories of the rule of law.
  • In 2012, the Government of Sri Lanka issued a sovereign bond of $1 billion USD, which was oversubscribed by 10 times.
  • The World Bank recently named Sri Lanka as the easiest place to do business in South Asia.

In addition to these momentous developments in the economic sphere, Sri Lanka is also making significant progress with post-conflict reconciliation.

  • The 300,000 people displaced by the conflict have all been resettled, with the closing of the final government welfare center, Menik Farm, in September 2012.
  • There is now full freedom of movement in Sri Lanka, with the only exception being the small areas (less than 2% of land) that are still being cleared of land mines laid by the LTTE during the conflict. Almost all land mines have been cleared.
  • Presidential, Parliamentary, and local elections have been held in the entire country including the Eastern and Northern Provinces.
  • Regional elections have already been held in the Eastern Province.
  • The government completed a post-conflict census of the Northern Province, and is in the process of compiling its electoral registers. The government has committed to conducting provincial elections in the Northern Province in 2013.
  • Almost all ex-LTTE combatants have been granted amnesty, completed rehabilitation, and peacefully reintegrated into civil society.
  • Over 600 child soldiers who were recruited by the LTTE were rehabilitated and reunited with their families.
  • Most importantly, Sri Lanka established a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to examine the last seven years of the conflict. The report was released in December 2011.
  • An action plan for implementing the LLRC recommendations has been adopted, and a comprehensive National Action Plan for Human Rights with specific time lines has been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. Sri Lanka is already moving forward quickly with these plans.
  • The LLRC recommendations are being dealt with under short, medium and long term goals, and implemented in a structured manner through priorities determined by the interests of Sri Lanka and its people, in order to achieve sustainable peace and reconciliation through the domestic process.

Under the visionary leadership of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka is working towards ensuring lasting peace and reconciliation. All of the communities are united and working together to move forward. The progress and modernization in the country is also supported by Sri Lankans around the world. I have met with many Sri Lankan-American groups during the past year, and I am always deeply inspired by your patriotism and commitment to our Motherland.

Please remember that your continued support is vital to Sri Lanka. Many critics are still spreading false propaganda about Sri Lanka, and it is our duty to share the real situation of the country with our friends in the United States. I urge you to speak to your Members of Congress and share the true picture of Sri Lanka with them as well. Your efforts to promote Sri Lanka in the United States are greatly appreciated, and my Embassy staff and I are always happy to help support you in any way possible.

As you share the correct picture of Sri Lanka with others, please invite everyone to visit Sri Lanka. Witnessing the tremendous progress for yourself is the best way to understand the positive developments in our Motherland, and I sincerely hope that all of you can visit Sri Lanka soon if you have not been there recently. Seeing is believing.

It is truly amazing to experience Sri Lanka today and see our country thriving and developing rapidly. Colombo is now a clean and beautiful city, and the entire country is also progressing. During this unique time in Sri Lanka’s history, people finally feel safe and are happy. You can see the many smiling faces in Sri Lanka and know that this happiness and optimism is moving the country forward to becoming the Wonder of Asia.

I would like to thank all of you most sincerely for your unwavering support, and I look forward to your continued commitment to protecting and promoting the image of Sri Lanka. I am honored to serve Sri Lanka as your Ambassador here in the United States, and I look forward to working together in 2013. My wife – Priyanga, children, and Embassy staff join me in wishing all of you and your families a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year.

Thank you,

Jaliya Wickramasuriya