Visit to Sri Lanka by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour

August 26, 2015 at 3:56 pm


Colombo, August 25, 2015: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski who are currently visiting Sri Lanka met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera on August 25th 2015.

The meeting was followed by remarks to the media by Minister Samaraweera and Assistant Secretaries Biswal and Malinowski.

Minister Mangala Samaraweera: Good Morning Ladies & Gentlemen. I have just concluded discussions with Ms. Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia and Mr. Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department. I also welcomed Ambassador Atul Keshap who just assumed duties as the United States’ Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

We have continued the dialogue that began following the election of President Sirisena in January and my appointment as Foreign Minister then.

During our previous meetings and following to my visit to Washington in February, this year, we agreed to rebuild our multifaceted bilateral relationship. Several new areas of cooperation were identified during the very successful visit of Secretary Kerry to Colombo in May this year.

Our discussions today focused on follow-up on those understandings and on working towards even closer and tangible links. We discussed steps taken by the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena to promote reconciliation and to strengthen the rule of law as part of our Government’s overall objective of ensuring good governance, respect for human rights and strengthening our economy.

In keeping with the specific pledge in President Maithripala Sirisena’s manifesto of January 2015, and now that we have achieved political stability through one of the most free and fair elections held in this country, I outlined measures being taken to address concerns regarding alleged human rights violations, including through independent domestic mechanisms.

We have agreed on prioritizing closer economic cooperation. The United States is Sri Lanka’s single largest export market. 23% of our total exports enter the US market. We want to enhance our trade and business relations and encourage more US investors to take advantage of the economic opportunities in Sri Lanka.

We look forward to regular high level interactions at all levels, reflecting the current trajectory in the US – Sri Lanka relationship.

Later today, Assistant Secretary Biswal will call on President Sirisena and on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

I wish Assistant Secretary Biswal and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski and the delegation a very pleasant stay here in Sri Lanka.

Thank you.

And now may I invite Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal to address you.


Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal: Good morning and everyone and Mr. Minister thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to see you again and to congratulate you on this very important election. We also had the pleasure of meeting with the Justice Minister, Minister Rajapaksa as well and members of the Minister’s team.

Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour and myself are thrilled to be here, particularly also on the heels of our newest Ambassador, Ambassador Atul Keshap, having presented his credentials also just a couple of days ago.

We are here at this very momentous occasion, to really re-affirm the strong support of the United States for Sri Lanka, for the Sri Lankan people and for the commitment of the Sri Lankan Government and Sri Lankan people towards this path of democracy, of good governance, of peace and of prosperity.

I was here last May during the historic visit of Secretary Kerry and since then, we have seen not only this enduring commitment to democracy, but also just a tremendous momentum of progress, towards institutions of good governance, towards combating corruption and towards promoting reconciliation. As Secretary Kerry noted at that time, this is a long and difficult road, but one that the United States is committed to walk down with the people of Sri Lanka, and to provide support. And it is in that spirit that Assistant Secretary Malinowski and I are here today, to reaffirm our support, the support of the United States for Sri Lanka.

Just recently, we let President Sirisena know, that we would be supporting resettlement and education in Sampur with a commitment of 1 million dollars in resources and we look forward to working with the President, with the Prime Minister and with new government in this and other endeavors to ensure that the country is able to realize its enormous potential.

During this visit we will have an opportunity to meet with senior leaders, with political party and civil society leaders and with the private sector in the spirit of that partnership. And I simply want to at this moment say that we are in incredibly proud of the journey that is being undertaken here. The story that is unfolding in this great country is one that stands as a testament to the rest of world.

Thank you.

Let me now turn to Assistant Secretary Malinowski.


Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski: Ministers, it’s been a great honour and pleasure for me to come back to Sri Lanka and to see you and to see the formation of this new government and with all of the hope and promise that it represents.

In just the short time since I was here last, and in the shorter time since Secretary of State Kerry was here, we have seen steady progress towards the forward looking agenda this government has set. And it has been heartening to people all around the world. With the most recent example, of course, of the election. Another promise made that was kept.

What is most important to us is the message that the people of Sri Lanka have sent. Twice now this year, the people of Sri Lanka, North, South, East and West, have told us that they support change. Twice now, they have voted, North, South, East and West; for the rule of law, against impunity, for reconciliation, for building this country, developing this country for everyone, and against the politics of ethnic and religious division, against extremism on both sides.

They have set an important challenge for their government and for the international community. They have told us that the promise of this transition now needs to be fulfilled. And what we hear from the Government is a recognition that the work, the hard work must continue to meet their expectations.

We recognize that some of the choices ahead are going to be difficult. We recognize that this process is going to take time. Nobody expects miracles. But we do see an extraordinary opportunity, so long as the forward momentum is sustained.

We also see in the United States, an extraordinary responsibility to support this process. So as long as the government of Sri Lanka keeps making courageous decisions, the United States will stand by its side and provide the support that is needed to keep this process going forward, until Sri Lanka succeeds in every respect, in terms of security, economic development, democracy, and playing its rightful role as a respected leader on the world stage.

Thank you very much.