Mahinda Samarasinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States on Tuesday (21) addressed the prestigious University Club of the City of Washington D.C. and briefed the well-attended gathering on the current situation in Sri Lanka, as well as the challenges and opportunities for the future. The event, hosted by the Club’s International Committee at the Keefer Memorial Library, provided an occasion to inform and update influential members of the community in the United States’ capital on progress in Sri Lanka.
Ambassador Samarasinghe was introduced by Oonagh McDonald, CBE, a former Member of the U.K. House of Commons and a distinguished author and researcher on banking and finance. She welcomed the Ambassador as a person having a wealth of experience across a diverse range of fields, who could provide a unique perspective on Sri Lanka.
In his remarks, Ambassador Samarasinghe, highlighted the importance of the year 2023 which marks 75 years of relations between Sri Lanka and the United States. He outlined the history of people to people contact even preceding 1948 when Sri Lanka gained independence. He stressed that as much as Americans had contributed greatly to the uplift and welfare of Sri Lankans in many fields, that Sri Lankan migrants over the years had given of themselves and had excelled in many fields of endeavour. Sri Lanka – American relations have, over the years, grown and are based on commitment to democracy and mutual respect, he added, stating that for the next 25 years and beyond, the bilateral relationship will grow even stronger.
He explained Sri Lanka’s efforts at recovery from the economic crisis since 2021 and stated that he initiated contact with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022. Thereafter, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa communicated with the IMF in writing and commenced the process towards securing a Program. His successor, current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, demonstrated the political commitment to undertake the necessary reforms which had led to the IMF program being granted to Sri Lanka and currently being implemented. The Ambassador outlined the various governance and economic reforms undertaken and which are continuing at present. He explained the efforts at debt restructuring with principal creditors including China and the Paris Club of creditors including India. The Ambassador stated that Sri Lanka would ensure that all creditors would be treated equally.
The Ambassador then participated in a question and answer session moderated by Linda White, Head of the International Committee of the University Club and responded to a wide range of questions ranging from investment opportunities, migrant worker remittances, tourism and regional economic and security matters.
The University Club of the City of Washington D.C., inaugurated in 1904 and brings together a range of personalities representing a diverse range of professions and disciplines. Its inaugural President was Secretary of War, Willian Howard Taft who later was elected President of the United States. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, former President Richard Nixon, numerous Supreme Court Justices, Secretaries (Ministers) of the Cabinet and several leaders in business, government and academia, are counted among its membership.