Ambassador Ronald J. Sorini was appointed an Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in the State of Illinois. Ambassador Sorini currently serves as the President of the Trade Negotiations and Legislative Affairs practice at Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A. (ST&R). As the Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka, Ambassador Sorini will provide protocol services for ranking Sri Lankan officials visiting the United States and will be the point of contact for leading politicians, businessmen, members of academe and professionals of Sri Lanka in the areas of trade, business, and tourism. Ambassador Sorini has been a champion of Sri Lanka for many years working to enhance trade between the U.S. and Sri Lanka and helping the country to attract private direct investment. Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A. has been providing consultancy and advisory services to the Government of Sri Lanka and to the private sector for many years. Ambassador Sorini has been involved in international trade matters for over 20 years. Prior to joining ST&R in December 1999, he served as a Senior Vice President for International Development and Government Relations at Fruit of the Loom, a textile and apparel company, where he played a leadership role in numerous legislative activities that had a tremendous impact on the U.S. textile and apparel industry. During the term of President George H. W. Bush, Ambassador Sorini served as the U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 1989 – 1993. Mr. Sorini was nominated by President Bush for the rank of Ambassador in 1990 to conduct international trade negotiations. During his tenure at USTR, Ambassador Sorini negotiated over 50 international trade agreements, including aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Ambassador Sorini can be reached at: 225 W. Washington Street Suite 1550 Chicago, IL 60606 Tel: 312 641 0000 Fax: 312 651 0005 Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 04 March 2004
Speaking on U.S. - Sri Lanka trade relations, Senator Richard Lugar says strong commercial relationship can also help improve internal stability in Sri Lanka The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on the US -Sri Lanka Double Taxation Agreement and Protocol on February 25, 2004. The hearing was chaired by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana). Ms. Barbara M. Agnus, International Tax Counsel of the Department of Treasury, Mr. John Yin, Chief of Staff of the Congress Joint Committee on Taxation and Mr. William A. Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council testified at the hearing, the first step towards US ratification of the Agreement. The agreement with Sri Lanka represents the first tax treaty between the two countries. The proposed tax treaty with the US was first signed in 1985. The Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of Sri Lanka and the US Government for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, was signed in September 2002. Hon. Milinda Moragoda, former Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology and the Hon. Christina Rocca, US assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, singed the Agreement on behalf of their respective governments. The Tax Treaty was not acted upon by the Senate at the time (1986) since changes made to the US International Tax Rules by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 necessitated revisions to the Agreement. The proposed tax protocol, which was signed in September 2002, amends the 1985 convention to reflect changes in domestic laws since 1985, as well as, developments in US Tax Treaty Policy and include modifications that better reflect US Tax Treaty Preferences. Senator Lugar (R-Indiana) chairing the meeting observed that the United States is Sri Lanka's largest export market, with almost 40 per cent of Sri Lanka's exports destined for the US, while American businesses sell significant amounts of wheat, electrical machinery, textile, medical instruments and other products in Sri Lanka. Over 90 US companies have more than US$500 million invested in Sri Lanka, and these companies stand to benefit from the Protocol's prevention of double taxation on revenue earned. Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Subasinghe commenting on the hearing said, "this proposed treaty will provide an effective impetus for further strengthening US- Sri Lanka trade relations, and will also enhance the groundwork for a proposed free trade partnership with the US. It has the potential to significantly attract US investments to re-investment in Sri Lanka, as well as, encourage a growing number of Sri Lanka businesses into the United States. The conclusion of this Agreement is expected to generate greater confidence with US investors wishing to invest in Sri Lanka and would also strengthen the existing legal framework for the promotion of US investments such as the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Treaty and the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA)." Ms. Barbara Angus emphasized that Sri Lanka has been a significant economic and political partner of the US for many years and strengthening its economic relations with Sri Lanka would also help the island achieve growth and political stability. Senator Lugar too, reiterated the importance of economic development for political stability in the country. Mr. William Reinsch, testifying before the Committee supported early ratification of the Treaty and highlighted that the Treaty would expand the ongoing discussions under the US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework agreement aimed at developing and diversifying trade between the two countries. The bilateral tax treaties are the primary means of eliminating tax barriers to trade and investment. The proposed Treaty will relieve Double Taxation both in the United States and Sri Lanka through the Foreign Tax Credit Mechanism. It will also provide for non-discriminatory treatment by one country to residents and nationals of the other. Further, the Treaty includes an exchange of information provisions that generally follows the US Model. Sri Lanka has confirmed its ability to obtain and exchange key tax related information. The Government of Sri Lanka has fulfilled all legal processes with regard to the Treaty and the Protocol. The Sri Lanka Tax Treaty has been unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Following ratification by the Senate, the Treaty and the Protocol will come into force upon a bilateral exchange of Instruments of Ratification. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 04 March 2004 Click here for the testimony at the hearing
The Marshall Legacy Institute hosted the 2004 Clearing the Path Gala at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington DC on January 28, 2004. The event was held to honor the participants and the donors who contributed generously to the efforts of MLI to rid the world of the landmines. MLI has been in the forefront of endeavors executed to provide local handlers and leaders to insure the effective integration of the dog teams in the national mine clearance programs of Armenia, Eritrea and Thailand. MLI's latest project, the first ever "six-pack" of dogs for Sri Lanka was an unprecedented success. In September 2003, MLI launched the Children Against Landmines Program (CHAMPS), in Wyoming under the stewardship of Mrs Diana Enzi, wife of Sen Michael E. Enzi (Rep-WY).The response in Wyoming has been remarkable, with tens of thousands of school children donating quarters to sponsor a dog named Wyoming to Sri Lanka. The six pack of dogs are due to arrive in Colombo in March this year. The delegation from Wyoming comprised of Ms Margaret Cosner (representing the schools of Wyoming)and Mr Cameron Durbin (representing the school children of Wyoming). The Gala was well attended by a large number of VIPs including Senators Chuck Hagel and Patrick Leahy (Honorary Co-Chairs of MLI) and Rep Frank Pallone (Co-Chair of the Sri Lanka Caucus) , the US Department of State, the Humane Society of the United States, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Mr and Mrs Nihal Gunawardena from the Sri Lanka Association of Washington DC and from the corporate sector. The Humane Society of the United States made a pledge to continue and increase its support to this worthy endeavor. Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe (International Co-Chair of MLI), Mrs Helga Wurzer-Subasinghe (Member, Steering Committee), Defence Attaché Brigadier Rohan Jayasinghe and Mrs Shereen Jayasinghe were among the distinguished guests. The Master of Ceremonies was George Stephanopoulos (host of NBC News "This Week") and the Duke Ellington School Show Choir provided the entertainment. Click here for the picture gallery Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 27 February 2004
Sri Lanka's 56th Anniversary of Independence was celebrated at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC on 4th February and 8th February 2004. Celebrations held at the Embassy on 4th February The National Day celebrations at the Embassy of Sri Lanka commenced with the hoisting of the National flag by Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US, H.E. Devinda R. Subasinghe at the Chancery premises and the singing of the National Anthem. The traditional oil lamp was lit by the Ambassador, religious dignitaries representing the four main religions and visiting dignitaries. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious ceremonies were then conducted to invoke blessings on the country and its people. The Ven. Katugastota Uparathana Thero, Chief Incumbent of the International Buddhist Center, Wheaton, together with Buddhist clergy representing the Washington Buddhist Vihara Society Inc., conducted the Anusasana. Mr. K. Renganathan, Mr. Naseer Azeez and Dr. Greg Fernandopulle conducted the Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious observances respectively. Thereafter, Ambassador Subasinghe addressed the gathering which also included the families of the Embassy staff. A special feature of this celebration was the presence of a delegation from Sri Lanka attending the 52nd National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC., including Justice Shiranee Thilakawardana, Judge of the Supreme Court, Hon. Susil Premajayantha, Member of Parliament, Mr. Harim Peiris, President's Spokesman, Mrs. Druki Martenstyn, Chairperson, Association for Families of Servicemen Missing in Action, Mr. Zarook Marikkar, Chairman GoTelNetwork, Mrs. Neela Marikkar, Director, Grant Kenyon & Eckhardt Ltd. Community joins Embassy Celebrations The Sri Lanka Embassy organized the main event to commemorate the 56th Anniversary of Independence on 8th February 2004 at the Amphitheatre of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC. A large gathering of Sri Lankans including Sri Lankan government officials, representatives of Sri Lanka organizations in Washington DC and well wishers participated in this event. Among those present were Mr. Harim Peiris, President's Spokesman who was attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC., Brigadier Upali Edirisinghe of the Sri Lanka Army and Group Captain Mohan De Zoysa of the Sri Lanka Air Force who are presently attending courses at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. The event commenced with the playing of the National Anthem and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp by Ambassador Subasinghe, the religious dignitaries representing the four main faiths and representatives of Sri Lanka organizations in Washington, DC., Mr. Nihal Goonewardena, President, Sri Lanka Association of Washington DC and Mr. Dias Amarawardena, President, Sri Lanka Ranga Kala Kavaya. The religious ceremony to invoke blessings on the country and its people commenced with Ven. Katugastota Uparathana Thero, Chief Incumbent of the International Buddhist Center, Wheaton observing the Anusasana, followed by the recital of a Hindu prayer by Shri Subbarathnam Visveswaran of the Siva Shri Vishnu Temple, Lanham, a recital from the Holy Koran by Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain of Georgetown University and a sermon by Dr Greg Fernandopulle. The Independence Day messages of H.E. the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister and the Hon. Tyronne Fernando, Minister of Foreign Affairs were read by Mr. Saman Udagedara, Minister (Commercial), Mrs. Hemali Rajapakse, Administrative Officer (Consular) and Ms. Dhammika Semasinghe, First Secretary (Economic) of the Sri Lanka Embassy. Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the progress made in the Sri Lanka-US relationship. He described the four key objectives outlined in 2003 as part of a Three Year Strategic Plan of the Embassy, namely, to deepen and broaden US - Sri Lanka relationships in all its manifestations, to elevate economic cooperation between the two countries and secure greater US market access for Sri Lanka and a higher level of US investment in Sri Lanka, to increase access to the technical expertise and financial resources of the World Bank and the IMF and to upgrade infrastructure and ensure that the Embassy becomes more service oriented. Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the prime objective of the Embassy as working to convert prospects into the announcement of the US intention to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka. This would broaden and deepen the Sri Lanka-US trade relationship. He also referred to the establishment of a Sri Lanka Working Group at the US Chamber of Commerce in order to foster increased US investment in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Subasinghe described the Embassy's work with Sri Lankan expatriate organizations in fund-raising activities in the US for humanitarian de-mining programs in Sri Lanka, where efforts are underway to clear over 70,000 landmines. This initiative has been successful in raising funds to acquire and train six mine detection dogs to be sent to Sri Lanka in March 2004. Ambassador Subasinghe also stressed the Embassy's commitment to provide high quality Consular services that has been increasingly acknowledged by the community, the revamping of the Embassy website in order to facilitate online access to updated Consular information, as well as the establishment of an ideas line to obtain comments and suggestions on the services provided. The site also provides updates on Embassy activities. He also referred to the Embassy's focus on establishing and strengthening contacts with and mobilizing expatriate community support in other states and the visits undertaken to promote this objective. The address was followed by an open forum for members of the audience to interact directly with the Ambassador through a question and answer session. After the formal part of the ceremony, the celebration continued with a cultural show presented by the Sri Lanka Youth Dance Troupe of the Ranga Kala Kavaya, traditional Sinhala and Tamil dances and patriotic songs sung by members of the community. Please click here for the picture gallery Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 20 February 2004
Speaks on "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka" Visits Limited Brands in Columbus, Ohio Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, was the first speaker at the seminar series sponsored by the Ashland International Business Initiative, a partnership between the Ashland University and Ashland Economic Development. The seminar series is an important component of the overall Regional International Export Program of the State of Ohio and, Ashland University is significantly involved in promoting the program. Previous speakers at the University have included Presidents Reagan and Bush and, Prime Ministers Thatcher and Netanyahu. The seminars will be presented on a quarterly basis and will cover countries such as, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Costa Rica, Peru, Hungary and Georgia. In his presentation entitled, "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka," the Ambassador provided a profile of the country's increasing trade and economic relations with the U.S.A., Sri Lanka's business climate and it's investment incentives. Providing insights into the country's improving economy, the Ambassador mentioned that the economic prospects were strengthened in 2003 by increased economic growth, higher levels of investment, tourism arrivals and lower inflation. Speaking to the Ohio business community, Ambassador Subasinghe emphasized the benefits that communities of all sizes such as, Ashland and Sri Lanka, could reap by reaching out to markets beyond their local environs. The Ambassador said, "while it's important to be grounded locally, communities of all sizes must look outward to the opportunities beyond their corners of the world. Opportunities for communities of all sizes to benefit from globalization are great. " Showcasing Sri Lanka's special appeal for foreign investors, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the fifteen year old robust association that the US apparel giant, the Columbus (Ohio) based Limited Brands, Inc., has with Sri Lanka. He mentioned that Sri Lanka is an important sourcing destination for world class apparel and that Victoria's Secret sourced over US$350 million worth of merchandise from Sri Lanka in 2003. Further discussing business opportunities for Ohio businesses in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador mentioned that the range of export items from Ohio could include everything from agricultural products such as wheat and grains and soybeans to paper and paper board to computers. Ambassador Subasinghe's visit to Ohio underscores the business promotion activities of the Embassy aimed at broadening and deepening the Sri Lanka-US trade and investment relationship. While in Ohio, Ambassador Subasinghe met with executives at the Headquarters of Limited Brands Inc. in Columbus and was hosted by the Ashland Mayor William Strine and the City Council. Ambassador Subasinghe invited the Ashland business community to establish a mutually beneficial partnership with Sri Lanka by availing of the investment opportunities currently available in Sri Lanka. In particular, the Ambassador highlighted Sri Lanka's need for contractors or foreign companies to help build the country's water plants, roads, airports and invest in other available infrastructure development projects. Trade relations between Ohio and Sri Lanka are over 50 years old. Rubber products manufacturers in Ohio have been importing natural rubber from Sri Lanka for their products, in particular, for the manufacture of tyres, which was amply evident from the visit of the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Sir John Kotalawala, to the Firestone Tyre Factory in Akron, Ohio in 1954. Fifty years later, Sri Lanka has a diversified export relationship with Ohio. In addition to the apparel and garment sector, Sri Lankan rubber and rubber products are consumed by Ohio industry. Abbott Laboratories' Hospital Products Division's Ashland facility employing 600 workers, imports Sri Lankan rubber for its products. Prospective Ashland area exports to Sri Lanka include agricultural products, medical rubber products, industrial machinery, paper and paper board. The Gorman-Rupp Pumps in Ohio exports pumps to Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan business delegation in the crape rubber sector visited Cleveland and Akron in 2003. President of the Ashland University, Dr. William Benz said, "There are great advantages in working together. This is the first step. This is the first chapter in developing those partnerships." Click here for the picture gallery Click here for the power point presentation Ashland looks to Sri Lanka for growth - News Journal Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 21 January 2004
U.S. Department of State to contribute $ 300,000 to complete funding The Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Mine Action Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr. In conjunction with the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Devinda R. Subasinghe and the Marshall Legacy Institute hosted a select group of invitees in recognition of their contributions for mine detection dogs for humanitarian mine action in Sri Lanka. US Department of State efforts to help Sri Lanka rid itself of its persistent landmines and strengthen its peace process are being reinforced by private sector donations to provide these dogs. “We are proud to celebrate this public-private investment that will speed demining operations in Sri Lanka and accelerate the rate at which mined areas can be demarcated, cleared, and double checked to ensure that deadly persistent landmines….really have been cleared” said Lincoln P. Bloomfield. Private donors present a $120,000 check to the Marshall Legacy Institute for six mine detection dogs for Sri Lanka at the US Department of State on January 14, 2004. (Left to Right) Ambassador Devinda Subasinghe; Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr.; Jack Gehring (Caterpillar); Nihal Goonewardene (Sri Lankan Association of Greater Washington); Donald Y. McCoy; Raj Rajaratnam (Galleon Group); General Gordon R. Sullivan (MLI); Christine Smith (Georgetown University); Sima Narron (Chubb Corporation) and Coy Knobel (Office of Senator Mike Enzi,R-WY). Donors not in photo include Hilda Davis, Dr. Beall & Linny Fowler and the Martin Trust Family Foundation. The Embassy of Sri Lanka launched a fund raising campaign in 2003 in partnership with the Marshall Legacy Institute and the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs of the Department of State which resulted in the successful raising of $120,000 for six mine detecting dogs. US corporations, expatriate Sri Lankans, school children and concerned US citizens from Wyoming to Pennsylvania to Greater Washington DC., have made generous contributions for this humanitarian cause. The donors are :
  • President Nihal Goonewardene and members/friends of the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington, Inc. with Billie and Don McCoy, a former US corporate CEO with a long relationship to Sri Lanka, for a dog named “Hannah”,
  • Mrs. Diana Enzi, wife of Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) leading the Wyoming school children participating in the Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS), for a dog named “Wyoming:,
  • Ms. Hilda Davis, Hilda and Preston Davis Foundation in New Jersey,
  • The Martin Trust Family Foundation, dog named “Trusty”
  • Concerned citizens in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, dog named “Lehigh”.
  • Caterpillar Inc., and the Chubb Corporation, dog named “CC”
  • The Galleon Group, founded and managed by Raj Rajaratnam, dog named “Galleon”.
The U.S. Department of State will match the $ 120, 000 with a grant of about $ 300,000 to complete the funding of the training, deployment and operations of the six-pack of dogs to launch the Mine Detection Dog Program in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe thanked the donors from the US business community, Sri Lankan expatriates, school children of Wyoming and other US citizens who contributed the funds for the purchase of dogs. “I am extremely elated that we have now funded the first six-pack of dogs for Sri Lanka, which is an excellent start. However, given the scope of the humanitarian demining requirements , we need to increase the funding and mine awareness further in order to expedite the process of demining to enable the children of Sri Lanka to return to their schools and to re-open health centers” the Ambassador stated. He praised the Marshall Legacy Institute for taking the initiative to launch this program in Sri Lanka and Perry Baltimore, its President, for his personal dynamism and organization in achieving this objective. Mr Raj Rajaratnam, the Founder and Managing Partner of The Galleon Group spoke on behalf of all the donors. He recalled his visits to the mine impacted areas of Sri Lanka and underscored the humanitarian toll that mines have taken. Recounting his encounter with a young child, in Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka, who had lost both legs to a landmine Mr. Rajaratnam, mentioned that this particular image, etched in his memory, “made it an easy decision to write the check”. On behalf of the donors, he handed over the check for $ 120,000 to Gen. (Ret.) Gordon R. Sullivan, Chairman Emeritus of the Marshall Legacy Institute. Ambassador Subasinghe invited the major donors to attend the graduation ceremony of the dogs and local handlers in Sri Lanka scheduled for May 2004 to witness first hand the “ return” on their investment in the humanitarian mine detection program in Sri Lanka. Click here for the Marshall Legacy Institute Annual Report Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 21 January 2004