Peace continues to attract economic development in Sri Lanka

In a further indication that the peaceful environment in Sri Lanka is winning new friends, a ground breaking deal was done with international computer software giant Microsoft today. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Minister for Economic Reform, Science & Technology, Hon. Milinda Moragoda for the Government and President, Microsoft Asia Pacific, Mr. Sanjay Mirchandani of Microsoft to further Sri Lanka's efforts to transform itself into a Information Economy and extend the benefits of the digital world to many more of its citizens, particularly in education. The Memorandum of Understanding committed Microsoft to a substantial presence in Sri Lanka and intends to contribute to the social and economic development of the country. They will be making the world standard ‘Windows’ software available in both the Singhalese and Tamil languages under the Microsoft Language Interface Program. They have also agreed to develop local Information Technology (IT) skills competence for students, teachers and government employees. This will greatly enhance the chances of future jobs for many of our youth. In a further show of support Microsoft will work with the newly formed ICT Agency (ICTA) to establish a State of Art Innovation Centre in order to deliver Strategic E-Government projects. Microsoft is a committed company in running training programmes and as part of the MOU they have also agreed to help the Government in running training programmes for school teachers as well as building specific curricula for schools and universities. With the new Intellectual Properties Act about to come into force Microsoft will also help the Government to run seminars and education campaigns on IPR issues and enforcement in cooperation with other IT interests in Sri Lanka. Minister Milinda Moragoda hailed the signing of the MOU as a significant advance for the country in its progress towards widespread Information Technology literacy. He said “Microsoft is a worldwide technology leader with branches all over the world. That they should want to come to Sri Lanka at this time is recognition that the country is accelerating out of the problems of the past few years. With the Permanent Ceasefire Agreement continuing to hold and the economy picking up almost daily this agreement is a further tremendous boost to the creation of jobs and the future prosperity of the country. I might also add that where Microsoft goes today many others tend to follow tomorrow.” Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 05 November 2003
The Ministry of Economic Reform, Science & Technology signs Memorandum of Understanding with Carnegie Mellon University In a refreshing vote of confidence and support to Sri Lanka's efforts to bring Information Technology solutions to the people, one of the best universities in the United States in the field of computer science, Carnegie Mellon, announced its agreement to develop a program of cooperation with Sri Lanka which includes a Technology Peace Corps. Coming on the eve of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to the United States, the announcement from Carnegie Mellon indicated that the plans include a launch of a Technology Peace Corps through which academics, researchers and training staff will visit Sri Lanka to conduct research, help upgrade the IT environment, and learn from the experience. Details of the plan will be finalized in cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Reform, Science and Technology and the newly formed Information, Communication and Technology Agency (ICTA). Carnegie Mellon University Provost Mark Kamlet said that he was hopeful that the University's expertise in the field can make helpful contributions as Sri Lanka, through the e-Sri Lanka framework, moves forward to support sustainable economic development. The students and faculty, he said, will enjoy working with creative collaborators and leverage the rich culture and traditions, and the potential that Sri Lanka has in a post conflict situation to make rapid economic growth. Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology, Milinda Moragoda, who is also accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit, stated that this is a vote of confidence by a very prestigious university, in the potential for IT in Sri Lanka. We need to open our "windows" to what is happening in the IT field in the world and the Technology Peace Corps will enable Sri Lankans to interact with volunteers who are also excited with the opportunity to work, learn and share their knowledge. "We have one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world but we will fall behind if our IT literacy rate does not also catch up. I see prospects for the Carnegie Peace Corps initiative, through their research work, to help us develop low cost solutions that will benefit the many people who do not have the opportunity in our country to benefit from IT." Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 01 November 2003
President George W. Bush has sent a communication to the US Senate seeking ratification of the amendment to Sri Lanka-US Double Taxation Agreement. The Protocol amending the Convention between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of the United States of America for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evaluation with respect to Taxes on Income (1985) was signed on 20 September 2002 in Washington D.C. The Hon. Milinda Moragoda, Minister of Economic Reform, Science & Technology and the Hon. Christina B. Rocca, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia signed the Agreement on behalf of their respective Governments. The text of the new Protocol, which has been long outstanding was finalized at official level discussions during the visit of Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to Washington D.C. in July 2002. The protocol reflects changes in the laws and policies of both countries, since the signing of the Double Taxation Convention in 1985. It contains provisions to facilitate investment between the two countries by addressing the issues of taxation of cross-border payments, investment income, business profits, capital gains and other types of income. Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, said that "the implementation of the Protocol to the US Double Taxation Convention would generate greater confidence in US investors contemplating to investment in Sri Lanka. It also would further strengthen existing legal framework for the promotion of US investment including Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Treaty and Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which was concluded during the Prime Minister's visit to Washington D.C. in July 2002." Following is the text of the communication addressed by President George W. Bush to the US Senate seeking the ratification of the protocol. "I transmit herewith, for Senate advice and consent to ratification, the Protocol Amending the Convention Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka - for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income signed at Colombo on March 14, 1985, together with an exchange of notes, signed at Washington on September 20, 2002 (the "Protocol"). I also transmit, for the information of the Senate, the report of the Department of State concerning the Protocol. The Protocol would amend the Convention to make it similar to tax treaties between the United States and other developing nations. The Convention would provide maximum rates of tax to be applied to various types of income and protection from double taxation of income. The Convention, as amended by the Protocol, also provides for resolution of disputes and sets forth rules making its benefits unavailable to residents that are engaged in treaty shopping. I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to this Protocol in conjunction with the Convention, and that the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification. GEORGE W. BUSH THE WHITE HOUSE, " Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 30 October 2003
Meets U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Chiefs Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy was a distinguished participant at the 16th International Seapower Symposium Oct. 26 - 29 at the Naval War College hosted by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark for the heads of Navies around the world. More than 150 delegates from 71 countries attended this unique event. Some countries were also represented by the head of their coast guard and the president of their Naval War College. This year's theme was "Sea Power for Peace, Prosperity and Security." Admiral Sandagiri was invited by the US Navy in the light of the burgeoning defence relationship between the two countries. Sri Lanka is due to take delivery of a 210 foot Cutter formerly used by the United States Coast Guard soon. Admiral Sandagiri met with the US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark and a host of top US Navy and Coast Guard officials including Admiral Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of the Coast Guard during the symposium. During his meeting with Admiral Clark, collaboration pertaining to training and equipment, amongst other matters, were discussed in detail. This follows the visit to Pacific Command (PACOM) in June 2003 by Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe who was accompanied by Vice Admiral Sandagiri. The visit paved the way for increased defence relations between the US and Sri Lanka. The purpose of the symposium was to provide a forum for naval leaders from around the world to discuss common maritime challenges and enhance navy-to-navy cooperation. The International Seapower Symposium has commonly been a biennial affair since its inception in 1969. The 2001 event was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks on America. "It is an honor for our Navy to host such a distinguished group of friends, allies and professionals committed to excellence in the maritime domain," Clark said. "In this era of globalization, nations thrive or flounder based on their access to markets. We assure that access for our respective countries - and our peace, prosperity, and security depend on our ability to fully exploit the maritime domain. This symposium is a forum that will better enable us to do just that. The U.S. Naval War College established programs in 1956 and 1972 for international officers. A number of delegates attending this symposium are graduates of these programs. Sri Lanka Navy too sends senior naval officers to follow the Naval War College Course on a regular basis. Founded on October 6, 1884, the Naval War College is the first military service institution in the world to be designated a war college. The Naval War College has a long and unique history of educating its students to make sound decisions in command and to develop a keen undertaking of naval strategy and management. At the War College, students are challenged to increase their professional skills, to prepare for increased command and management responsibilities, and to conduct advanced research in strategic and operational concepts. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 30 October 2003
Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe was among the Ambassadors and Muslim Leaders in the US who attended the Iftaar dinner hosted by US President George W. Bush, at the White House on Tuesday. The event is held annually to celebrate Ramadan- a month of fasting, prayer, worship and contemplation. "The invitees to the White House for this event are usually the diplomatic community and dignitaries from countries where there is a preponderance of Muslims. On this occasion, however, Sri Lanka was also included. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, was the special guest of honor at this event, which was also attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham, National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials. Addressing the gathering, President Bush said "America is a land of many faiths" which honors, welcomes and values the Muslim faith. Noting that "Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to good people across America and around the world" he said "tonight we honor the contributions of Muslims and the tradition of Islam by hosting this Iftaar at the White House." The President reminded his audience of the need to be "mindful of the struggles of the men and women around the world who long for the same peace and tolerance we enjoy here in America", adding that "brave American and coalition troops are laboring every day to defend our liberty and to spread freedom and peace, particularly to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan." Asserting that "terrorists who use religion to justify the taking of innocent life have no home in any faith", he pledged that the US "will continue to support the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build a more hopeful future" and "will not allow criminals or terrorists to stop the advance of freedom". The President urged that "as we defend liberty and justice abroad, we must always honor those values here at home." He said, "America rejects all forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. We welcome the values of every responsible citizen, no matter the land of their birth" and "will always protect the most basic human freedom -- the freedom to worship God without fear." Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 29 October 2003

President Bush to Welcome the Prime Minister to the White House on November 4, 2003

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be visiting Washington DC from the 3rd to 5th November 2003 during which he will meet President George W. Bush at the White House. He is also scheduled to meet senior US administration officials, Senators and Congressmen. A further highlight of the visit will be a visit to the premier biotechnology institutes and companies located in the "Biotechnology Corridor" in the State of Maryland. "The Prime Minister's forthcoming visit follows the earlier visit to the White House in July 2002 to meet President Bush, during which the two leaders discussed key bilateral issues and the peace initiatives of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. That visit established the foundation for enhancing the bilateral relationship in a mutually beneficial manner" said Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States of America. Current relations between the two countries are marked by regular, high level contacts and meaningful bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, national security and global issues. The US has been actively engaged in supporting the Peace Process in Sri Lanka. The US Government hosted the Pre-Tokyo Donor Conference held in Washington DC in April 2003 and Co-chaired the Tokyo Donor Conference in June 2003. These efforts underline the active support of the US Government in re-establishing peace, national security and economic progress in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will apprise President Bush on the current status of the Peace Process and on the economic reform program of the Government. The discussions the Prime Minister will have during this visit are expected to further reinforce the support of the US Government towards the maintenance of the ceasefire and a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka that would end decades of conflict. The discussions are also expected to further enhance the deepening and diversification of trade between the two countries, especially because the visit follows the recently concluded Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) 3rd Joint Council meeting in Colombo on October 14th, 2003. The two leaders will have wide- ranging discussions that will also include regional and international developments. It is expected that the current visit of the Prime Minster will deepen and widen the close ties that have been forged between the two countries since the July 2002 visit. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 24 October 2003