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Speaking on "Sri Lanka: Prospects for Peace," Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted that the domestic consensus for peace accompanied by the strong commitment of the international community for a peaceful resolution of the conflict provided a sound bedrock for peace efforts in the country

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States, was the guest speaker at the "Ambassador's Forum Series" at The Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University. The Forum provides a unique venue for Ambassadors from all regions of the world to present their views to the George Washington University community comprising both students and faculty. Previous speakers in the Fall series included the Ambassador of Sweden, His Excellency Jan Eliasson. Invited guests included members of the US government, think - tanks, the media and the Embassy Staff. The forum was Chaired by Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and currently Director, International Affairs Program at the Elliot School of International Affairs. In his address, the Ambassador provided a profile of the country's twenty year old conflict, current efforts at resolution of the ethnic problem, the role of the international community and recent political developments in Sri Lanka. Speaking on the current constitutional impasse in the country, the Ambassador mentioned that the peace process was not in jeopardy as there is a strong commitment on the part of the present Government and the President for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Further, there seem to be an increased appreciation among the United National Front Government and the People's Alliance of the need to make co-habitation work and for adopting a bipartisanship approach to dealing with critical national issues, such as the ethnic problem. The Ambassador highlighted that the current political situation is, in part, a natural concomitant of the workings of the 1978 Constitution. According to Ambassador Subasinghe, the best prospects for peace lay in the mandate for peace given by the people of Sri Lanka and the unwavering support of the international community for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Giving a realistic appraisal of the present situation in Sri Lanka, Ambassador Subasinghe said, "At present there is no war, nor peace in Sri Lanka. The risks need to be mitigated in the near future." Providing insights and recommendations for continuing progress toward peace, the Ambassador said that the twenty-month ceasefire had resulted in increased economic growth, higher levels of investment and tourism arrivals and lower inflation, resulting in strengthening the country's economic prospects. "Therefore, the continuing ceasefire, the ongoing dialogue between the President and the Prime Minister and the budget being debated despite the deadlock over the defense portfolio, are salutary factors in what seems like a challenging situation," said the Ambassador. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 08 December 2003

Key Technology and Economic development MOUs signed during visit

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday concluded a 3 day visit to the US, receiving strong support from President Bush for his leadership and his commitment to peace. President George W. Bush welcomes Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka to the Oval Office Wednesday, November 5, 2003. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters shortly after the White House meeting "The President made it very clear that the United States supports the Prime Minister's efforts, and the President reaffirmed our strong support for the Peace Process and the democratic institutions that are in place in Sri Lanka." The spokesman added that the two leaders also discussed the importance of trade. " The President thanked the Prime Minister for the positive role Sri Lanka played in Cancun", and "both leaders expressed their commitment to free trade and moving forward on the Doha talks", Mr. McClellan added. Earlier the Prime Minister held a series of meetings with senior administration officials. Meeting with Acting Secretary of State Richard Armitage on Monday, the Prime Minister discussed the economic situation in Sri Lanka, and developments in the peace process particularly in the light of the proposals put forward by the LTTE. Speaking to the media following the meeting, Mr. Armitage, while noting that "the LTTE proposals were significant in that this was the first time that such a comprehensive delineation has been made by the LTTE and may form the basis for a way forward," added that "it does go outside the bounds of what was envisioned in Oslo and in Tokyo where we talked about a federation, democratic society, respect for human rights and territorial integrity". "We need to come back to the boundaries envisioned at Oslo", Mr. Armitage said. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who met the Prime Minister at the Pentagon, assured continued US support to Sri Lanka and discussed elevating defense and security cooperation. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz escorts Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka (left) into the Pentagon on Nov. 3, 2003. The leaders are meeting to discuss defense issues of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel At a meeting with US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick , the discussion centred on measures aimed at moving the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) towards a free trade agreement. Meeting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman, the Prime Minister said his government sought to use trade as a tool for economic reform. The Prime Minister also met with the Director of the Peace Corps Gaddi Vasquez, to discuss the re-starting of Peace Corps operations in Sri Lanka later next year. The programme will focus on Information Technology and entrepreneurship training. The Prime Minister met with key Congressional leaders to discuss bilateral political, trade and economic issues and to secure their support for the early commencement of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the US and Sri Lanka. He addressed a meeting of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over all trade agreements. Rep. William Thomas (R-CA), the Chairman of the Committee hosted the meeting, which was attended by members of the Committee including Rep. Phillip Crane (R-IL), Chairman of the Trade Sub -Committee, Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA), Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL), Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member of Trade Sub-Committee. The Prime Minister also had separate meetings with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. The Prime Minister had discussions with the lawmakers on bilateral trade and economic cooperation that would advance economic development through bilateral trade liberalization. He described how Sri Lanka, a trade dependent economy, has no alternative but to liberalize its trade and integrate with the world economy and the vision of the government to offer Sri Lanka as a "value addition platform" and the gateway to South Asia. The Prime Minister's visit resulted in a number of agreements to further business opportunities in the knowledge economy sectors such as biotechnology, Information and Communication Technology. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Sri Lanka and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) which enables funding for technical assistance, feasibility studies, training, orientation visits and business workshops with particular attention to the areas of aviation, biotechnology and information and communication technology, was signed by Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando. Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda signed documents with the Biotechonomy Group for a study on the development of the biotechnology sector in Sri Lanka and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Microsoft Corporation to provide support for the E-Sri Lanka initiative. The MOU will provide a multi million dollar investment from Microsoft in technology, trading, educational assistance and infrastructure support over a five year period. Microsoft will also be setting up a subsidiary in Sri Lanka by the end of 2003. Accompanied by US Congressman Chris Van Hollen Jr.(D-MD), Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also visited the "Bio- Tech Corridor" in Rockville, Maryland. He visited the Human Genome Sciences (HGS) offices and laboratories located in the BioTech Corridor in Rockville, Maryland. The Congressman, in whose Congressional district the facility is located, is also the son of Ambassador Christopher Van Hollen who had previously served as US Ambassador in Sri Lanka. HGS is a pioneer in genomics for the discovery and the development of new pharmaceutical products including the clinical development of drugs to treat such diseases as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and hepatitis C. The Prime Minister also addressed a round table discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, which was attended by leading policy analysts. Oval Office picture gallery Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 06 November 2003
Program Statements Agreements Media Media interviews conducted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Tyronne Fernando are as follows -
  • BBC TV (World & UK)
  • CNN (Europe and Latin America)
  • CNN (Asia)
  • Reuters TV
  • Associated Press TV
  • BBC Radio (World)
  • BBC Radio (Domectic)

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


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