WHITE 3D EMBOSSES CAPITAL LETTERS

Together with my colleagues at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C., I extend a warm welcome to all of you who have gathered here today to celebrate the 55th Anniversary of Independence of Sri Lanka. I do so with a deep sense of humility, having been associated with you as a member of the fast expanding Sri Lankan community in the United States over the past 25 years, during which I have studied and worked in the U.S. Today we gather at a time of great expectation, both in developments in Sri Lanka as well as the trajectory of Sri Lanka-U.S. Relations. In Sri Lanka, there is a concerted effort to transfer the solution of the ethnic conflict and related issues that have plagued our country ever since independence, from the battlefield to the negotiating table. The on-going Peace Process has clearly demonstrated, that despite difficulties that may arise from time to time, the process has been placed on an irreversible path. Further, the overall economic development strategy as envisioned and articulated under the title 'Regaining Sri Lanka' focuses on the clear link between establishing a lasting peace and creating market conditions conducive to economic growth and entrepreneurship in order to regain and maintain economic opportunities lost as a result of continuing conflict. Needless to say, many challenges continue to lie ahead. How Sri Lanka negotiates these issues will be closely followed by the international community, who believe Sri Lanka provides a potential model in conflict resolution. As for Sri Lanka - U.S. relations, the U.S continues to be the major trading partner of Sri Lanka accounting for 41% of Sri Lanka's total exports. Foreign direct investment from America has steadily increased and ninety American companies operate in Sri Lanka with an estimated investment of US$ 500 million. For decades Sri Lanka has been a recipient of development assistance from the United States. Educational and training opportunities for Sri Lankans in the United States has contributed significantly to our growth and development. In more recent years, our two countries have also developed a beneficial relationship in military and security cooperation. Particularly since the official visit to Washington D.C by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in July 2002, bi-lateral relations between Sri Lanka and the United States has become multi-faceted. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Trade Representative Jon M. Huntsman have undertaken visits to Sri Lanka, and the impact of these engagements with Sri Lanka has been reflected in both U.S. support to Sri Lanka's peace process, as well as in the augmentation of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) process aimed at liberalizing trade and investment between our two countries. During my tenure of office it will be my endeavor to build upon the vast fund of goodwill and understanding which exists between our two countries. In doing so my colleagues and I at the Embassy look forward to working with the Sri Lankan community resident in the U.S.- cutting across ethnic, religious and professional lines. We do so conscious of the magnitude of the task. In reaching out through the length and breadth of this vast country, the relatively small but influential Sri Lankan expatriate community that has distinguished themselves in so many fields, remains our greatest asset. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 04 February 2003
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, the United States Government was closely following developments in Sri Lanka and was committed to support Sri Lanka not only by word, but also in terms of substance. Secretary Powell made this observation when he welcomed Sri Lanka’s new Ambassador to the United States of America Devinda R. Subasinghe, who called on the US Secretary of State on Friday, 17th January, to present copies of his credentials. He was accompanied by Ambassador J.D.A. Wijewardena, Charge d’Affaires, a.i. This protocol requirement under the United States system precedes his formal presentation of credentials to US President George W. Bush at a formal credential ceremony to be held at the White House, at a date to be determined by the White House. With the presentation of copies of credentials, the Ambassador becomes the functional head of mission. Welcoming Ambassador Subasinghe, Secretary Powell noted that the new Ambassador was no stranger to Washington D.C. and the United States. He wished him every success in this new appointment and observed that his familiarity with this country will help further strengthen bi-lateral relations. Ambassador Subasinghe responding said he was honored to have the opportunity to be representing Sri Lanka in a country where he had studied and worked for over 25 years, and pledged that he would do his utmost to further a more enduring relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States. The Ambassador conveyed to Secretary Powell, the appreciation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe for the role played by the United States in support of the Peace Process and economic development in Sri Lanka. He also extended an invitation from the Prime Minister to Secretary Powell, to visit Sri Lanka. Secretary Powell recalled his short but pleasant visit to the island in 1983 with then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and Richard Armitage, the current Deputy Secretary of State. Secretary Powell said he was looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka once again. An investment banker by profession, Ambassador Subasinghe, prior to this appointment was Vice President of the Florida based Ramond James Financial Inc. He holds a MA in International Economics from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University and has previously served with the World Bank Group including the International Finance Corporation. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 17 January 2003
The dawn of the New Year is an occasion to take stock of the developments in the past year and reflect on the tasks that lie ahead. The progress we have achieved so far in the peace process gives us ample grounds for looking at the future with renewed optimism and hope. The Ceasefire has been consolidated, avoiding further blood shed and loss of life; urgent humanitarian needs of the people affected by the conflict are being addressed, resettlement is progressing and Sri Lankan economy is showing unmistakable signs of revival. The contentious issues that have come up in this long and difficult road, have been resolved through mutual dialogue and understanding. The international community has been consistent in its support for the peace process. It is my fervent hope that the New Year will see the further consolidation of the cease fire and progress towards a firm foundation for a durable peace based on mutually acceptable political and constitutional structures within a united Sri Lanka. It is the bounden duty of all Sri Lankans to work towards this end. Ministry of Foreign Affairs 31 December 2002
The Air Transport Agreement between Sri Lanka and the United States of America signed by Hon. Tyronne Fernando, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Hon. Colin Powell, Secretary of State on behalf of their respective Governments on 11th June 2002, in Washington DC, entered into force on 18th Nov. 2002, upon completion of all necessary internal procedures by both countries. It is the first Air Transport Agreement to be concluded by Sri Lanka with the United States of America since independence. This 'Open Skies' Agreement provides the legal framework for unrestricted capacity and frequencies by the airlines of both countries including liberalized code sharing and charter arrangements. The Agreement covers both passenger and cargo services and is expected to bring substantial economic benefits to air travellers, the business community and Sri Lankan expatriates in the United States of America. The Agreement also provides for cooperation in air traffic security and safety between the two countries. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 18 November 2002
US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage has said the United States Government was pleased with the progress that had been made at the recently concluded round of talks between the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE and has reiterated strong US support for the peace process. This assurance was given by Mr. Armitage when he met Sri Lanka's Minister for Economic Reform, Science & Technology Milinda Moragoda at the State Department this morning (08th November). Mr. Moragoda is in Washington as part of the ongoing process to keep the US Government briefed on developments concerning the peace process. They discussed the outcome of the second session of the talks which concluded in Bangkok on November 3rd and particularly focused on the meeting to be held in Oslo on November 25th, aimed at mobilizing financial support for immediate humanitarian and rehabilitation action in the North and East. Mr. Armitage said he would be personally leading the US delegation to this meeting and that the US is committed to continuing support for these vital objectives through projects that would yield an immediate impact. He expressed the hope that the negotiating process will lead to a permanent end to the Sri Lankan conflict based on the principles of democracy and respect for human rights, while maintaining the country's territorial integrity. The discussion also focused on the role of the US in providing development assistance for the rest of Sri Lanka. The comprehensive donor conference for this purpose is scheduled to be held in Tokyo early next year. The possible role that the US can play with regard to the Youth Corp and the E-Lanka initiative was also discussed. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca and James Andrew Bever of USAID were associated at this meeting. Minister Moragoda also held separate meetings with Assistant Secretary of State Rocca, Jim Moriarty of the National Security Council and Peter Rodman of the Department of Defence. During his stay in Washington, Minister Moragoda also met with Mr. Shengman Zhang, Managing Director and Acting President of the World Bank. Discussions focused on the forthcoming Oslo meeting. The World Bank expressed satisfaction with the direction of the ongoing peace process and the economic reform program. They also pledged support to the E-Lanka project. He also met the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF Mr. Shigemitsu Sugisaki. Sri Lanka's Ambassador designate to the US, Devinda Subasinghe and Sri Lanka's Charge d' Affaires a.i. in Washington, J.D.A. Wijewardena were associated with the Minister at these meetings. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 08 November 2002

1. Let me begin by conveying, on behalf of the Sri Lanka Delegation, our sincere felicitations on your election as the President of this 57th Session of the General Assembly and assurances of our fullest co-operation.

2. I would also like to express appreciation for the exemplary manner in which Dr. Han Seung-Soo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea guided the work of the 56th Session.

3. We warmly welcome Switzerland and East Timor as new members of the organization.

4. Our discussions and debates in this Assembly often reach heady heights and seek grand objectives, but ultimately they are about the future lives, the well-being and security of the people we are privileged to represent.

5. It is with such thoughts in my mind that I recall the horrendous events of September 11th last year which claimed the lives of so many Americans and people of other nationalities, from all over the world. As we are only too painfully aware, they are not the only victims of terror.

6. The attack confirmed what we in Sri Lanka have long known - that terrorism had also long been globalized. As President Bush acknowledged: "September 11th was not the beginning of global terrorism: it was the beginning of the World's concerted response."

7. We, in Sri Lanka, perhaps know better than most the tragedies that conflict and terrorism create. My own country has been ravaged by a twenty year conflict. It has caused over 65,000 deaths. 800,000 are internally displaced. Tragic stories abound. Children who will never see their fathers return home, mothers who have lost their sons, and children who, even today innocently, fatally step on anti personnel mines. I have talked to the disabled soldiers and the dispossessed, the people who have no homes, and those who return to the North-East to find war torn ruins and once productive fields sown with landmines.

8. The election victory last December of the Government I represent, was a clear national mandate to end the conflict in the North-East. The Government has since moved swiftly towards the fulfillment of this mandate. A ceasefire with the LTTE group was signed on 22nd February this year. The ceasefire has held. Confidence building measures have encouraged the free movement of people throughout the country and have revived economic activity. Peace talks with the LTTE, facilitated by Norway, commenced two days ago in Sattahip, Thailand. The LTTE has been unilaterally de-proscribed by the Sri Lanka Government to facilitate the talks, to give peace a chance and the LTTE a chance for peace.

9. A flexible approach is necessary in the negotiations - a warm heart and a cool head. An understanding of the other side, their aspirations and their concerns is essential. Negotiations are complex and will take time.

10. In the early stages of our talks with the LTTE, we are trying to resolve some of the immediate practical needs of the people that can bring relief and normalcy to our society. Economic re-construction and development of the affected areas will be a deciding factor in sustaining the momentum of political negotiations. Development is part of the healing process in a wounded, divided society. The pressing day-to-day problems of the people need to be settled as early as possible. Indeed at the discussions in Thailand, there was strong endorsement of the urgent need for resources to ensure early dividends of the peace process. The role played by Norway in facilitating this process, and most recently, at the peace talks is deeply appreciated. I extend my sincere thanks to them for all their efforts.

11. Already, following the ceasefire, there are signs of people enjoying their re-discovered freedom. The people want more. Exchange visits between school children and other groups from the south and north and vice-versa have revealed to many that the 'other side' is not so different after all. Last week, our capital, Colombo, came to a standstill as people from all over the country, from every religion and every ethnic group in society flocked to a peace rally.

12. These are all encouraging signs. But, with them comes a risk. The imperative for peace is growing. The people demand peace and the politicians and negotiators on both sides had better deliver. Peace is people driven. The conflict had dragged our economy to near bankruptcy and last year, for the first time in independent Sri Lanka, we recorded negative growth. Resources must flow into developing the areas ravaged by war. Opportunities should be created. The momentum of growth must be re-established. The people want to see normalcy restored. Nor tomorrow, but today. The farmers want their damaged irrigation canals repaired today - their harvest cannot be delayed until the final agreement is reached. This imperative is driven ever - more by young people - among Sri Lankan armed forces and LTTE cadres whose weapons lie silent. Without international support and help with resources to build a peace dividend, the gloss on peace can be dulled. With the re-creation of opportunities for people and for growth, politicians and negotiators will be driven even harder to stabilize, advance and sustain the peace.

13, From there, we can approach the complex constitutional issues. Those questions will take time. Yet, we believe that the way forward is through a clearly representative interim administration within a united Sri Lanka in which the rights of all communities, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese are safeguarded. This allows us to carry forward an initiative to empower local people by decentralizing governmental authority and establishing five regional economic development zones. Through such initiatives, we intend to encourage local people to be responsible for driving economic growth in their own regions. These measures, along with the liberalization and de-regulation of our economy will generate wealth.

14. Meanwhile, an immediate security dimension is pressing. Hundreds of thousands of mines need to be removed from tracts of land to make it safe and arable for the internally displaced persons to return to their homes and farms. Sri Lanka is reviewing its position on the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines with a view to becoming party to it as confidence in peace accrues. We are grateful for the help we are receiving from the UN, members of the International Community and NGOs, in our de-mining programme.

15. My Government is resolved to ensure that the people of the North and East of our Republic should also enjoy the same security, the same quality of life, democratic governance and human rights which people in other parts of the country enjoy. Sri Lanka has a high rating on the Human Development Index of the UNDP with our per capita income figures, our life expectancy and our literacy amongst the highest in the region. Peace will enhance all this further, but its dividend must be credited to all the shareholders in Sri Lanka's future.

16. Sri Lanka welcomes the support our peace process has received from members of the International Community and the United Nations. On a request made by me to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a UN Inter-agency Needs Assessment Team visited Sri Lanka in April-May this year. The team reached a strategic overview of the current situation that can guide immediate, mid to long term action by UN Agencies in Sri Lanka. We thank the Secretary-General for his efforts.

17. To quicken the pace of peace and to have its dividends credited directly and urgently to the people is imperative. We are grateful for all those who are assisting us in Quick Impact Projects. The implementation of these projects without delay will help peace take root, involve people in the affected areas in their economic and social recovery and ease the way for higher stages of development.

18. Throughout its long history, there have been flattering descriptions of Sri Lanka - centuries before our Tourist Board promoted the serenity of the island. The ancient Arabs and medieval Europeans called our island "Paradise". If in the course of our recent conflict, some of the quality of Paradise has been lost, then surely Paradise must be regained. "Regaining Sri Lanka" is much more than a slogan, it is a practical, do-able strategy in which we invite the International Community to participate.

19. While seeking a negotiated solution to our own conflict, Sri Lanka strongly supports negotiating a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We have long supported a responsible peace process which would lead to the acceptance of two States, Israel and Palestine, prospering in conditions of peace and security, as neighbours, under secure and recognized borders. We urge the resumption of a serious dialogue between Israel and Palestine as a prelude to sustained negotiations.

20. In Sri Lanka, dialogue and negotiations are turning around a long-drawn out conflict. For those who were responsible for September 11th, the approach needs to be different. No cause justifies the killing of innocent people. Global Terrorism must be eradicated in whatever manifestation, and wherever it occurs.

21. We support a comprehensive approach to international terrorism through the UN Ad-Hoc Committee on Terrorism. Terrorism has affected virtually all the countries of South Asia. A meeting in Sri Lanka will soon draft an additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. The Protocol would update the Convention, inter-alia, to meet the obligations devolving on member States in respect of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing for Terrorism.

22. The United Nations has been a source for good since its inception. It is the forum in which complex, competing and even confrontational concerns have an opportunity for interaction and possible reconciliation. Under the UN Secretary-General's initiative of the Global Impact, it provides for the launching and navigation of positive partnerships between the corporate and state sectors.

23. We also look forward to the implementation of decisions taken at the UN Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey. We welcome the Millennium Challenge Account as an outcome of that Conference to assist countries committed to democratic norms and good governance, the engagement of the private sector and the involvement of the people in the process of development.

24. In Sri Lanka, we intend to re-establish an investment friendly country with an efficient bureaucracy and a thriving private sector. On this visit to the United States, I have brought a team from our industrial sector to talk to American businessmen. We are grateful to the United Nations for helping my government to organize an Investment Promotion Forum in the United States tomorrow with the participation of members of our private sector who will interact with their counterparts here. These close encounters of the business kind will provide insight into the opportunities for collaborative economic and development ventures in Sri Lanka as we move forward on the peace front. Investment in peace makers sound political and economic sense for both Sri Lanka and its partners abroad. Growth in Sri Lanka will be good for everyone.

25. Across Sri Lanka, the people continue to build the only true peace we can hope for. Without fanfare, without politicians or the media, they are quietly going about their business, finding old friends and building new relationships. The mis-trust and suspicion are slowly melting away as people talk and share past experiences. The hatred in some hearts will take a little longer to dispel. But, even that will be overcome in time by the deep desire for weapons to be destroyed, mines to be cleared and the sound of laughter to be heard once again.

26. Trusting the people, whether it be for the consolidation of peace or the pursuit of development is the best policy. We are beholden to the people we work for: whether they be clients, or customers or shareholders or voters.

THANK YOU

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