Ambassador Bruce Wharton, Acting Under Secretary of State, Ambassador William Todd, Acting Assistant Secretary of State,
Ms. Angela Aggeler, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State,
Mr. Michael Delaney, Assistant United States Trade Representative,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The people of Sri Lanka have just celebrated the 69th anniversary of Independence, on the 4th of February in Sri Lanka.
All of you, who have so graciously joined me, my wife and my staff this evening, are here to help spread the celebrations right across the globe, joining our Embassies and communities that are marking this day in other regions of the world.
I extend a very warm welcome to all of you.
I am honoured to welcome our Chief Guest, Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Ambassador Bruce Wharton, whose presence, despite his numerous responsibilities at present, is a manifestation of the close friendship between our two nations.
This evening, we are being honored by the presence of Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Chairman of Sri Lanka Caucus, Congressman David Price of North Carolina, Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida and Congressman Thomas Garrett of Virginia. I warmly welcome all of them to our celebrations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sri Lanka’s journey throughout our modern history has been far from smooth. We have been through violent conflicts that have torn communities and families apart. Yet, through all that, we have kept alive our democratic practices and traditions, introduced to our country even before Independence.
Having seen the end of violent conflict in May 2009, and having elected into Office, a National Unity Government in 2015, the Sri Lankan people now look to the future with a renewed sense of hope, and commitment to consolidate peace and reconciliation, while striving for equitable economic development.
In his Independence Day Message, President Maithripala Sirisena stated that,
“the realization of the true meaning of freedom and independence lies in our potential to free ourselves from the shackles of all kinds and forms of poverty, ill-health, and confines of divisive identities of race, religion and caste, and enrich ourselves, as a society that values equity and rights of all.”
He further said,
“We are a nation that deserves to live a prosperous life in a country where peace and justice and equality prevail.”
Referring to the progressive steps taken by the National Unity Government, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Message stated,
“during the last two years, we have been able to achieve many steps in the right direction; restore democratic values, rebuild relationships with friendly nations and affirm mutual trust while focusing on revitalizing the economy towards laying the foundation for a nation that has overcome various differences, and is firmly anchored on principles of freedom and human values.”
Referring particularly to Sri Lankans living overseas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera stated,
“…the path we have chosen for ourselves is a challenging one. The task of nation-building is one that requires dedication and commitment of all Sri Lankans living both in Sri Lanka and overseas. As we approach the seventieth year of our Independence, I urge all of you to seize this historic moment in our nation’s journey, to contribute your strengths, your goodwill, your energy, skills and wisdom, to build an inclusive and prosperous nation that is reconciled and at peace, so that we march forward as brothers and sisters of one family, with respect towards all, to ensure the non-recurrence of conflict, and build the Sri Lanka of our dreams, as proud citizens.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our recorded history of over 2500 years tells us that the leaders of Sri Lanka, and the people of our country have always, throughout history, maintained contact with the pre-eminent kingdoms and nations of the time, sending envoys to Rome, the far East, and elsewhere. They leveraged our strategic geographic location in the middle of the Orient, operating as an Ocean hub between East and West.
People-to-people contact between Sri Lanka and this great country go back to the days the United States of America adopted its Constitution. The first Americans to arrive in my country were sailors from New England.
Bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the United States began to formalise as early as the 1850s when Sri Lanka was still a British colony. The United States appointed a Consul in Galle, the ancient port city - which, incidentally, I proudly call home.
Over the years, since then, relations between our two countries have passed many landmarks. Most importantly, the many Sri Lankans who have made this great country their home, stand as testimony to the closeness and abiding friendship between the United States of America and Sri Lanka.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United States of America, in keeping with its deep-rooted democratic traditions, has just elected a new President, who assumed Office less than a month ago. The leaders of our country look forward to working with the new US Administration to build on the exponential progress of our multi-faceted bilateral relationship, nurtured especially during the last two years, based on our shared commitment to citizens’ rights for freedom and justice.
The high-level Partnership Dialogue between Sri Lanka and the United States, that was initiated last year, is an important platform to advance our common interests, including promoting regional stability and global security, that is vital for sustained economic growth, world-wide.
Our development partnership reached new heights when Sri Lanka was selected for a Compact Programme by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, last December.
Our common commitment to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law, as well as our multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural values, continue to draw us together and promote our ties at all levels.
As an island nation considered as a pre-eminent maritime hub of the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we value our ever-growing partnership with the United States, whose commitment to promote blue economy, and whose unrivalled strength in the Oceans that can ensure peace and freedom in the blue waters of the world, are well known.
It is our belief that the United States will be a natural partner to Sri Lanka as we progress on the challenging transformative journey, to develop our nation as a modern democracy, rapidly integrating with the world of business and trade, in peace and friendship, for our mutual benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me ;
- in thanking the leaders, officials, and people of the United States of America, who have toiled hard over the years to strengthen the relationship between our two countries, elevating our partnership to unprecedented heights; and
- in wishing the current leaders and the people of our two countries, the strength, understanding, commitment and wisdom to persevere, overcoming all challenges that may come our way, to advance our friendship and partnership in all its manifestations, for the peace, security and prosperity of both our nations.