‘Speak with one voice to aid reconciliation’

‘Speak with one voice to aid reconciliation’

Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States Jaliya Wickramasuriya
called on Sri Lankan-Americans to speak with one voice to aid
reconciliation at home, noting that the government has rehabilitated
hardened terrorists, held local elections and continued an ambitious
development programme in areas affected by terrorism.

“Sri Lanka’s critics and LTTE supporters want to fall back on the
past, because they do not have a future,” the ambassador said addressing
a large group of Sri Lankan-Americans belonging to Sinhalese, Tamil and
Muslim communities at the Consulate General’s office on Wilshire
Boulevard, Los Angeles.

“Now the political solution is unfolding,” he said.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya

He added that all Sri Lankans have something that they have not had
for a long time: hope.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya urged them to reach out to their members of
Congress as American voters. “Here in California you have one of the
strongest community organizations in the United States,” he said.

The ambassador also met with a group of leading Tamil community
representatives for discussions about development activities in Sri
Lanka. He apprised them on the country’s economic and political
developments and efforts to empower communities in the North and East
provinces since the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Many of the Tamil
community representatives recounted their positive impressions of
post-conflict Sri Lanka.

“The most important investments we have made are in the North and
East. About $1 billion annually has been spent to modernize these
regions. The improvements include new homes, hospitals, schools, roads,
water systems, bridges, railroads and irrigation, the ambassador said.

“We have returned nearly all of the 300,000 people who were displaced
by the conflict to their homes, giving them aid to rebuild and take up
their livelihoods. We have cleared over 500,000 LTTE landmines and that
work continues today. Agriculture and fishing are growing. GDP in the
North was close to 21 percent in 2010,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya
pointed out.

Other improvements, the ambassador noted, include a national GDP of
8.2 percent in 2010, increasing exports and foreign investment, new port
facilities, airport, roads and rail lines and a recent sovereign bond
issue that was oversubscribed by seven times. US investors, he added,
led the way buying over 43 percent of the issue.

Several Tamil community members expressed interest in starting
businesses in Sri Lanka and the ambassador encouraged them to set up
small and medium-sized companies.

“Sri Lanka also rehabilitated over 1,000 children who were stolen
from their families by the LTTE and forced to carry weapons. These child
soldiers have been re-united with their families and are recovering from
the psychological wounds of war. The government has granted amnesty to
11,600 LTTE militants, providing them with career training and
education. They have been released over time to civil society,” the
ambassador said.

“How many countries in the world rehabilitate and release
terrorists?” the ambassador asked. “Just one: Sri Lanka,” he said.

As a part of the ambassador’s visit, Sri Lanka’s Consulate General in
Los Angeles Dr. Hector Weerasinghe invited chief incumbents and resident
bhikkus of 10 Sri Lankan temples in California totaling 30 bhikkus to
the official residence of the Consulate General for a Sangika Dhana.
During the anusasana, the monks noted the ambassador’s efforts to
consolidate and strengthen the Sri Lankan community, regardless of
ethnic and religious differences.

The monks assured they would urge their devotees to support Sri
Lanka’s reconciliation efforts and refute incorrect information about
Sri Lanka. During his visit, Ambassador Wickramasuriya participated as
chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of Ranwan Rayak IV, a musical
drama organized by Palitha Kasthuriarachchi at the Sarathchandra
Buddhist Temple auditorium in North Hollywood to raise funds for an
ultra-sound scanning machine for the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children
in Colombo.


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