AMBASSADOR, EMBASSY STAFF HOST RECEPTION FOR TOP CONGRESSIONAL STAFF MEMBERS IN WASHINGTON
“Democratically-elected President Rajapaksa is doing what the people of Sri Lanka want”
Ambassador explaining the content of the recently published report , Sri Lanka Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis to George McElwee, Chief of Staff to Congressman Charlie Dent and head of the House Chief of Staff Association.
Ambassador educating member of the House Chief of Staff Association on latest developments in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya and diplomats from the Embassy of Sri Lanka hosted a reception for the chiefs of staffs of key members of the U.S. Congress this week, meeting with them to discuss U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka and sharing a progress report on post-conflict development in the island nation.
The reception, held at the ambassador’s residence, featured a traditional Sri Lankan dancer, Sri Lankan food and a brief film on Sri Lanka’s reconciliation, redevelopment and economic development efforts.
“We want to share with you the real, correct story of Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “And we want you to have the information to tell others the correct story of Sri Lanka, and not necessarily the one you read in the media.”
Ambassador Wickramasuriya asked the Congressional chiefs of staff, who are the senior managers of Congressional offices, to contact the embassy for information when Sri Lanka’s critics make unfounded complaints that are designed to undermine post-conflict reconciliation and development.
“My experience is some in the media and some extremist don’t like positive stories,” the ambassador said. “They love negative stories and if don’t have them, they create them. In the meantime, they ignore positive developments that are actually helping Sri Lankans.”
The ambassador discussed redevelopment efforts in the North and East, as well as projects in other parts of Sri Lanka. He noted that unparalleled performance of the post-conflict stock exchange, and Sri Lanka’s GDP growth of 8.2 percent in 2010.
He also noted the resettlement and de-mining efforts in the North and East, and government efforts to revive the economy and livelihoods there.
“We hope for a higher GDP in 2011,” he said. “And tourism is up by more than 50 percent, and still climbing. U.S. companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, Starwood Resorts – so many others — want to do business in Sri Lanka. They are excited about doing business there.”
The ambassador also discussed a video presentation on Sri Lanka’s progress since the May 2009 end of the conflict, and gave each chief of staff a copy of Sri Lanka’s account of the humanitarian operation that successfully concluded the conflict with the terrorist group LTTE. The Congressional staff members thanked the ambassador and said that they would update their members of Congress on the information about Sri Lanka.
A number of the congressional chiefs of staff who attended work for members of Congress who sit on key committees, such as the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which helps set U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka.
“When you travel in Sri Lanka it is very clear that the people there are tired of violence,” the ambassador told them. “No one wants it back. Everyone wants to look to forward. As diplomats, we feel it is our duty to work hard to guarantee a peaceful, prosperous future for Sri Lankans. That is why we are meeting with you, your colleagues and elected members of Congress, to help them understand what Sri Lanka has experienced and what it must do right now to help its people to move forward.”
The ambassador urged the Congressional staff members to travel to Sri Lanka, “to see whether what I am saying is true.”
He also encouraged them to follow the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as it works through issues raised in the latter days of the successful conflict against the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
“We want to learn from our past,” the ambassador told the group. “That is why we have formed this commission of esteemed former public servants.”
The LLRC, the ambassador said, would issue its report in November.