AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES POST- CONFLICT FUTURE FOR SRI LANKA
Presents Prospects for a Strong Business Climate to Angelinos
Mr. Curtis Mack, President, Los Angeles World Affairs Council with AmbassadorJaliya Wickramasuriya
During remarks Monday with the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the U.S., Jaliya Wickramasuriya, presented his views on a post-conflict future for Sri Lanka and the prospects for a strong business climate for U.S. investors.
"We will rebuild the north," said the Ambassador, "by using a plan that worked well in our eastern province. We call it the four Ds, which stands for: de-mining, de-militarization, democratization and development."
Concerned about land mines and other remnants of militarization, the Ambassador warned about the need to de-mine and de-militarize before proceeding with democracy and development. Citizens in the Northern provinces of Sri Lanka - similar to those in the East prior to 2007 - have not had the opportunity to democratically elect their representatives for decades.
"We would love for democracy to be at the top of that list," he continued. "But the machinery of war must first be dismantled to make sure that the fighting never returns. We have before us the hard work of removing mines and disarming. We will then begin the work of democracy, bringing the rule of law to places where violence was customary."
The Council members were buoyed by the prospects of peace taking hold in the North and East and multiplicity of businesses rising in war-torn areas, through a live give-and take session about the situation in Sri Lanka.
Consuls General from many Asian countries such as Thailand, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Los Angeles County representatives, health care specialists and educators, as well as many management experts, attended the Ambassador's address to the Council. Described as a clarion call to would be investors to take a close look at the emerging investment climate in Sri Lanka, the two-hour long presentation and question and answer session was presided over by Chris-Vigeria Crabtree, Director of the Council.
The Ambassador's main theme was that after decades, the Sri Lankan government was now putting post-development into top gear in Sri Lanka. Noticeable and quick-paced growth in the liberated Eastern province - where a Tamil Chief Minister is in charge - was also highlighted. The Ambassador explained how the country had worked hard to re-develop the areas in the East formerly infested with LTTE terrorist groups and is now returning to normalcy. That work began two years ago, "after Government Security Forces liberated our civilians from the Tiger terrorists," he said.
Answering questions about the success in dealing with terrorism, he said, "Since the fighting stopped [in the East], we have resettled 150,000 people - 80 percent of those forced out by the war. We have also cleared thousands of land mines. Land mines, used exclusively by the LTTE, are just one of the challenges that we will soon face when reconstruction begins in Northern Sri Lanka.”
He added that the LTTE has refused to surrender, or to release the 70,000 civilians it forcibly holds in the conflict zone. The government was now closing in on the last vestiges of resistance by the LTTE. The United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch all report that the LTTE is using Tamil civilians as human shields, which is a war crime.
Regarding democratization in the East, five Council Ministers have been elected - two Tamils, two Muslims, and one Sinhalese. One former child soldier and former LTTE regional leader, who came forth for democracy, was even chosen as the province's Chief Minister.
The Government has also sought to include Tamil leaders - there are now 12 Tamil Ministers in office. Earlier this month, the Government even appointed a former top LTTE deputy as a Minister.
The Ambassador said the renewal efforts in the North will include construction, the implementation of a rural development initiative and a national infrastructure development plan.
The Ambassador also praised the trade relations that Sri Lanka and the United States have shared for two centuries. He is hopeful that partners - in the private sector and in government - will be able to visit and invest in Sri Lanka.
He said the time for Sir Lankan Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims and others in the North to live in harmony like they do in the rest of the country is drawing near. It is time for a fresh start. He stated that "for inspiration we, of course, look to the United States - history's best example of a civil society that honors the rule of law and true freedom among its citizens. We can hope no less for Sri Lanka.”
Embassy of Sri Lanka
31 March 2009