Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, in a presentation at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, on April 21, 2008, focused on the dilemma Sri Lanka faces, rising to the challenge of battling terrorism while preserving democracy
The Ambassador said, "A little known fact is that in Sri Lanka, the seeds of democracy were sown long before its independence in 1948. In fact, universal adult suffrage, an essential ingredient of democracy, was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1931; a mere 14 years after the U.S. afforded that facility to its people. Thus, Sri Lanka became the first country in Asia, where its people enjoyed the opportunity to vote without any distinction."
"Addressing the Indian parliament on January 2, 1978, President Jimmy Carter said, “Democracy is like the experience of life itself - always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested for adversity.” Taken in the context of Sri Lanka, this compelling description of democracy by President Carter, involuntarily moves to a more powerful echelon of thought, for, democracy in Sri Lanka has indeed been tested more than once, for adversity. And, it is an achievement of considerable significance, that despite the challenges it had to face over the years, the democratic fabric of our country yet remains intact. In fact, it ought to be said that, the strength of democracy in any country should be assessed, not when those countries are enjoying relative peace, security and prosperity, but when they are compelled to face adversity, and challenges, which threaten the very sinews of freedom and democracy. This is the case of Sri Lanka: a country that has endured untrammeled terrorism for several decades, which has violently pulled apart the country and its people, as never before in history. Despite the magnitude of the challenge and the death and destruction that spewed because of unmitigated acts terrorism, Sri Lanka, has no choice but to respond to such threats appropriately, in keeping with norms expected of democracies. This, I must say, is not an easy task, and am confident that there will be no disagreement on that score."