Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States continued a series of meetings with members of Congress in September to brief lawmakers on developments in Sri Lanka, including economic growth, foreign investment and progress in reconciliation.
Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya has recently held sessions with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican; Rep. Steve Driehaus, an Ohio Democrat; Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, and Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican from North Carolina.
Sen. Landrieu who was one of the first US officials to visit Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.
The meetings focused on the economy in Sri Lanka and positive developments more than one year after the end of its conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The sessions also included a discussion of U.S. support for Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the resettlement of displaced persons, which is now 95 percent complete.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya noted in the meetings that Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product is likely to reach 8 percent in 2010 – despite the global recession – and that unemployment and inflation are both down. He invited the lawmakers to visit Sri Lanka, and to press for more U.S. investment there.
The Ambassador also discussed the progress made so far in resettlement, noting that most displaced were resettled within 10 months, while the global average of refugees remaining displaced is 17 years. He noted that redevelopment work is happening throughout Sri Lanka, particularly in the North.
While some in the US have pressed for an international inquiry into the conflict’s final days, Ambassador Wickramasuriya assured members of Congress that Sri Lanka’s best chance for healing after 26 years of conflict is the internal, public examination the LLRC is now conducting.
Several members asked about the commission and how it might reach its final conclusions? Ambassador Wickramasuriya replied that the commission has a broad mandate, a varied membership of Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim commissioners. He also noted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that internal commissions like the LLRC play an important role in reconciliation following periods of conflict.
All of the members of Congress expressed gratitude for the information on Sri Lanka and the LLRC.