- Created on Thursday, 08 August 2013 11:56
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First ever Embassy live web conference , a new milestone in Sri Lanka’s public diplomacy
August 8, 2013 , Washington , DC: The Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC brought Sri Lanka’s public diplomacy to new heights in its latest community outreach program incorporating new technology. Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya connected with Sri Lankan American community leaders across the United States in the Embassy’s first ever live Web Conference on Sunday , July 29, from the Sri Lanka Residence Washington DC.
Prominent Sri Lankan American community members of New Jersey , Texas, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia and Hawaii joined the Ambassador in an interactive and productive discussion on US- Sri Lankan relations. Sri Lanka’s Honorary Consul in Hawaii Dr. Kusuma Coorey, Honorary Consul in Texas Dr. Bandula Wijey and Honorary Director for Sri Lanka Tourism in the USA Mr. Dillan Ariyawansa of New Jersey cohosted the event at their residencies .
Community leaders of Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia gathered at the Sri Lanka Residence.
Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Esala Weerakoon opened the session welcoming the participants. He said in his remarks that the Embassy’s initiative to tap the far-reaching and boundless capabilities of digital diplomacy would set a new benchmark for the Sri Lanka’s diplomatic outreach.
Stay Informed & Partner
Ambassador Wickramasuriya expounded on the purpose of the conference, that it is to keep Sri Lankan Americans informed of the activities undertaken by the Embassy to expand bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the United States. Also, he said the discussion was intended to explore the possibilities of their involvement in complementing the Embassy’s efforts.
“Many of you participated in Sri Lankan-American Day in Congress in 2011. I hope that today’s workshop builds on that experience, and that we may continue this conversation going forward”, he said.
Ambassador briefed the participants at length about the historical context of US – Sri Lanka relations, unstinted support rendered by the United States during Sri Lanka’s ordeal against terrorism and assistance in post-conflict development and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
“I do not have to tell you that Sri Lankans lived in fear for nearly three decades under brutal attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. What you may not know is that the United States was the first and most vocal Western nation to label the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, and the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice were instrumental in tracking foreign funding of the LTTE”, he stated.
He added that genuine support received from the US in terms of technology, training, intelligence sharing and curbing the activities of LTTE front organizations in the US soil has been vital for Sri Lanka’s success in overcoming terrorism.
Touching on the areas of post- conflict development Ambassador opined that Sri Lanka’s achievements in reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation are unprecedented.
Reconciliation in Progress
“Despite much of the world’s focus on Sri Lanka’s past, Sri Lanka’s future is now. Through the work that has been done so far, Sri Lanka has been a role model in the process of rebuilding and reconciliation.”, he opined.
Ambassador highlighted some of the country’s achievements including rehabilitation and de-radicalization of approximately 12,000 ex-combatants plus 600 child soldiers, clearance of land mines , resettlement of nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons, colossal infrastructure development projects underway , conduct of democratic elections , and the implementation of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
“Sri Lanka also began the process of examining, and righting the wrongs of our conflict. The independent Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was established to report a series of recommendations as to how the Government could pursue justice, reconciliation, and redevelopment”, he said.
“The report was handed over to the Presidential Secretariat’s Task Force, who developed the National Plan of Action for its implementation. This plan of action originally included a series of 285 recommendations in short, medium and long term objectives and is currently underway. And just within the last two months they have adopted an additional 53 recommendations for implementation following Parliamentary approval”, he added.
Not at odds
Elaborating on the current state of US- Sri Lankan relations Ambassador averred that the two countries are not at odds , but continuing to expand mutually beneficial partnerships.
“Now there is the perception that our two nations are at odds, with the introduction of a resolution before the UN Human Rights Council urging Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of our own LLRC report. This is something Sri Lanka has already undertaken. We could not agree more on the importance of these measures to ensure that terrorism never again returns”, he said.
Ambassador explained the only disagreement is about the method and timing of the implementation and exhorted that a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council is not in the interest of an in effective implementation process, due to the perception of undue pressure from abroad.
“Sri Lanka is moving in the right direction in the interest of our citizens, and we are keen to broaden our bilateral relationship with the U.S. We need to re-chart the conversation beyond humanitarian and political reforms.”, he added .
Further , Ambassador Wickramasuriya referred to the efforts taken by the Embassy to enhance US- Sri Lanka relations and called upon Sri Lankan community leaders to join hands with the Embassy in its efforts.
“This is the true story of Sri Lanka: an island that has achieved a hard fought peace, on the cusp of becoming the wonder of Asia, and an example to the international community…This is the remarkable story that my Embassy staff and I deliver almost every day in Congress and within the executive-branch in Washington”, he said.
Community Leadership to Citizen Diplomacy
Ambassador Wickramasuriya intimated to the Sri Lankan American community leaders that they are in a unique position to act as Ambassadors of goodwill for Sri Lanka in the US.
“You are a very effective bridge between our two countries. You are making a life and career in this country, and that is why I feel the audience I am addressing this afternoon straddles the bilateral relationship between these two nations. This of course imparts a certain obligation on you, in a sense that you have a unique ability to provide an enormous service to Sri Lanka at this critical moment in our history”, the Ambassador stated.
Ambassador requested the audience to carry the true story about Sri Lanka both before and after the conflict to their peers and to their members of congress.
“Update your congressional representatives, Invite them to join the Sri Lanka Caucus, and to visit Sri Lanka and verify the reality for themselves. Speak of the many avenues of cooperation that are of mutual interest to Sri Lanka and the United States. Share the story not just of the history of the conflict, but of the tremendous strides we’ve made since the elimination of terrorism”, Ambassador Wickramasuriya stated.
In conclusion, Ambassador thanked the cohosts and the participants and expressed his confidence in their support.
“I am very enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of my motherland. Together, we can help Sri Lanka manifest this potential”, he added.
Following the Ambassador’s remarks the discussion began with many participants expressing their ideas and concerns and wanted their questions to be answered. Issues related to country promotion, academic partnerships and obtaining dual citizenship were discussed. Congressional Liaison of the Embassy Ms. Sienna Girgenti acted as the moderator.
Congressional Advocacy Packets containing detailed updates on post-conflict developments had been shared among the participants prior to the web conference. The Embassy plans continue with the initiative as a series of web conferences leading up to the Sri Lankan-American Day in Congress next year.