New Year Greetings from Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Embassy of Sri Lanka
New Year Greetings from Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Assalamu Alaikum and Happy New Year!
As Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, I am honored and privileged to once again wish you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. All Sri Lankans were proud to see the incredible developments that took place in our country in 2013, but most importantly, 2013 represents another year of Sri Lanka’s lasting peace.
I wish to express my appreciation to all of you for your deep and strong interest in the well-being and welfare of our motherland, and for your continued support extended to His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa and our Embassy in Washington. So many Sri Lankan-Americans have been committed to giving back to our country, and I thank all of you who have supported Sri Lanka’s development and reconciliation.
By sharing the correct story of Sri Lanka with your communities and your leaders in Congress, you are serving our country in a critical way. Your voice is so important in sharing the tremendous strides we’ve made since bringing peace to Sri Lanka, as well as emphasizing the many avenues of cooperation that are of mutual interest to Sri Lanka and the United States. My Embassy staff and I work hard to enhance this bilateral relationship and promote and protect Sri Lanka’s interests in the United States, and we are always willing to help you with your own efforts however we can. We are confident that Sri Lanka’s progress will continue in this new year, and our country will move closer to reaching its full potential and becoming the Wonder of Asia.
As envisioned in the Mahinda Chinthana, the vision for the country introduced by President Rajapaksa in 2005, Sri Lanka was able to bring peace and stability back to the people. After bringing peace to the nation in 2009 by rescuing thousands of civilians from the hands of terrorists, defeating a violent terrorist group and ending decades of fear, Sri Lanka quickly began to rebuild.
The government immediately provided basic necessities and public services to the internally displaced persons in Government Welfare Centers. Simultaneously, the Government embarked on a demining initiative in order to resettle the uprooted population. Today, we can proudly say that all 300,000 IDPs have been resettled and all welfare centers are closed, nearly 1.2 million land mines have been cleared, nearly 12,000 former LTTE combatants have been rehabilitated, and child soldiers have been reunited with their families.
Under Mahinda Chinthana-Idiri Dakma (Forward Vision) formulated by President Rajapaksa in 2010 for his second term in office, the country is now consolidating the dividends of peace with a rapid development drive and a meaningful reconciliation process.
In January 2010, months after the end of the conflict, the IMF upgraded Sri Lanka to Middle Income Emerging Market status. The economic growth jumped from 3.5% in 2009 to 8% in 2011, making Sri Lanka the fastest growing economy in the South Asian region. In fact, Sri Lanka has been able to outperform all its regional peers in many other global development indices. The United Nations Development Programme’s 2013 Human Development Index, the International Financial Corporation’s 2013 Ease of Doing Business Index, and UK-based Legatum Institute’s 2013 World Prosperity Index are just few examples.
In my view, the most important achievement of post-conflict Sri Lanka is the country’s sustained and steady progress in the reconciliation process. The recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission are being implemented, and many significant post-conflict achievements have already occurred rapidly.
Sri Lanka has invested heavily in the former conflict-affected zones to rebuild what the LTTE had destroyed. Jobs are being created, infrastructure is being rebuilt, and many projects are underway to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Sri Lanka. With our geostrategic location and high quality of human capital, our country is rapidly moving forward to become a global Naval, Aviation, Commercial, Energy and Knowledge Hub.
In 2013, Sri Lanka achieved a number of great milestones. Our country hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November, which is held every two years to enable leaders of the 54 Commonwealth countries to come together to discuss global and Commonwealth issues, and to decide on collective policies and initiatives. CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lanka marked the first time an Asian country hosted the summit in 24 years. This event was a great opportunity for world leaders to see the progress and unprecedented post-conflict developments in Sri Lanka for themselves.
Another significant milestone was the Northern Provincial Council Elections in November. Elections were held in the Northern Province for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, further bringing those displaced by the conflict into the political process that is one of Asia’s oldest democracies. This was an extremely important achievement in Sri Lanka, and now all nine provinces have provincial council elections.
Most importantly, 2013 marked another year of peace in Sri Lanka without a single loss of life due to terrorism.
There is no better time than now for Sri Lankan expatriates to visit Sri Lanka and help the country in so many ways. If you have not visited recently, I strongly encourage you to see for yourselves the amazing progress. Sri Lanka is gaining more investment and more global recognition as a world-class travel destination. Colombo is fast becoming the Garden City in Asia due to its improving cleanliness and beauty. Impressive urban development is continuing not only in Colombo, but also many other cities in all parts of the country. The people are our most valuable resource, and Sri Lankan schools and universities are cultivating educated professionals who work hard in their chosen fields to make Sri Lanka a global leader in a range of sectors. Sri Lanka also derives great strength from expatriates all over the world who are supporting reconciliation.
I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of our country, and I am deeply grateful to all of you for everything you do to support Sri Lanka as partners for progress. Together, we can help Sri Lanka reach its potential and become the Wonder of Asia.
My greatest hope for the New Year is lasting peace, security and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and I look forward to witnessing and supporting Sri Lanka’s continued development in 2014. My wife Priyanga, children, and Embassy staff join me in wishing all of you and your families a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year.