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.
“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.”, Ambassador Wickramasuriya told at the launch.
“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.
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.
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.
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.