A large group of Sri Lankan- American voters representing multiple states gathered at Capitol Hill to meet their Members of Congress in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 26. The purpose of the meeting was to express their serious concerns over the resolution against Sri Lanka sponsored by the United States at the UNHRC for the third consecutive time.
The group conducted nearly 100 meetings with the Members of Congress and their staffers during the day. Also in a letter handed over to their representatives, they called the resolution a flagrant and an intrusive move that would put Sri Lankan people in harm's way. They urged Members of Congress to inform the U.S. Administration to reconsider such resolutions as it would cause serious damage to the reconciliation process of a nation recovering from a three decade long terrorist conflict.
Sri Lanka Embassy, Washington DC organized the meet-up for the group at the Capitol Hill visitor center. Senior U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Co-chair of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya addressed the Sri Lankan - American gathering.
Congressman Van Hollen said that as the Co-chair of the Sri Lanka Caucus , he is committed to ensuring the U.S. - Sri Lanka relationship will remain strong and lasting. He added, Sri Lankan - Americans can strengthen the relationships between the two countries by working together with the Congressional Caucus.
Senator Inhofe, addressing the gathering, said that the U.S. State Department is "wrong" about Sri Lanka.
"In this case they're leaning the other direction, and their doing so is inconceivable to me " , he said.
He said that he had the opportunity to review the progress made by Sri Lanka in the absence of terrorism, the "dramatic" improvements of the economy under the present administration and the strategic importance of Sri Lanka to the United States.
"I see the necessity for us to be supportive of reforms that are taking place , so that we could become friends.", he added.
Senator Inhofe further stated that he would continue to educate his colleagues in the U.S. Senate on the contradictions existing between the true situation in Sri Lanka and the U.S. policy towards the country.
Senator Inhofe is the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the leading member behind the Senate Resolution 364 introduced recently calling for the U.S. government to adapt a balanced and comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka. On the same day, four more members of the U.S. Senate signed the resolution 364, making the total number of its sponsors to 15.
Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya thanked the Sri Lankan -Americans for their support for the motherland. He highlighted that Sri Lanka would never have gotten this much unfair attention from certain international bodies dedicated to protecting human rights, if the country was still under terrorist threat.
"We lost about 4500 to 5000 lives in Sri Lanka every year during 26 years of terrorist conflict. I am happy to say that there has been not a single loss of life due to terrorism in Sri Lanka since the end of conflict in 2009. During that time we barely had any human rights . Today , the Sri Lankans enjoy much better human rights in a peaceful nation ", he said.
The Ambassador further said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa's policies including his foreign policy is aimed at achieving what is best for the people rather than his personal glory or avoiding problems.
He underscored that the current challenge for Sri Lanka is to ensure lasting peace through a strong reconciliation process. The resolutions in Geneva will not help the reconciliation in Sri Lanka, he added.