16 April, 2024


A Role For Sri Lanka In US Pivot To Asia

By Jaliya Wickramasuriya

Jaliya Wickramasuriya

As economic and political power shifts east, western nations are responding by reinforcing trade and security alliances across Asia. With the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, a new military base in Australia, and deepening alliances across the region, the U.S. has recommitted to the Asia Pacific. As President Obama’s foreign policy pivots to Asia and the vision of “America’s Pacific Century” unfolds, U.S. strategic relations with Sri Lanka must also be examined.

Sri Lanka is the region’s longest standing democracy with a burgeoning economy and vast opportunity for commercial, military and cultural partnerships. It has much to offer the U.S., already Sri Lanka’s biggest trade partner augmented by the 2002 signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. There exists a military-to-military relationship and the USAID presence has grown steadily since 1948. Education is another essential link, and Fulbright scholars are exchanged each year.

Unfortunately our bilateral relationship has been side-tracked. Under brutal attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an internationally proscribed terrorist organization, Sri Lankans lived in fear for 26 years. The FBI described the LTTE as the “most dangerous and deadly extremists” in the world. This group pioneered the use of suicide jackets, assassinated Sri Lankan and Indian heads of state, and ruthlessly conscripted child soldiers. This constant threat of terror was the reality that plagued our island nation for the past quarter century.

In 2009, after years of conflict with the LTTE, Sri Lanka achieved what few other countries can claim – defeating a violent terrorist group and ending decades of fear.  Under the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, our country is ushering in a new era with the personal dedication of every Sri Lankan to move the country forward to a bright future.

It has been only three and a half years, but already much has been accomplished. Nearly all 1.5 million landmines laid by the LTTE have been removed, and 300,000 internally displaced people resettled. Sri Lanka is also satisfying a comprehensive process of reconciliation based on recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Amnesty has been granted to over 12,000 former LTTE combatants and child soldiers who are being reintegrated into society. 225 ex-combatants face legal proceedings for criminal charges, and a court of inquiry has been convened to explore allegations of wrongdoing against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.

Today, not only is the entire country safe for everyone but we are also quickly becoming one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The Northern Province has recorded 22 percent growth, and the IMF forecasts 6.7 percent GDP growth island-wide for 2013. We’ve also accelerated tourism development, fulfilling our target one million tourist arrivals last year and recently opening the country’s second international airport. The New York Times declared Sri Lanka as the 2010 top tourism destination in the world; Lonely Planet ranked the country #1 among its top-10 locations for 2013.

Like any democracy, Sri Lanka faces its share of challenges. We agree that while much has been accomplished since 2009, more needs to be done. The government has met unexpected challenges that have slowed progress on implementation of LLRC recommendations. But as in any post-conflict effort, reconciliation and accountability take time.

The Government of Sri Lanka is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, fostering national reconciliation, and pursuing peace. This commitment is not just to democracy, but also to respecting rule of law and the principles of sovereignty.

We are moving in the right direction and are keen to broaden our bilateral relationship with the U.S., as recommended in the 2009 Kerry-Lugar Senate Report on Sri Lanka. This report concluded the need to re-chart U.S. strategy in Sri Lanka beyond humanitarian and political reforms. Indeed, there are many avenues of cooperation, including in the strategic and defense area where Sri Lanka can offer its experience in defeating terrorism.

Most importantly though, we are now rebuilding our nation, and we believe the U.S. has an opportunity to participate in this effort from the beginning. We have investment requirements ranging from education, clean energy and tourism to maritime security and defense. Opportunities also exist for commercial partnerships, building the infrastructure of Sri Lanka’s future.

There is value in new prospects for mutual development and prosperity, and it is imperative that the U.S. and Sri Lanka consider a broad engagement strategy to take advantage of these opportunities. Sri Lanka is well positioned to build on its 200-year-old trade partnership with the U.S. and become a stronger geopolitical and strategic ally in the decades to come.

*Wickramasuriya is Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    What the door to door tea salesman turned Ambassador has said is the most atrocious thing I have ever heard in my 22 year career in the Foreign Ministry. The idiot (I may be insulting idiots when I refer to Jaliya as one)cannot put three sentences together in English. All his speeches, reports and even reports to the Foreign Ministry (now External Affairs Ministry) are prepared by public relations firms.

    A former US Embassy official e mailed me a copy of the article with the remarks “this is how your tax payers money is spent.”

    Little wonder we have become international pariahs. Wickremesuriya was on a special flight to Colombo when the Human Rights Council in Geneva was taking up the second resolution on Sri Lanka. He brought two journalists with him, both working for the Diplomat magazine. Those are the only journalists he knew. Not one word has been written on Mattala although they were given a 12 day all expenses paid (including telephone charges) holiday.

    Wickremesuriya is a close relative of President Rajapaksa. Another is our man in Moscow, Udayanga Weeratunga. High Commission Chris Nonis in London is a gay fried of External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris. He is also promoting tea than Sri Lanka in London. Cronies and ex soldiers have been sent to Bonn, Jakarta, Canberra and other important capitals.
    What has their diplomacy achieved for Sri Lanka?

    Jaliya Wickremesuriya takes the prize. A dumb idiot who knows next to nothing except tea outlets in Los Angeles is the one who speaks for the
    country in the United States. What a pathetic situation.

  • 0

    I is the write the good of the artikle
    in the Congress website. All in the US
    Congress praise me and say I is intelligent
    and I is intellektual.

    Only a pew idiots who kannot understand my
    intellektual brilliance complanin and complainin
    about artikle. The is silly, very much in the

    Please send in some kommets in the praising me
    for what I is doing for the Sri Lanka. Otherwise
    I is tell for those in the Siri Lanka will go
    by white van.

  • 0

    When god went distributing brains, he asked for Jaliya. Someone said he was in the toilet. God could not wait for long so he passed on after giving brains graded A,B and C to others present. Most mentors of Jaliya received C class brains which gave them the cunning intellect to act as leaders whilst remaining coolies.

    Brainless Jaliya got posted as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States. The number of embarrassing things he has done during his tenure will surpass the pages of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

    He does not attend diplomatic parties. He only entertains Sri Lankans at his residence, serving them cutlets and patties. Even his chef competes with chefs in Washington’s dining circuit for medals. His entry has not won any medals. But press releases speak of one chef winning a citation for boiling eggs and another for making tea. The latter of course was with plucker Jaliya’s own training.

    I AM ASHAMED to call myself a Sri Lankan after having read the diatribe written under Jaliya’s name. How will the governments of China and India take it? In other countries, he would have been ordered to come home and learn from his since. In Sri Lanka, like his chefs, he would receive medals for causing blunder after blunder.

    One need not worry. The only cause for worry is because the Sri Lankan tax payer is forced to pay for all these antics by an asinine idiot.

    Jaliya Mutt wants comments praising him. I have one: “Well done Jaliya, go home without doing any more colossal damage to Sri Lanka. You are disgusting to our nation.” As Senguttuvan says, G.L.P. Bean will be shit scared to take any action. Here is one possible response from G.L. Bean: “In a democracy, various people have various views. Our ambassador has expressed only one such view….”

  • 0

    Moal Gaha – Ambassadors cannot express opinions of their own in serious issues unless they are absolutely certain of what they are speaking. They have to be guided by the Home Station. Our current man in D.C. does not go out for functions of other embassies, as reported here, clearly because most countries are represented by highly educated, suave, urbane men/women upto date in current global affairs. Our man will be lost in that company. If the discussions centre around global warming, environmental degradation, the state of the global economy in the next decades and so on our man will commit suicide. His knowledge in these will be as good as Rambukwella’s – when he was once asked about the oncoming GSP. The Minister, after checking with an equally clueless idiot official, told the media “Ah! that’s a new tax by the EU” It was, once again, the blind leading the blind.


  • 0

    I agree with Ex-Diplomat. Shavendra Silva is another joke. There is no limit to the man’s ego. He thinks he is the 2nd Eisenhower. The fumbling idiot also cannot speak a sentence in English without making a chronic mistake. From what I know of most of these non-career diplomats, I get the impression they will fit in to that Goon Squad of
    Peter Sellers and Co fame of decades ago. The diplomatic world must be thinking Sri Lanka sends filtered idiots and comedians as their Ambassadors – thanks to the Rajapakses.


  • 0

    This is the result of not having a proper Civil Service in a country,
    and doing away with english as a compulsory subject!

    ❝Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.❞
    ‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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