|US Congressman Shuler hopes for greater US engagement with Sri Lanka|
|Friday, 29 May 2009 15:52|
Sri Lanka and the United States share long historical ties and numerous bilateral co-operative efforts spanning the full gamut of disciplines, ranging from strong trade relations to countering terrorism, observed Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama when US Democratic party Congressman Heath Shuler who is on a three day visit to Sri Lanka, called on him last Tuesday (26 May 2009). The Minister appreciated the support of the US government in Sri Lanka’s long fight against terrorism, including the assistance rendered by them in stemming illegal fund raising and money laundering by the LTTE front organizations in the USA. Congressman Shuler represents North Carolina and was recently re-elected to a second term in the Congress
The Foreign Minister however pointed out the need for wider support on counter terrorism issues, due to restrictions having been imposed by the US on Sri Lanka. He advocated the re-examination of the relevant regulations. Minister Bogollagama, while pointing out the requirement of wider engagement in this area, emphasized that Sri Lanka was not seeking rewards, but an acknowledgement of its success in countering terrorism. The Minister further opined that in the present context, Sri Lanka’s position needs to be looked at sympathetically, in order to enable it to work out its agenda after defeating terrorism. In this regard, it would be more appropriate if the international community desisted from prescribing punitive measures, since what was required is a greater understanding of the ground situation.
Congressman Shuler explaining his objectives of the visit stated that this visit would enable him to obtain a better assessment of the situation in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. He appreciated the opportunity to meet representatives of political parties, humanitarian agencies and observe at first hand, ground realities in Sri Lanka. He said that the information gathered would be useful in reporting back to his colleagues in the Congress, and so would the information collected through co-operative mechanisms also help in contributing to the examination of legislative mechanisms in the Congress. Shuler highlighted the importance of engaging closely with the Sri Lankan polity and pointed out the opportunity for reconciliation is now present and that it was timely to move forward in the economic sphere. He hoped that industries such as tourism would recover quickly now that terrorism was over.
The Foreign Minister outlined that the government has now entered the process of reconstruction of the North and the East and reconciliation of the aspirations of the people. He said that the international community should appreciate the fact that there are obstacles in the process and it takes time for fruition. Sri Lanka is looking forward to broadening and strengthening co-operation with the United States, which would contribute to the rebuilding efforts of the nation, the Minister observed.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
29 May 2009