AMBASSADOR OUTLINES SRI LANKA'S PLAN FOR LASTING PEACE
July 17, 2009
Sri Lanka will ensure peace after 25 years of conflict by holding local elections that will give the Tamil population a voice in its future, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S., told a group of young Asian leaders here this week.
“We have to bring displaced Sri Lankans into the political process,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “That’s something they have not experienced for a long time. We need to do this on the local level -- in town and provincial councils. And we need to do it nationally.
“In other words, we need elections.”
The Ambassador appeared as a guest speaker before the Washington Leadership Program, a group of young Asian-American leaders. Ambassador Wickramasuriya appeared with Dr. Walter Anderson of the South Asia Studies Program at John Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies.
The July 15 forum was moderated by Jasmeet Ahuja, a professional staff member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where her primary responsibility is foreign policy in South Asia. The talk was organized by Harin Contractor, a senior consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Va., and held at the Washington law offices of O’Melveny & Myers.
While the meeting was intended to consider events in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, most of the questions and answers centered on Sri Lanka’s May 18 conclusion of its 25-year-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and future political and economic prospects.
“Right now in Sri Lanka we have begun to rebuild the damage done by our conflict,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “Construction is already underway on roads and water systems. But we have to rebuild more than highways and homes. We have to rebuild trust.”
Ambassador Wickramasuriya explained how Sri Lanka won its conflict with the LTTE, as well as the prospects for lasting peace in Sri Lanka. He outlined the planned elections in the north and the scheduled return of the 280,000 displaced people now living in government welfare centers.
A member of the audience asked Ambassador Wickramasuriya if the U.S. can learn about fighting terrorists from Sri Lanka?
The Ambassador replied that Sri Lanka took up former President George Bush’s refrain that “a terrorist is a terrorist,” and sought to end the conflict after years of failed negotiations.
“The United States was talking about a war against terrorists,” Wickramasuriya said. “We fought that war.”