Foreign minister Bogollagama invites the Tamils in the USA to visit Sri Lanka
Oct 10, 2009
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who was on a visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, on September 27, 2009 met with the Sri Lankan expatriate communities in Boston at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston.
Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was warmly welcomed by a cross section of the people in Boston with traditional Sri Lankan cultural parade. Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya delivered a welcome address and thanked Hon. Minister for taking his time out from his tight schedule to travel all the way to Massachusetts and to have graced this occasion as well as the Boston community who had been assisting the Embassy of Sri Lanka for a long time.
Minister Bogollagama addressed a group of Sri Lankans, most of whom were from the Tamil community. They were a representative group of Academics and Professionals. The Minister in his address gave an overview of the post conflict situation in Sri Lanka and the steps taken by the Government in resettling the IDPs, developing the liberated areas in respect of infrastructure development, fisheries, other industries, education etc. He further explained to the expatriates how the government had successfully resettled the internally displaced persons in the Eastern Province and the development that had taken place in the Eastern Province from 2006-2008 where elections had been held and stated that it had been a victory for democracy.
With regard to Menik farm, he stated that steps were being taken to resettle the IDPs as soon as possible and currently there are fifty two NGOs who are operating in these areas. He further stated that about 180,000 persons had been identified to be returned and the Identity cards were being issued to them. He emphasized the fact that of the one thousand persons, who had been sent to Jaffna, had been experiencing difficulties in identifying their properties after being away for several years.
He also mentioned that the political reconciliation process will be implemented within the framework of the Sri Lankan constitution. The Tamil National Alliance had come on board and was engaging with the government.
He said there were improvements in the economy especially in the agricultural and fisheries sector. Tourism has picked up with more and more tourists are showing interest to visit Sri Lanka. Reserves have been built up, exports have improved and that there has been a comprehensive economical upward thrust. With regard to the relationship with India, he pointed out that the relationship had grown and also with Pakistan with the operation of the Free Trade Agreement.
During the interaction session, Minister Bogollagama responded to a question that Sinhala and Tamil languages were made as national languages under the 1978 constitution and the Fundamental Rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which provided relief regarding racial discrimination and that the independence of the judiciary was a major factor in Sri Lanka’s democracy. There was encouragement among the public sector to learn both national languages by giving an incentive to public servants.
On the question of steps being taken to bring the two communities together, he stated that there were youth exchange programmes, expansion of IT centers by setting up six hundred centers in temples and Kovils at village level. The A 9 road had been reopened and the interaction between people in the North and the South is improving.
With regard to settlement of IDPs, he said it would be an opportunity to provide assistance directly to them by having a mechanism of providing assistance to the IDPs to rebuild their houses through an arrangement with the private banks in Jaffna. Minister also said the demining process has been accelerated and the resettlement in those areas could be affected only after UNHCR certifies that those areas are suitable for habitation.
On the question of mistrust by the Sinhalese of the Tamils, the Minister stated that several Diplomatic Officers who were at present, were from the minority communities. He also mentioned that 54% of Tamils were living outside the Eastern and Northern provinces and there was cordial interaction between the communities. He further emphasized on the necessity of wider interaction between the communities and the need to build a society free of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism.
He added that relatives who need to contact those in the IDP camps could do so through the Sri Lankan Embassies.
At the conclusion, he encouraged the Expatriate Tamil Community to visit Sri Lanka and to see for themselves the development taking place and invited them to assist in the development process.
Foreign Minister thanked all those who were present for their participation and interaction.