Chargé d’Affaires Robert Hilton’s Remarks at Inauguration of AFCP Grant at the University of Jaffna

[As prepared]

October 5, 2018

It is a great pleasure to be here today and to have the opportunity to inaugurate this program, funded through the U.S. Department of State’s “Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.”  The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation is one of the most important, exciting and successful programs that we run through the State Department and I’m happy to see it arrive in Jaffna.  Today marks the beginning of a two-year effort to preserve remarkable pre-historic artifacts in the collection of the University of Jaffna to ensure that future generations have access to this important link to the past.  I would like to thank University of Jaffna Vice Chancellor R. Vigneswaran for his assistance in bringing this program to reality and Professor P. Pushparatnum for his vision in crafting such a strong proposal.

This day exemplifies the friendship between our two countries and reminds us that cultural heritage endures as testament to the contributions and historical experiences of humanity.  The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation supports the preservation of cultural sites, cultural objects, and forms of traditional cultural expression in more than 100 countries around the world.

There have been 13 cultural preservation grants awarded in Sri Lanka since 2005.   Projects undertaken so far have reflected the rich diversity of Sri Lanka, and have included conservation of a Buddhist temple, the restoration of the Batticaloa Dutch Fort, the preservation of Buddhist, Hindu, and other collections in the Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum, and the preservation of the intangible heritage of ritual music and dance forms of the Adivasi, Tamil, and Buddhist communities.   To that list we can now add the University of Jaffna’s collection of artifacts including clay pots, brass and copper items, temple statues, coins, coral stones, and ceramic objects.  With this assistance from American taxpayers, the University will be able to preserve these items and make them available for public viewing and academic study.

I hope that this project, like the other projects we are supporting, will help Sri Lanka move beyond the difficult periods of division that have existed in the recent past, and towards a reconciled future in which the rich diversity of Sri Lanka’s heritage is seen as an agent of unity and celebrated by all the people of the country.   A nation’s cultural heritage is one of its most precious resources.  I am delighted that the U.S. Embassy can help sustain Sri Lanka’s history in this way.

Thank you all very much.