Remarks by Under Secretary of State for Management John Bass On the occasion of the opening of the U.S. Embassy Colombo

October 28, 2022

Thank you, Deputy Chief of Mission Sonnek for the introduction and thank you, Ambassador Chung for the warm welcome.  President of Sri Lanka Honorable Ranil Wickremesinghe, Honorable Speaker, Honorable Ministers, Heads of Diplomatic Missions and UN agencies, Members of Parliament, esteemed guests, and U.S. Embassy colleagues.

I bring warm wishes from Secretary Blinken and am honored to join Ambassador Chung and all of you to celebrate the opening of our new

Embassy here in Colombo.  We are marking the completion of our newest embassy building overseas — but more importantly, we have an opportunity to reflect on what this project embodies — the strong, enduring friendship and partnership between our countries and peoples.

This building is innovative, sustainable, and resilient.  It is also rooted in the soil of this beautiful country.  Diplomats come and go, given the nature of our profession — but our embassies, and all our local colleagues who work with us, remain — providing the platform that enables all the work we do together.

As you look around, you will see many design elements that reflect Sri Lanka’s beauty and hospitality. That’s intentional.  Just as real friendship requires us to listen to, and understand, the people of this country — our embassies should blend into the local cultural landscape.

As diplomats, we are not only representatives of the United States; we are also guests in this country.  As such, it is important to us to tread lightly on the land and your resources.  That’s always true — but it is especially important as we work together to address the challenges climate change pose for all of us.  This building generates green energy, reducing the electricity we need from your grid.  It also features

an on-site wastewater treatment plant so we can treat and recycle grey water for irrigation.  Landscaping based on indigenous plants promote the local ecosystem, support wildlife and habitat growth, and

minimize the need for irrigation.  We anticipate this building will earn a Silver level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building also reflects our commitment to diversity, transparency, and support for a resilient, prosperous Sri Lanka.  As with all our new embassies, the construction contract was the product of a transparent, merit-based competition.  Many of the materials — also acquired through fair, open competition — were purchased here, and made from your natural resources.  All told, the project injected $90 million into your economy.  A team of some 1,800 U.S., Sri Lankan, and third-country nationals transformed a concept into this reality.

The building, though, is only the starting point.  It’s what our team does — with all of you — that really matters.  I do not have to tell you that these are complicated, perilous times.  You are living through them and dealing with the ripple effects.  So now is the time to work anew towards stronger governance and transparency, both economically and politically.  As Secretary Blinken noted back in August when meeting with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, thank you, Mr. Minister, “In crisis, there is also opportunity and I hope that there’s an opportunity…to make something very positive out of a very difficult situation.”

As friends, we are working hard to help you weather this crisis — and to embrace the opportunity it presents.  That’s why the United States has provided $240 million in the past five months.  This support is not in the form of vanity projects or loans at high interest rates for which we will demand repayment.  It does not have strings attached — other than a requirement that it be directed to those most in need, or to farmers and other citizens of this country who can contribute to solving your own challenges.  It’s assistance — grants and commodities — to help you in your hour of need.  It’s what friends do to help each other — whether those friends are individuals, governments, or countries.

This assistance, and the recent visits of other senior U.S. officials, reflect a partnership that is almost 75 years old.  From this new embassy, Ambassador Chung and her colleagues, and those Americans who follow them, will continue to strengthen and deepen our partnership with the government and people of Sri Lanka over the next 75 years.  We are excited to see what the future will bring,

Thank you again for joining us today.  I look forward to our continued success.