July 12, 2016
Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal
Thank you Mr. Minister for the very warm and gracious welcome, and also for the very productive meeting that we’ve had today. This visit and this meeting builds on a tremendous trajectory of partnership between our two countries and enumerated some of the key touch points of that relationship, including last year’s visit by Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Power, and the Partnership Dialogue we inaugurated in February this year.
Sri Lanka itself has been on a remarkable trajectory of addressing not only the internal issues that have challenged it, but also engaging with the broader international community in a spirit of partnership and dialogue. The United States has welcomed a deepening of ties between our two countries. The United States and Sri Lanka share common goals as fellow democracies, which are both working to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are partners, and today our relations are at an all-time high.
We have been proud to partner with Sri Lanka over the past 60 years, during which development and humanitarian assistance has improved countless lives, livelihoods, and living conditions all across Sri Lanka. We will continue to make substantial investments in multiple sectors — agriculture, enterprise development, education, health care, energy and natural resources, and humanitarian activities. As the Government of Sri Lanka moves ahead with its plans for constitutional reform, for justice and reconciliation, the United States will continue to partner with the government to foster economic development and encourage foreign investment, to work to advance opportunities for all Sri Lankans.
We continue to support the Government of Sri Lanka as it takes meaningful and concrete steps in response to concerns of its people related to democratic governance and advancing respect for human rights, for reconciliation, for justice and accountability. We can envision a future which brings benefits to both countries, and to peace and prosperity and security across the Indian Ocean as Sri Lanka assumes a greater role as a key partner in this region. As Sri Lanka assumes its great potential as a hub and a gateway to connect to a rising economic societies of South and Southeast Asia.
Much work remains, but the United States is committed to partnering with the Sri Lankan people to address challenges and help this country and its people to realise their true potential.
Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski
Minister (Samaraweera), I want to thank you for all the work you have done for our relationship, which is better than it has ever been before. I want to say just how much we respect and appreciate the work you have done to help restore and strengthen Sri Lanka’s international position. Sri Lanka’s diplomatic success in the last year and a half has happened in good measure because of your integrity and because of the weight that your word carries in the international community. That is a very tangible benefit to this country.
In the last few months, and in particular the last several weeks, we have seen Sri Lanka take very concrete steps forward in its reform, democratization, and reconciliation agenda: the bill to establish an Office of Missing Persons, ratifying the convention on disappearances, additional land releases by the military, the President’s very important directive on arrests under the PTA, progress in work on the constitution. A lot of this work was foreshadowed in last year’s Human Rights Council resolution. That resolution embodied commitments the Sri Lanka people have made in their own national interests to restore accountability and the rule of law to their country. The United States was a co-sponsor of that resolution, and as such we feel we have a shared responsibility to help see this process through. So we look forward to supporting Sri Lanka as it puts into place the remaining institutions and reforms that the resolution endorsed. We very strongly commend the government for working closely with United Nations and High Commissioner Zeid to advance that progress.
I also want to strongly second my colleague Assistant Secretary Biswal’s comments on economic development and on the opportunity and responsibility we have as a partner of Sri Lanka to help the people of this country achieve the peace dividend that they so deserve. I want to stress that in our minds these two objectives — economic development and reconciliation — go hand-in-hand. Without a peace dividend, it will be harder to pursue reconciliation.
But reconciliation is also advanced, as we have seen in country after country in the world, where people can come together rather than let themselves be split apart. In a larger sense, this reminds us why what is happening in Sri Lanka is so important to people all over the world, because if you look at what’s happening in the world today, there’s obviously not a lot of good news to be found. A lot of the problems that we see are rooted in something that Sri Lanka knows all too well — this contest between the politics of division and the politics of common ground. We’ve seen, unfortunately, in many places around the world that it is easier to win in politics by making simple appeals to racial, religious, or national pride, than by doing the hard work of governing. Easier sometimes to blame others for our problems than to take responsibility ourselves. In that way you can distract people from your own failures and lack of vision.
I think the people Sri Lanka have shown us again and again, that regardless where they come from, or what language they speak, or what faith they belong to, everyone has the same fundamental interests. Everybody has an interest in peace, everyone has an interest in law and order, in accountability, in moving this country forward. The people of Sri Lanka chose a government that seeks to serve all its people rather than setting them against each other. For that reason, the whole world needs Sri Lanka to succeed and to show others the way. We are proud to be your partner in that effort.
Thank you very much.