Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Atul Keshap at Reception Aboard USS New Orleans

I am going to ask everyone to come a little bit closer and enjoy the sunset, to take a look and look at the beautiful hospitality that our Sri Lankan hosts have afforded us tonight.  I want to recognize the honorable ministers who are in attendance.  It is a real honor for me and for the Captain [Glenn Jamison] to welcome you.  I want to tell you that it is incredibly important that all of you have come to join us tonight here on the USS New Orleans.  I know a couple things about New Orleans.  It’s got fantastic food, it’s got fantastic drinks, and it’s got fantastic sunsets.  We’ve got all those tonight, so a little bit of New Orleans has come along with us.  The Sri Lankan Navy band is going to provide a little bit of Dixieland jazz as well to help us enjoy our evening.

Ladies and gentleman, I want to be very brief.  We have had a very good development of relations between the United States and Sri Lanka ever since the democratic, free and fair election of January 8th, 2015, and that also includes the democratic, free and fair election of August of 2015.  We appreciate the vision of the Sri Lankan voters, the vision of the Sri Lankan people to forge a society and a country that is more equal, more fair, more democratic, more open, and more prosperous.

We are welcoming new staff into the American embassy to work on development programs, human rights cooperation, rule of law, justice, demining, and so many different things.  We are working to strengthen our relationship with all of the different facets of the Sri Lankan government, including the military, because we believe that a professional military is essential to the development and the success of any viable democracy.  We want to partner with the Sri Lankan military as we move forward on the very important issues that are attracting the attention of the people of Sri Lanka, including development of a new constitution and working with the international community to address commitments made in September of last year.  We want to ensure that as Sri Lanka – the ordinary people, government, military, and bureaucracy – moves forward on the path toward achieving these goals, the American people are with you.  They will work with you and show their support.

This ship is here not only to show our friendship, but also to engage in humanitarian and disaster relief exercises and exchange of views and best practices with the government and military of Sri Lanka.  It is also here for the sailors to enjoy some well-earned rest.  These sailors have been deployed for seven months, and it is an opportunity as well for them and for you as our hosts here in Sri Lanka to engage in a little bit of exchange with Americans.  They have come from all the way on the other end of the world in San Diego, California and will make this their home for the 2-3 days that they are here.

On behalf of the men and women of the American embassy, on behalf of Captain Jamison, on behalf of the entire crew on this great ship, I want to thank you for coming tonight.  I really appreciate your kindness in joining us and your support for the development of the U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship.  I appreciate very much everything we are all doing together to try to ensure a brighter future for our relations and for Sri Lanka itself.

Thank you all so very much. Goodnight.