Statement by Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal

biswal  nisha desai US Asst SecThank you Ambassador and it’s so wonderful to be able to use that term.  I’m pleased that we were able to come so quickly upon the arrival of our new ambassador Atul Keshap and his credentialing was just on Friday, just days after the new Government was sworn in as well, so really a propitious time not only in Sri Lanka but in U.S.-Sri Lanka relations as well.

Much has happened since the last time I was here which was during the historic visit of Secretary of State John Kerry in May.  Since then the Sri Lankan people have again demonstrated their enduring commitment to democracy underscored by the recent parliamentary elections, which really have widely been hailed as among the most peaceful in Sri Lanka’s history.  As with the January election, the Sri Lankan people reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their democracy, to advancing good governance and combatting corruption, and advancing reconciliation.

Over the last two days, Assistant Secretary Malinowski and I have had very good, very candid conversations with government leaders as well as with civil society and the private sector.  And really, I think we’ve been inspired by the commitment that we hear on the vision that Sri Lankans have for their country.  I’m not just talking about government and political leadership but really what we hear from across civil society, from business leaders about where they see the country headed.  It is on the basis of that vision that I think we are here in the spirit of partnership to see what role we, the United States, can play in supporting that vision and in creating a greater opportunity for all Sri Lankans to be able to reach their hopes, their aspirations, as well as our desire to foster a deepening partnership and relationship between our two governments, between our two peoples.

As the Ambassador noted, we had the opportunity to pay a call on His Excellency the President and to be able to again affirm our support for the leadership, the vision and the commitment that he has put forward on where he is leading the country.  We had the opportunity to meet with the Honorable Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and congratulate him on the parliamentary elections and on his returning in the role of Prime Minister and the vision that he brings to that role. And an opportunity to meet with the Foreign Minister, with the Justice Minister, with the Minister for Resettlement, and with other leaders in government about the priorities for the bilateral relationship, and again the focus on what we can do to support the priorities that the government and the people of Sri Lanka have put forward both through these elections and through the vision that they’ve put forward.

As Secretary Kerry said when he was here in May, “We believe in the potential of Sri Lanka and the potential of Sri Lanka’s peoples – all of its people.”  And as he noted, I can assure you, that the United States, that America will stand by you as you build a stronger democracy and a future that is marked by peace and prosperity after so many years of suffering and hardship.”  Those are Secretary Kerry’s words, and our visit here is really an affirmation of the commitments that Secretary Kerry made during his May visit.

U.S. assistance to Sri Lanka has totaled more than $2 billion since 1948 through the U.S. Agency for International Development.  The United States has contributed to Sri Lanka’s economic growth with projects that are designed to reduce unemployment, to improve housing, to modernize the judicial system and to improve economic competitiveness.  In the next few years the United States will also focus assistance for broad-based reforms, including areas of public accountability and rule of law, for inclusive economic growth, and support for vulnerable populations across the country.

During our meetings over the last two days, we have reiterated our commitment to supporting Sri Lanka’s efforts to help spur inclusive and broad-based economic growth, to strengthen its institutions of governance and to promote reconciliation and justice.  So our visit is essentially an additional opportunity for engagement in deepening that bilateral partnership we have seen over the last nine months enjoy a renewed sense of deepening and flourishing.  And as we see a greater convergence in our views and our hopes and our aspirations in the bilateral partnership, as well as the important role that we think Sri Lanka is and can play in the region and around the world, I was extraordinarily pleased that Assistant Secretary Malinowski and I were able to come together because it really has been a joint and all of government approach in the United States in advancing that partnership. (US Embassy)

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