Oct 30, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe says measures have been taken to strengthen the 74-year-old ties between the United States and Sri Lanka, adding that the support rendered by the U.S. whenever Sri Lanka was in difficulty would never be forgotten.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe made this statement while attending the official opening of the new building of the United States Embassy in Colombo on the 28th.
Expressing his views on the diplomatic relations and mutual understanding between the United States and Sri Lanka during the war, the President also recalled with gratitude the support given by the United States under the leadership of Mr. George Bush in 2001 during his tenure as the Prime Minister.
The President also recalled the support provided by the US government led by Mr. Bill Clinton to help Sri Lanka recover from the Tsunami disaster in 2004 and said that if not for the intervention of the US led by President Joe Biden, Sri Lanka would not have been able to make a success of the Maha Season.
President Wickremesinghe, who further pointed out the 74 years of US-Sri Lanka friendship, partnership and bilateral relations, expressed his appreciation for the support rendered by the United States for the preparation of the first monetary law and the well-drafted legal system for the establishment of the Central Bank.
Having experienced such a long and cordial relationship, Sri Lanka and the United States will work as close friends in the future as well, said the President, adding that the United States and Sri Lanka, as inseparable partners, will forge ahead with respect and confidence in each other to preserve peace and democracy.
Following is the full speech made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;
“38 years ago, I stood in another building next to this witnessing President Jayawardena opens the new US Chancellor building. The earlier building was housed in the residence, which one time belonged to my great-grandmother, Helena Dep Wijewardhena before the Americans purchase the sea. I think that’s the only private beach in Sri Lanka much and that is the only Embassy which has a private beach, which I am sure will be really the cause of joy for your marine scene.
As the Ambassador mentioned it was 74 years ago that we started our diplomatic relations, so next year when we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our independence we also be celebrating the 75th anniversary of our relations with the US. But our contact with the US goes back far longer than that. Over 200 years ago, when missionaries arrived here in Jaffna to open schools I always wondered how those missionaries got on Jaffna with the British while burning the White House in Washington.
But I must thank them because they started one of the first hospitals in Sri Lanka. The green hospital, where they did yeoman service in Jaffna during wartime, it was not only a Christian missionary We all know of Col. Alcott, and the services he has done and there are many sons who standing here who comes from the school he started, Ananda College.
It’s not only the field of education or religion; they were in trade actually our graphite trade phosphate, because Americans were some of the main purchases of graphite at that time. These are all parts which written in history. Our relationship was not only in trade, not merely education, not merely religion it was also military. In 1942, General Joseph Silvon, Wnnieger Joe was the deputy commander of the Southeast Asia command which was housed here in Kandy under Admiral Lord Mountbatten at that time. He controlled the Chinese troops in India, Burma, and China. So that’s how our military connection began.
And our economic connections after the war when we got the help of Joe Nickson to prepare the first monetary law and to set up the Central Bank, that piece of legislation is one of the most well-drafted legislation that I have seen. The political alliance was also built up, especially in 1951, when the then Secretary of State had to rely on our representative there then finance Minister J.R. Jayawardena to make a speech in support of the Japanese peace treaty when some of the other Asians backed them. So even during significant times, we have been there.
So these are the needed a friendship which continued whenever we needed, going into Galle face to take relief to the flood-affected areas in 1957.
And when I became the Deputy Minister of foreign affairs in 1977, it was an important era when President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Nakasone all supported us in the development of regional cooperation together with Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and President JR Jayawardena. It was a turning point that contributed to the last geopolitical changes which took place in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In the year 1993, I went to America to negotiate a deal to bring the Internet to Sri Lanka. Vice President Al Gore made a special contribution for that. Imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t gone there and signed it. It is also the result of a long-term friendship.
The support given by President George W. Bush when I was the Prime Minister in 2001 should definitely be mentioned here. I recall here his special contribution in conducting peace talks and controlling the LTTE organization and when we were hit by the Tsunami disaster, how he gave help and his father, president, George Bush and President Clinton here to be with us. So we have not forgotten. It’s a friendship that has gone on for so long and as the Prime Minister again I had your help when we restored the democratic principles and upheld the rule of law and the freedom of expression.
This is what Sri Lanka is committed to. We will not move from that. This is as I say the democracy that we all know and we pride ourselves on the fact that since 1931 we are a practicing democracy. I can assure you the fights in our House some times better than fighting in your House of Representatives. Are we to exchange notes on that we can ask the Hon. Speaker?
President Biden- I met when he was a senator and I had to go and meet him and again in 2017 on a unique occasion we were both listening to a speech by President Xi. This is only the beginning, not the end. I must thank President Biden for the help he has given us in this critical moment. We appreciate it and I must say, without your help, we will not be having a successful “Maha Season” Thank you.
So, what this building symbolizes, in a way, is the coming together, the brick-and-mortar human relationship which had held us all together. The two countries together it’s wrong, it cannot be broken. But this new building also is, in a way, a symbol of a new era in which the relationship has to develop. When the Indian Ocean is getting more attention, is coming under attention and the world itself is changing we are seeing from last year onwards how fast the geopolitics is changing and in this world that we will have to carry out our new relationships and we have worked together for so long, I have no doubt that we will carry on respecting each other and working closely to each other to uphold the peace and democracy.
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, the U.S. Department of State’s Under Secretary for Management John Bass, several Ministers, officials and private citizens from both countries attended this occasion. (President’s Media Division)
Source – Colombopage