Sri Lanka Express

We are more like the US now” –
Amb. Kariyawasam at Independence event in LA

By Hassina Leelarathna
 
(Photos by Moran Perera)
 
Career diplomat Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, no stranger to many who had known him during his tenure in Washington (1995-1998) received an enthusiastic welcome at an Independence Day event at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles last weekend.  But he also had his work cut out trying to convince his compatriots that things are moving in the right direction in Sri Lankan-US relations.   After all, many here suspect the US had a hand in the “regime change” that ousted President Rajapaksa last year.  
 
 “We are good friends with this country [US], our foreign policy is very much aligned with what people want. We are more like the US … like your country,” he told a small group of expats who had rallied to present a petition to him  at the “meet and greet” segment of the annual event organized by the Los Angeles Consulate General’s office, co-sponsored this year by the LA-based Sri Lanka Foundation.  Accepting the petition, he promised to “take a look later on.”
 
Among other issues, the petition expressed concern that service troops who defeated a brutal terrorist group were being punished to appease the LTTE lobby and its foreign backers and that Sri Lanka was caught in a downward spiral of chaos and disharmony.  It also called for measures to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 
 
Which, apparently, is not how Mr. Kariyawasam views recent developments in Sri Lanka.  “We are following a policy of justice, accountability, and transparency.  [GOSL] is very strict about how we spend money… We want a transparent government with no corruption.”
 
Echoing Colombo’s strong pro-US stance, Mr. Kariyawasam said his job was to bring the two countries closer together and revealed plans for moving Sri Lanka closer into Washington’s orbit.  “We’re going to make it better for Sri Lanka, our business, our partnership.  We are going to launch a dialogue, we’re going to have [American assistance for] security.
 
Asked about the controversial visit of the UN Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said it was part of the pledge Sri Lanka has made for a full internal investigation. 
He dismissed the suggestion that there’s been “U-turn” in the  stance on “war crimes” allegations vis a vis the previous government’s refusal to entertain any foreign investigators. 
 
Before ending the brief meeting, the ambassador made another revelation: this time, about Prageeth Ekneligoda whose disappearance has been at the center of Sri Lankan politics.  On an average, said  Mr. Kariyawasam, he receives at least a hundred letters, all from Americans, demanding justice for  Ekneligoda who vanished in 2010. 
 
Who would’ve thought that Americans, who never cared about the LTTE’s assassination of dozens of political leaders (including a Sri Lankan president and an Indian Prime Minister), abduction of thousands of children,  and the killings of thousands of civilians in terrorist bombings and other mayhem, would pay so much attention to the disappearance of one man, to whit someone with disputed credentials as a journalist, someone investigators are now saying was involved in a range of criminal activities such as human smuggling, passport forgery, and selling military intelligence to a terrorist group.
 
Who would’ve thought.
 
Like Sri Lanka, America too seems to have done a U-turn!
L-R: Ambassador Kariyawsam, Sunil de Alwis (Editor, Go2Lanka), Ajantha SriRamya, and P. Dissanayake
Ambassador Kariyawasam with Mr. Mahesh of the SL Consulate General office in Los Angeles
"We're going to make it better," Ambassador Kariyawsam tells expats in Los Angeles. 
 SRI LANKANS IN LOS ANGELES: :
 
Stop Policy of Appeasement
 
"Seven years after the defeat of a 30-year long terrorist movement for separatism, we observe with great concern disastrous moves to drag Sri Lanka away from what was a journey towards peace and nation-building to chaos, disharmony, and fragmentation. As Sri Lankan- Americans who dedicated decades to confronting the separatist movement and its pro-LTTE lobby in the US we are alarmed at the following developments:
 
Eelam groups backed by foreign governments and NGOs  dictating policy and governance in Sri Lanka while  soldiers and military officials who risked their lives to bring back peace and normalcy are being hounded, harassed, and jailed."