Sri Lanka Express

Finance minister highlights potential for increased Sri Lanka – U.S. bilateral trade

Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake addressing US Chamber of Commerce

April 21, 2017 - Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlighted prospects for increasing bilateral trade and U.S. investment in Sri Lanka at a breakfast roundtable meeting hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.  Minister Karunanayake was in Washington leading Sri Lanka delegation to the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings.

Alluding to many investment opportunities in areas such as infrastructure development, agro processing, health care, export oriented manufacturing and the tourism sector, Minister Karunanayake outlined the business-friendly policies adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka to position the country as the gateway to Asia. He discussed the benefits that US companies in Sri Lanka could avail of under the existing and potential FreeTrade Agreements with countries in the region, which can provide a larger market in the region beyond Sri Lanka.

Minister Karunanayake presented an overview of the progress in macroeconomic fundamentals of the country, which are integral cornerstones of a favourable investment climate and urged U.S. companies to look at Sri Lanka not only as an investment destination but also as a country with a high quality of life with excellent amenities for rest and recreation.  He pointed out that the government is putting in place mechanisms to support entrepreneurship, technology adoption, trade diversification and environmentally friendly industries and urged U.S. businesses to forge partnerships with the Sri Lankan private sector paving the way to strengthen business links over the next decade.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam reiterated that with its market-friendly economic policies, geo-strategic location and high quality physical environment, Sri Lanka has become a business-friendly, eminently livable and welcoming destination in the region.

The roundtable discussion was attended among others, by senior officials of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce South Asia Team, senior representatives from Coca Cola, Exxon Mobil, Ventech Engineering LLCs, McLarty Associates, Bower Group Asia, USIBC, CIPE, Mastercard, FedEx, Trimble Navigation Ltd.

The United States continues to be Sri Lanka’s largest export market. Bilateral trade turnover currently stands at approximately USD 3.3 billion and the U.S. accounts for 28% of Sri Lanka’s total exports in 2016. (SL Embassy Press Release)

Kusuma Cooray honored for work in U.S.-Sri Lanka relations

March 29, 2017

Kapiʻolani Community College Professor Emerita Kusuma Cooray was honored by the U.S. Pacific Command for her work as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka from 2001 to 2017.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Command, presented Cooray the Distinguished Public Service Award on March 24 at the U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters, Camp H.M. Smith, in acknowledgement of her “distinctive accomplishments and services” as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for 16 years.

The citation reads in part: Honorary Consul Cooray diligently worked to strengthen solidarity between the United States military leadership stationed in Hawaiʻi and all levels of the Sri Lankan government. During her tenure, she played a pivotal role in improving bilateral and multilateral cooperation in support of the Untied States Pacific Command’s mission with the clear purpose of enhancing the United States-Sri Lanka partnership.

In particular, Cooray was lauded for her sound advice and the role she played in a number of U.S.-Sri Lankan events such as the U.S. Navy Ship visit in March 2016, the first such visit in five years, the November 2016 Galle Dialogue and the 2016 visit of the Sri Lankan ambassador to the U.S. Pacific Command.  (Source: University of Hawaii News)

US State Department "Courage Award" to Ekneligoda

March 29, 2017

Sri Lanka’s Sandya Eknelygoda, wife of  Prageeth Ekneligoda,  was among thirteen  women from across the globe to receive the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage award for 2017.  First Lady Melania Trump and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon  presented the award to Mrs. Eknelygoda for "her tireless pursuit of justice for her husband, and on behalf of missing families from across Sri Lanka’s diverse ethnic and religious communities," the State Department said in a press release.

" When her husband, a well-known political cartoonist and journalist, disappeared in January 2010, Sandya resolved to seek the truth about his fate. 

She appeared in court more than 80 times in the face of obstructionist judges and authorities.  Sandya has become a symbol for the many thousands of persons who have suffered the loss of disappeared relatives over the course of the 27-year civil war and earlier insurrections.

Sandya is being honored for her relentless pursuit of the truth about those who have disappeared during conflict, holding the government accountable, and bringing hope to others suffering a similar fate.  Sandya," the State Department further said.

First Hon. Consul to PA

Mar. 16 - Attorney David Bruce Sherman was today appointed Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul in Pennsylvania.  Mr. Sherman is a founding member of the law firm Solomon, Sherman and Gabay, David Bruce Sherman.

Photo shows Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam handing over   the Commission of Appointment Mr. Sherman who is the first Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Pennsylvania.

New Honorary Consul in Hawaii

The Sri Lankan government appointed Bede Dhamika Cooray as the new honorary consul of Sri Lanka to  Hawaii, at a ceremony held at the Pacific Club of Hawaii, February 16 .    The presentation of the commission of appointment to the new Honorary Consul by Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam was preceded by a celebration to commemorate the 69th Anniversary of Independence of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Cooray is an accountant by profession, residing in Hawaii for nearly thirty years with extensive business contacts in the community. 

He replaces Mrs. Kusuma Cooray, well-known culinary expert who held that position for many years.

Indian-American with 'direct line to Trump' to visit Sri Lanka

Donald Trump (at the time presidential candidate) and Shalabah Kumar lighting the traditional lamp at a Republican Hindu Coalition fundraiser in October 2016.  Photo courtesy RHC.
SLE News
February 16, 2017

Indian - American industrialist Shalabah 'Shalli' Kumar (68), who has emerged as a prominent power broker in the Trump administration is expected to visit Sri Lanka shortly.

Details of the proposed visit are sparse, but the Chicago-based business tycoon who heads the electronics manufacturing firm VG Advanced Technologies has revealed he is making the trip to meet with his friend Taranjit Singh Sandhu who assumed duties as India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka
late last month.

Kumar together with his family contributed over $1.5 million to the Trump
campaign and is credited with mobilizing Hindu support for the Republican
nominee at a time when the Indian expat community was staunchly behind
Clinton. 

Kumar is founder and president of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC)
which played a key role in the "Aab Ki baar Trump Sarkaar" ad campaign,
the first U.S. presidential election ad campaign specifically targeting the
traditionally Democratic Indian community.

The video ad featured Trump speaking the phrase which is adapted from Indian
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election slogan of the 2014 polls "Ab Ki baar, Modi Sarkaar."
 Trump is said to have gotten the phrase right at the 12th take.  

Kumar’s efforts are believed to have netted Trump over a million Indian-American votes and he was immediately rewarded with an appointment to Trump’s Transition Finance and Inauguration committee.  He is on the Trump-Pence Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee (APAAC) which threw an inauguration gala for the incoming president in January, in addition to being on the leadership team of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans.


Advocates a "Hindu-American voice on public policy"

Kumar has quickly gained a reputation as the go-to guy for Indian-Americans chasing opportunities in the new administration as well as for New Delhi officials seeking contacts with Trump aides.  Indian TV channel NDTV introduced him as "the man with a direct line to Trump" on their show.  In an interview with the BBC, Kumar claimed that he “arranged two big meetings between Indian officials and leading figures in the Trump team."
Kumar, a native of Ambala, Punjab says he advocates "establishing a Hindu-American voice on public policy."

 He openly supports Trump’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.  Speaking at a press conference he told reporters that Hindu Americans are targets of “radical Islamic terrorists” twice over. “The terrorists target Hindus and Americans,” he said, calling for an indefinite suspension of the refugee program.
He has made three trips to India since the Nov. 8 elections  and it is noteworthy that the people tagged in his tweets include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ivanka Trump, (now) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and former speaker Newt Gingrich.

While he has not been offered a specific post, there is speculation that Trump might make him the U.S. Ambassador to India.  When this possibility was mentioned at a news conference he addressed recently, Kumar responded “No comments on that,” adding that he would be happy to take up any responsibility to improve bilateral relations.

Mr. Shallabah Kumar who has the ear of both Trump and Modi should definitely be a person of interest to Sri Lanka, an opportunity the Tamil Eelam lobby is not likely to miss.




Sri Lanka has potential to become next "Asian Tiger" -- Amb. Wharton on Independence Day


“The United States will continue to stand with you as your friend and your partner. While our level of cooperation today is unprecedented, there is always more progress to be made”, said Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Ambassador Bruce Wharton speaking as the chief guest at the celebrations hosted by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. to mark the 69th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence.
 
Ambassador Wharton further observed, “Today Sri Lanka has the potential to become the next Asian Tiger”, it boasts one of the most strategic maritime locations in the entire Indo-Pacific:  at the nautical crossroads of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia, with the Strait of Hormuz to its west and the Strait of Malacca to its east.  Forty percent of all seaborne oil passes through the former and half the world’s merchant fleet capacity sails through the latter, making the sea lanes off of Sri Lanka’s southern coast some of the world’s most important economic arteries. Pointing to U.S. economic cooperation with Sri Lanka, he noted, “All of this cooperation wouldn’t be possible without the democratic progress Sri Lanka has made and its renewed commitment to reconciliation, accountable government, and freedom of expression.”
 
In his remarks, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam quoted excerpts from messages of the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, relating to governance, promoting reconciliation, and striving for equitable economic development.
 
Commenting on bilateral relations, Ambassador Kariyawasam referred in particular to the high level U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue and the selection of Sri Lanka for a compact programme of the Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2016, and remarked that the leaders of Sri Lanka look forward to working with the new US Administration to build on the exponential progress of the multi-faceted bilateral relationship, nurtured especially during the last two years. As an “island nation” considered a pre-eminent maritime hub of the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Sri Lanka values its ever-growing partnership with the U.S. The U.S. can be a natural partner to Sri Lanka as it progresses on the challenging transformative journey, to develop the nation as a modern democracy, rapidly integrating with the world of business and trade, in peace and friendship, for the mutual benefit of both countries.
 
The celebrations were attended by a large gathering of Sri Lankan Americans, the D.C. diplomatic community, senior U.S. government officials and several Representatives from the U.S. Congress, including Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, member of the Sri Lanka Caucus Rep. David Price of North Carolina, and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida.
 
In the morning of February 4, the Ambassador and the Embassy staff hosted a solemn independence commemoration event at the Embassy with multi-faith observances conducted by religious dignitaries representing the Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian faiths and with the participation of Sri Lankan community representatives. Minister of Science, Technology and Research Susil Premajayantha, visiting DC, was a special guest on this occasion.
 

Source:  Sri Lanka Embassy Press Release

Indian-American to build 8 cricket stadiums

 Indian-American cricket enthusiast, Jignesh Pandya, proposes building eight cricket stadiums across the US at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion.

The proposed stadiums, each having a seating capacity of 26,000 people, will be built in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Illinois and California. 


















The venture is expected to create as many as 17,800 new jobs in the US, according to Pandya, chairman of Global Sports Ventures. Pandya is a real estate developer in the US. Having traveled  across the globe with his two sons to watch popular international cricket matches, he believes there’s great potential for the sport in the US.

The proposed cricket stadiums would be part of  “lifestyle centers” which would comprise of high-rise residential complex, shopping centers, entertainment centers and office complexes.

Pandya said the objective is to professionalize cricket in the United States by creating a league that allows athletes to compete at the highest level while providing fans and audiences the ability to enjoy the game at all these world-class facilities.

"This will be a strong foundation when the International Cricket Council (ICC) hosts any tournaments in line with its strategic framework for USA cricket, potentially hosting the ICC World Twenty20 in 2024," Pandya was quoted by PTI as saying.
JiJignesh Pandya (Courtesy of twitter)

U.S. splurged $585m promoting democracy, some of it to topple Rajapaksa

Washington spent $585 million of taxpayer funds promoting democracy and good governance across the globe in the past year, some of it in Sri Lanka, the US Department of State’s financial report for fiscal year 2016 revealed.  The State Department said the report provides an overview of the Department’s financial and performance data to help Congress, the President, and the public “assess our stewardship over the resources entrusted to us.”



Secretary of State John Kerry in a message published in the report referred to US involvement in Sri Lanka saying, “We have supported important democratic gains in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Burma.”  

The report does not mention how much was expended inthese countries but justifies the spending saying it is important to promote democratic values because “stable democracies are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the US.” 
It is widely believed that Washington meddled in the Sri Lankan elections to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  The US Agency for International Development (USAID) admits as much on its website:

“In Sri Lanka, with USAID elections support, the people went to the polls twice last year to demand dramatic political changes in their government.  These elections have completely transformed the US-Sri Lanka relationship, offering an opportunity for a stronger bilateral relationship in the future and leading to greater cooperation on both diplomatic efforts and human development objectives.”

The 2016 financial report shows the State Department’s total assets equaled $93.8 billion in the last fiscal year, which concluded on September 30, increasing by $3.2 billion compared to 2015.

Of this amount, $585 million was spent by the State Department under the article ‘Democracy, human rights and governance’ – $70 million down on the 2015 figure.  


From Hmong to Sinhalese, more than 100 languages represented in Anchorage schools
For years, the district has recorded steady growth in its number of English-language learners. This school year is no different: The number of English learners was up 4 percent from last year and up 20 percent since the 2008-09 school year, and that includes children whose first language is Sinhala, according to district data Read more