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Ambassador Jaliya briefs members of US congress

(April 04, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States continued a series of briefings on Capitol Hill last week as government forces cornered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam militants in northern Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya met with Democratic Representatives Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Republican Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey. The meetings included a discussion of developments in the Sri Lankan conflict. (Van Hollen’s father once served as U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka).

During the meetings, Ambassador Wickramasuriya explained that the fighting has reached a protracted stage because government security forces do not want to endanger civilians held captive as human shields by the LTTE.

Instead, Ambassador told those in Congress, government forces have declared a safety zone for civilians and have worked with the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate trapped civilians and provide needed food and medicine.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya said that all members of Congress who he has met with so far are receptive to the government’s campaign against the LTTE, which the United States government considers a terrorist group. Ambassador said those in Congress understand how costly the war has been for Sri Lankans.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya’s briefings also involved discussions of post-conflict work in Sri Lanka. Within days, Ambassador said, the government will shift from a war-footing to one of helping displaced populations and delivering resources to communities damaged by the fighting.

Aid could include $1.9 billion in funds from the International Monetary Fund, which LTTE supporters have sought to block. Ambassador Wickramasuriya said a large portion of those funds would go toward reconstruction efforts in the north and east, once LTTE strongholds.

"These civilians have been under the threat of terrorism for the last 30 years," Ambassador said. "Now the government has liberated them and this is the time that the government will look after them."
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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