Ambassador Samantha Power, yesterday, said that last year’s political crisis in Sri Lanka had raised alarm bells all around the world. “But critically, while our respective institutions have bent, they are not breaking in the US, and they are not breaking in Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Power said.
The former top member of the Obama administration said so, delivering the key note address at an event at the BMICH to mark Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s completion of 30 years in politics. Among those present were President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Opposition Leader President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Ambassador Power said: “Here in Sri Lanka, during the recent crisis, your citizens made themselves heard, with many of them speaking not for parties or personalities but in defense of your hard-earned democracy. Your streets were home to the country’s first-ever spontaneous, popular protests not initiated by a particular party, proving US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ great wisdom that, ‘the most important political office is that of private citizen.’
“One woman who participated in a protest commented, “As a mother, as a grandmother, I want to see democracy restored. I’m not against any person or any party but as a citizen of Sri Lanka.” Another said, ‘We’re doing this for the next generation, for the future of this country.’
“Both traditional and new media outlets were able to play a key role in keeping Sri Lankans informed and keeping institutions accountable. Civil society – and again, both new and established groups – were active and effective. And your judiciary stood by the Constitution and enforced the rule of law with great independence and seriousness of purpose.
“All of this is a credit to the resilience of Asia’s oldest democracy and to the checks and balances that Mangala championed over the years.
“I hope that for both of our countries, the response to the challenges we are facing – and navigating – will end up affirming the enduring strength of democratic institutions and necessity of democratic accountability.
Your hope, Mangala – that Sri Lankans “create a civilized society where humanity and decency flourish and the rule of law is respected” – is what I hope for both of our countries. And I look forward to the continued friendship between our two nations as we work together to make it happen.”
Ambassador Power last visited Sri Lanka in late Nov 2015.
She said: “Sri Lanka has been a true partner of the United States, and I am grateful that many of the relationships I was able to form while working with your country have endured, and become very meaningful friendships.
Ambassador Power made reference to Mangala Samaraweera campaign during the second JVP inspired insurgency to save lives and protect human rights.
“Mangala did this back in 1990 when he founded the “Mother’s Front” with Mahinda Rajapaksa – creating a network dedicated to tracing down information on the disappeared and pressuring the Sri Lankan government to provide compensation.
“Mangala is well known for taking the fundamental step of recognizing past abuses and the critical need for reconciliation. As Foreign Minister he spearheaded the creation of the Office of Missing Persons, which is now finally operational. He helped push a law through parliament that will provide for reparations for war victims and survivors.
“And more recently, as Finance Minister, he has orchestrated the forgiveness of loans taken out by those desperate families after the war. And he has just launched another debt relief program for those affected by the crisis of severe drought. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
Mangala has shown his belief in modernizing Sri Lanka. He has prioritized opening up this beautiful country to the rest of the world, including to the United States.
He secured the launching of the first-ever US-Sri Lankan strategic dialogue. He announced in 2015 Sri Lanka’s joining of the Open Government Partnership. And he shepherded Sri Lanka’ application to the Millennium Challenge Corporation through a long and tortured approval process—dedication that is now paying off, as it will soon bring some $480 million in concrete benefits for a number of infrastructure projects in transportation and agriculture.
(Source: The Island)