SL hopes make tourist paradise an investors’ paradise, Mangala tells Kerry

Sri Lanka, now a middle-income country, can no longer afford to rely solely on foreign aid.  It is in our government’s best interest to attract foreign direct investment as part of a broader strategy to kick-start the economy, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday welcoming U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the External Affairs Ministry in Colombo.

"Sri Lanka has been considered a paradise for tourists for many years, but our government is now also keen to make Sri Lanka an investor’s paradise," he said. "In order to do so, we are in the process of cultivating a rule based investment climate. I hope that American investors will take advantage of the many new economic opportunities now opening up in Sri Lanka."

Ensuring accountability in the new Sri Lanka, will feature as a key component of the reconciliation process, and the architecture of a domestic accountability mechanism with international technical assistance as promised by our manifesto are now being planned, the minister said.

"In this context there are also several areas where the United States can assist us by enhancing local capacity and providing technical expertise."

He noted that the visit is a momentous occasion for Sri Lanka as it is the first official visit by a US Secretary of State in nearly half a century - 43 years to be precise and signified "the return of our little island to the centre stage of international affairs."

"This morning we continued a dialogue that began in Washington within a month of my appointment as Foreign Minister," he continued. "We agreed to build on a multifaceted bilateral relationship and to forge stronger links between our peoples.  We also agreed to formalize our relationship through a partnership dialogue that will enable us to continue this process on a regular basis."

Noting that relations between our two countries have existed since the adoption of the US constitution, at which time records show that sailors from New England were anchored in the Galle Harbour, Samaraweera said that American missionaries, including Col. Henry Steel Olcott, who jointly designed the Buddhist flag flown during Vesak, played a vital role in founding and nurturing some of our best schools both in the North and the South.

Secretary Kerry’s visit to Sri Lanka comes at a very propitious moment.  On one hand, Buddhists in every part of the country, and all over the world, will be celebrating the Lord Buddha’s philosophy of tolerance and non-violence tomorrow, by lighting beautiful paper lanterns in their homes and on the streets.

And on the other hand, it also comes at a time when many Sri Lankans are celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to our constitution last Tuesday, which only one Member of Parliament opposed.

This was the apex of the 100 day programme which introduced far-reaching constitutional and democratic reforms, the minister said.

"Today, Sri Lanka is well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged Parliamentary democracy, laying the foundations for a new Sri Lanka, built on the pillars of democracy and ethnic harmony.

"This will allow us to reap the fruits of increased economic growth and prosperity, which have been eluding us for nearly two decades."

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