External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris, addressing three separate groups of British Parliamentarians urged them to visit Sri Lanka and form their own judgments of post-war developments.
“Go wherever you want in the country and see for yourself. We believe that transparency and visibility is the right approach to dispel the falsehoods that are told about the country by those who wish to spread ill-will”, Minister Peiris told them.
Among those he addressed was a 10-member all party delegation of parliamentarians led by Labour MP Baroness Roberta Blackman- Woods due to visit Colombo for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference this week that will draw some 600 Parliamentarians and officials from across the Commonwealth.
The minister said when they the north and east they would see at first hand the tremendous economic activity that has galvanised the once-devastated region and a people creating new opportunities and fresh livelihoods for themselves and their families.
He said that a group of British MPs, mainly from the governing Conservative Party, who visited Sri Lanka recently were able to appreciate the magnitude of the problem faced by Sri Lanka in the post-war period and the progress made by the government to deal with these issues in the brief three years since the end of the war.
As a result of this visit these MPs gained a better understanding of the problems and the work done by the government to return the war -affected areas to normalcy and had the opportunity to assess the situation on the ground dispassionately.
Prof Peiris pointed out that while the country’s economy was growing at around 8.2%, in the war-affected north economic growth was 22% which was proof enough of the surge in activity that is benefiting a people that had laboured under the diktats of the LTTE.
He mentioned the enormous sums of state funds that had been poured into the region to inject new life and resuscitate a crippled infrastructure by building modernising the road and rail network and reconstructing damaged schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Meanwhile private capital is going into the tourism and hospitality industry with new hotels to accommodate the burgeoning tourist arrivals.
“British companies should not miss out on this great opportunity to be part of the new renaissance,” he said.
He urged British companies which are all to familiar with Sri Lanka for historical and cultural reasons to avail themselves of this boom in economic activity in the north
Prof Peiris said that all too often critics of Sri Lanka were prey to campaigns of disinformation by those intent on demonising Sri Lanka for having militarily vanquishing terrorism after nearly 30 years of war.
He called on British parliamentarians to be fair-minded and objective. They should visit post-war Sri Lanka and gain personal experience of the measures taken for reconstruction and reconciliation.
The minister underlined the steps taken to resettle nearly 300,000 persons who had been in the clutches of the LTTE. He pointed out that almost all bar 3000, have now been resettled.
He emphasised that the government’s intention was not just to provide them with a roof over their heads.
It is a much more complex and rounded programme that would allow them to pick up the pieces of their tattered and battered lives and build a better future, he added.
“Sri Lanka has not got credit for all the good things it has done since the war ended.” He said that unfortunately sections of the diaspora that cannot accept the military defeat of the LTTE is now conducting a campaign to vilify Sri Lanka and harm it economically by trying to disrupt tourism and trade.
Several British parliamentarians and civil society opinion- makers later said they had a much better understanding of the situation because of the ring of conviction that surrounds the Sri Lanka story which had hitherto been distorted by those intent on blackening the country’s image.
They said that the regular interactions they have had with High Commissioner Dr Chris Nonis had also enabled them to see the whole picture and take a more balanced view.
Minister Peiris also met Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma to discuss next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) due to be held in Sri Lanka and the preparations already made by the government which were very much appreciated by the Secretariat.
He also had a luncheon meeting with Commonwealth Business Council chairman Mohan Kaul which will play an important role on the sidelines of CHOGM.
Source: Daily News (7th September 2012)