Commitment to democracy foundation of US-Sri Lanka relations | Sunday Observer
US Senator Chris Van Hollen in Sri Lanka to mark 75 years of diplomatic ties

Commitment to democracy foundation of US-Sri Lanka relations

3 September, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe in a discussion with the Senator and Ambassador Julie Chung
President Ranil Wickremesinghe in a discussion with the Senator and Ambassador Julie Chung

Elected to the United States Senate by the people of Maryland in November 2016, Chris Van Hollen is committed to fighting every day to ensure that our State and our country live up to their full promise of equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity. Senator Van Hollen started in public service as a member of the Maryland State Legislature, where he became known as a tenacious advocate for everyday Marylanders and someone who was unafraid to take on powerful special interests on behalf of the working class. In 2002, he was elected to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. In January 2015, he released a comprehensive plan to address the problem of growing inequality in America and provide a blueprint for building an economy that works for everyone, a goal that he will continue to fight for in the U.S. Senate. Chris Van Hollen is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Public Policy at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Centre where he attended night school. He and his wife, Katherine Wilkens, are the proud parents of three children, Anna, Nicholas, and Alexander.

For the past 75 years, the United States and Sri Lanka have a relationship built on mutual respect. Despite political and economic compulsions in the Asian region, the relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States is becoming stronger and the US remains the largest export market to Sri Lanka.

Senator Chris Van Hollen

The United States has always helped Sri Lanka whenever the country was in trouble.

The United States has provided economic and humanitarian support over US$ 2 billion since 1956. The US-Sri Lanka strategic partnership is founded on shared values including a commitment to democracy and human rights.

Both nations have shared interests in promoting regional security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity.

The visit of US Senator Chris Van Hollen to Sri Lanka last week was very significant as both nations celebrate the 75th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

The US Senator whose father was the US Ambassador in Colombo between 1972 – 1976 said that a lot of changes have taken place in the country in the past 50 years. The close friendship between the two nations has strengthened during the last five decades, he said.

He recollected how his father celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the United States in 1973 with Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. “Today we are witnessing the 75th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and the United States this year.”


“And I just brought a few mementos to prove I was actually here at the time. One is this brochure that my father put together on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, spelling out the history of friendship between the United States and Sri Lanka.

“And as you probably know history runs deep. And on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, my father presented this booklet to Premier Bandaranaike on our National Day, July 4.

As I prepared for this trip I went through a lot of archives and I came upon this picture which shows my father, my mother, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, me and my two sisters”, the Senator said.

He met President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the President’s House in Kandy on the eve of the final Randoli Perahera of the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

Later in the evening, the President together with Senator Van Hollen and US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung witnessed the Final Randoli Perahera.

The Senator was of the view that Sri Lanka has achieved progress in many fronts during the past 50 years. He recollected his visits to many places in the country with his father in the 1970s specially the historic Sri Dalada Maligawa.

Chris Van Hollen said that the Peace Corps will be back in Sri Lanka soon. The Peace Corps is an independent program established by the late President John F. Kennedy to assist the developing countries by providing skilled workers in the field of education, health, entrepreneurship, woman empowerment and community development.


This program was first introduced to Sri Lanka in 1962 and it was suspended in 1972 due to the political situation in the country.

During an interactive session with a select group of media persons in Colombo, the visiting Senator said that the Peace Corps will immensely help boost skills of Sri Lankan youth.

He said that the Peace Corps will focus on English language skills which Sri Lanka considers essential for economic stability. “Peace Corps are coming back to Sri Lanka focusing on English language training. Young volunteers will have many opportunities through this program,” he said.

The Senator’s father with Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1973

Senator Van Hollen while stressing to continue strong security partnership with Sri Lanka, said that his country has provided assistance to Sri Lankan Navy to protect Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and prevent drug smuggling and human trafficking in its territorial waters. He added that the US Coast Guard has provided three ships aiming to strengthen and develop partnerships to overcome common challenges in the maritime domain. They will help carry out rescue operations too, he said.

He said Sri Lanka needs to double its efforts to find solutions to the issues of families of missing persons. He added that truth and justice would play a very crucial role in the reconciliation process of Sri Lanka.

The Senator said the issues of the people still remain unanswered even though the conflict ended 14 years ago. Sri Lanka should set up a single window or one stop shop to facilitate investment and US investors are focusing on the economic situation of the country before making any investments, he said.


“The Government should create certainty for American companies about their investments in the country,” he said.

He said that they will encourage US investors by urging them to look at Sri Lanka’s situation. The Senator was of the view that US investors are very much focused on transparency in the system and the interconnection between investment and the political situation before making an investment.

“US companies will be looking at whether or not the Government of Sri Lanka is making progress on the fronts that we talked about earlier in terms of political reforms and reconciliation. These are all important contributing factors,” he said.

The Senator met the members of the Chamber of Commerce and discussed their issues too. The visiting US Senator also welcomed the passage of the Anti-Corruption Bill (ACB) in Parliament.

“The ACB is very important to provide confidence to the world. Sri Lanka has to ensure its proper implementation now,” Senator Van Hollen said.

The US Senator said that Sri Lanka must address the issues that have cropped up in the aftermath of the protracted ethnic conflict in the country.

He said that all elections should be held in time for the people to express their opinion democratically and free media is important for the people to air their views freely. “Freedom to protest and the freedom of the press are very important.”

“My understanding is that Sri Lanka is holding the Presidential Election next year at almost the same time as the US will be holding its next Presidential Election (November 2024),” he said.

He said that the US is for a free, open, connected and secure Indo-Pacific region and problems should be dealt with openly.

The Senator said that the US has and will always respect the sovereignty of every country including Sri Lanka and freedom of navigation on the high seas. “Sri Lanka has to make decisions in respect of its own sovereignty,” he said.