America joins
Sri Lanka
in remembrance

By Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead
As we arrive at the first anniversary of the Asian tsunami of 2004, the
United States and the American people join their Sri Lankan friends in
solemn memory of the tens of thousands who perished here, as well as
in continued sympathy with the survivors who lost family and homes.

The horrible images linger indelibly in our minds: more than a quarter
million people killed across Asia, homes and businesses destroyed,
families uprooted and smashed like brittle husks before the raging sea.
Throughout the world, as these images stunned and moved us with their
power, governments, non-governmental organizations and private
citizens acted quickly to raise billions of dollars in aid for the victims. We
were all determined to help our friends rebuild and recover from the
tragedy. Indeed, the United States even mobilized their armed forces,
sending thousands of military personnel to provide relief and lend a
much-needed logistical hand.

On this somber occasion, the United States will inaugurate in Galle on
Boxing Day the first of eighty-five children's parks in tsunami-affected
areas. The playgrounds will be safe spaces for families, communities,
and especially for children, to gather, to play, to interact, and to recover
from the trauma of the disaster. The playground project symbolizes an
important aspect of the return to normal life for tsunami-affected
communities, and is only the latest in a series of United States-funded
projects to provide the tools for victims to prosper once again.

During the past year, the U.S., through the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID), has initiated programmes in many
regions throughout Sri Lanka to build transitional housing for thousands
of displaced residents, install sanitation systems, inaugurate counseling
programs for traumatized victims, and restore livelihoods through
micro-enterprise, tools and training, and cash-for-work programs. With a
supplemental grant from the Administration and the U.S. Congress, we
have moved into a reconstruction phase for large-scale infrastructure
projects, such as the reconstruction of the bridge at Arugam Bay along
with supporting roads and a waste treatment plant. In addition, the
United States is currently rebuilding and upgrading three fisheries
harbors with extended sea walls and other facilities, as well as
reconstructing, in a model public-private partnership, up to 14
vocational schools damaged by the waves. Following the
recommendation of the Sri Lankan government, we are "building back
better" by improving the structures we are rebuilding, not just replacing
them. For example, two of the vocational schools we are constructing
will be model "green" schools designed to demonstrate maximum use of
environmental principles, and will employ instructors we've trained in the
most current teaching methodologies.

The United States is proud to offer considerable support to Sri Lanka as
it moves forward with its recovery. But we are just one of many actors
playing a role in this common effort, one led by Sri Lankans from all
walks of life. We also are indebted to the many Sri Lankans who aided
American and other tourists who were affected by the tsunami, even as
these Sri Lankans began their own sad journey of mourning and
recovery. The number of people from the governmental, NGO and
private sectors who continue, a year later, to devote their energies and
skills to rebuilding is impressive. We sincerely hope that the ongoing
needs of all the country's displaced and dispossessed will continue to
be addressed in all areas of the country.

This monumental effort to return to normality will take years to complete
and dogged persistence to see it through. At this time of remembrance,
all Sri Lankans should know that as a friend and ally, the United States
will do everything it can to support you in your noble endeavor. [