Sunday, February 20, 2005

US Presidents Bush, Clinton to gain first-hand information on tsunami

Washington D.C. - Former President George H.W. Bush, father of incumbent US President George W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton, are scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on 20-21 February, to assess damage caused by the Tsunami disaster and explore opportunities for cooperation with Sri Lanka in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. They are undertaking this visit at the request of the U.S. President George W. Bush.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will welcome the two former US Presidents, and have discussions with them at a meeting scheduled for Sunday 20th February. During the visit, the two former US Presidents will visit Matara to gain first-hand information on the devastation wrought by the December 26 Tsunami and ongoing relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Their visit to affected areas will include a site visit to a debris clearing project where USAID is providing cash-for-work and equipment to Tsunami affected people to help expedite the clean up operation.

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States said "Sri Lanka is pleased to welcome this historic visit of two former Presidents, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who are very distinguished and enjoy wide respect, to gain a first-hand account of the devastation caused by this unprecedented tragedy. Their visit reflects the U.S. pledge to stay engaged in Sri Lanka in the long haul and, the leadership they provide, will no doubt, inspire Americans, to stay engaged with the reconstruction and recovery effort."

Soon after the disaster, President Bush named former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush to lead a nationwide private fund-raising effort to encourage private-sector financial support for Tsunami relief to help countries devastated by the Tsunami saying, "I have asked two of America’s most distinguished private citizens to head a nationwide charitable fund-raising effort." Immediately after the announcement, President George W. Bush, together with former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and First Lady visited the Sri Lanka Embassy to sign the Book of Condolence. They also discussed with Ambassador Subasinghe the extent of the Tsunami disaster and, relief and rehabilitation needs.

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton launched a joint effort in a bi-partisan manner to raise money for victims of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami after the White House initiated them in January to lead an effort to drum up private donations. It was estimated that the total pledge of assistance from American private donations stood at US$800 million, and is expected to reach US$900 million shortly.

President Bush has requested the U.S. Congress for US$950-million for relief and rebuilding in the aftermath of the Tsunami. The funds will go to help affected countries restore roads, bridges and other damaged infrastructure and also to defray the cost of U.S. military relief efforts and build an early warning system for future tsunamis and typhoons. Sri Lanka also will be eligible for as much grant funding from the Millennium Challenge Account as required for infrastructure, micro-finance, and other activities.

U.S. humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka, included search and rescue missions, debris clearing operations and the distribution of emergency supplies such as, food, drinking water, clothing and medical supplies. The US Government, military, NGOs, individuals and the corporate sector contributed immensely to the US Tsunami relief effort.

—Embassy of Sri Lanka, Washington D.C.


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