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* Australian parliamentary delegation encouraged by Sri Lanka's progress, offers bipartisan support
Mon, Jan 27, 2014, 11:06 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 27, Colombo: An Australian parliamentary delegation visiting Sri Lanka said the transformation in the island nation undergone after the end of the war is "highly impressive" and they were greatly encouraged by the progress seen throughout the island.

The parliamentary delegation from Australia's State of Victoria said Australia will always offer bipartisan support to Sri Lanka when they met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa this morning at Temple Trees, President's Media unit said in a release.

The delegation including members of Victorian Legislative Assembly Elizabeth (Liz) Jean Beattie, John Pandazopoulos and Marsha Rose Thomson discussed with the President at length about the development they have seen in the country since their last visit just after the war ended in 2009.

The delegation said they had the opportunity to travel island wide, including to Jaffna, Kandy, Galle and Trincomalee and see the changes.

"There were no restrictions for us anywhere in Sri Lanka," Beattie said adding that they were free to talk to anyone and they used that freedom.

Noting that it was important to see the changes and hear the situation by themselves, Beattie said lot of changes has taken place within a short time.

"The progress achieved is amazing," Thompson said.

The delegation said upon their return to Australia they will prepare a report on what they have seen and experienced in Sri Lanka and present it to the Australian Parliament. The report will become public record, they said.

"We are very encouraged by what we saw. Anyone can start a war, but needs men of courage to end it, Beattie said.

Briefing the Australian parliamentarians on the post-conflict development in the country, Sri Lankan President explained that resettling the people after demining the battle zones and rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by the LTTE were difficult challenges.

MP Pandazopoulos said compared to the experiences of other countries that had similar conflicts, the progress in Sri Lanka is extremely commendable.

"You need to be commended. You have made some hard decisions," the legislator told the President.

He noted that most of the Sri Lankans living in Australia have comprehended the post-war transformation taken place in the island.

President Rajapaksa expressed his appreciation to Australia for its support during the 2004 tsunami and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last year. He said that resuming direct air links between the Australia and Sri Lanka is under consideration now.

The delegation also pointed out that Australia as well as other countries has recognized coconut products such as its water and oil as healthy alternatives and begun using them.

The Australian MPs also talked about the historical links and common heritage between the two countries. MP Pandazopoulos said Sri Lanka is a good fit for Australian tourists because of its friendliness.

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