Sri Lankans in the Greater Washington area on Saturday commemorated the 58th National Day, at a colourful ceremony held at the auditorium of the University of the District of Columbia. The event organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka, attended by almost a 1000 persons, showcased Sri Lanka at its best - its religious practices, cultural diversity and hopes and aspirations for the future.

The programme included singing of the national anthem, lighting of the traditional oil lamp, reciting of Jayamangala Gatha, reading of the National Day messages of the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, and Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious observances. While the venerable monks from the Washington Buddhist Vihara and the Wheaton International Buddhist Center led by the Ven. Maharagama Dharmasiri conducted the Buddhist religious observances. Hindu, Christian and Islamic religious observances were conducted by Mrs. Kanaga Ranganathan, Dr. Greg Fernandopulle and Mr. Nasir Aziz, respectively.

Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke noted “the past year had witnessed possibly the most active support of the US government in Sri Lankan affairs in recent times”. He added that what is significant, “is that this support has not been confined to any particular administration or personality, but has grown out of the mutuality of values upheld, as well as the common interests pursued by the two countries”. The Ambassador said “the Embassy was very conscious that just as much as it was tasked to build and strengthen relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka in all its facets, it had an equal responsibility to serve the needs of those of Sri Lankan origin living throughout the United States”. In this context, measures had been taken in recent months to streamline the consular work and to manage the assets of the Embassy in a more prudent manner. A conscious effort was also being made to make the Embassy a people friendly institution. A practice of the Embassy conducting commemorative events to celebrate festivals of the four great religions of Sri Lanka -Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, had been begun. A Community Affairs Coordinating Group, which includes representatives from all known Sri Lanka related organisations in the greater Washington area had been constituted, to enable cross fertilization of ideas between the Embassy and the community. The Embassy is also actively supporting the initiatives of all Sri Lankan groups that have sought its assistance to promote Sri Lanka related events. Ambassador Goonetilleke appealed to Sri Lankans living in the U.S. - both as organisations as well as individuals, to play an even more active role in pursuing the interests of Sri Lanka in the U.S. with representatives of the administration, members of the federal and state legislatures, international organisations, NGOs and others of influence, to leverage policy in a manner that better serves the interests of Sri Lanka.

A colourful cultural programme followed the Ambassador address. It included the Sama Ranganaya Ballet and the Hanuma Vannama performed by the Washington based Sri Lanka Ranga Kala Kavaya troupe, the Gajaga Vannama and a Tea Pluckers dance by the New Jersey based National Women’s Dance troupe of Sri Lanka, Kapali Nin Kuranai Nilavu and Dasha Avatharam - two Bharatha Natyam performances by Shantha Parameswaran and Meera Nathan respectively, and “Lets join our hands” - a song composed and sung by Anjalika Silva. The grand finale to the programme was the coming together of the 3 Sri Lankan bands as well as Sri Lankan personalities involved in the western music scene in the Greater Washington area, to sing the song “this land belongs to all of us”, with the addition of Sinhala and Tamil lyrics composed by the Washington based musicians themselves.

Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, who proposed the vote of thanks, noted “the enthusiastic participation in this event was testimony to the fact that the spirit of ‘Sri Lankanness’ is very much alive in Washington D.C., and that events like these, organized by the Embassy, can play a catalytic role in bringing Sri Lankans together in solidarity”. He urged the event be seen “not as an end, but as a beginning”. “A beginning of a more engaging and sustained relationship between the Embassy and the community, that would help enhance the visibility of Sri Lanka in the U.S. capital”. He also urged for the help of the community “to connect with the large Sri Lankan diaspora, as well as others, who have an interest in Sri Lanka, who live across the United States”. He concluded, “if Sri Lanka’s cause is to be served, and served well, it is imperative that all unite and go forth, with no distractions”.

Minister (Commercial) Saman Udagedara and First Secretary Dhammika Semasinghe introduced the program.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

06 February 2006



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