SRI LANKANS IN THE GREATER WASHINGTON
AREA COMMEMORATE THE 58TH SRI LANKA NATIONAL DAY
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
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
06 February 2006