‘Coalition of Sri Lanka Americans’ (COSLA) launched

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC marked the 59th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence with two events on February 4, 2007.

The first program took place in the Embassy in the morning, which was essentially a multi religious event representing the four main religions of Sri Lanka. Following the hoisting of the national flag by Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, Buddhist religious observances were conducted by Ven. Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero of the Washington Buddhist Vihara and Ven. Katugastota Uparatana Thero of the International Buddhist Center, Wheaton and several Buddhist priests from the two temples. The Hindu religious observances were conducted by Mrs. Kanaga Ranganathan, the Islamic religious observances by Mr. Naseer Azeez and the Christian religious observances by Dr. Gregory Fernandopulle.

Addressing the gathering Ambassador Goonetilleke spoke of the country’s progress following Independence and also dwelt on the current situation in the country. A special guest at the event, Sri Lanka’s Education Minister, Mr. Susil Premjayantha, who was visiting Washington DC, addressed the gathering too. He said that President Rajapaksa was totally committed to a peaceful settlement to Sri Lanka’s conflict and that a solution will be formulated within the next two months. Following the religious ceremony the guests were treated to refreshments.

The evening program organized by the Embassy was held at the auditorium of the University of the District of Columbia at Van Ness. All Sri Lankans living in the Greater Washington area were invited for this event, which started with a reception. The program was divided into two sections, the official program and the cultural program. The first part of the program started with the singing of the National Anthem by the children of the Embassy staff. This was followed by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp and the recital of Jayamangala Gatha by the children of the International Buddhist Center Sunday School in Wheaton and the children of Embassy staff. The Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian religious observances were conducted respectively by Ven. Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero of the Washington Buddhist Vihara and Ven. Katugastota Uparatana Thero of the International Buddhist Center at Wheaton; Mrs. Kanga Ranganathan, Mr. Naseer Azeez and Dr. Gregory Fernandopulle. The diplomatic officers of the Embassy read the Independence Day messages of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minster Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Foreign Minister Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama. Ambassador Goonetilleke in his address to the gathering said, “The Embassy has continued in its efforts to ensure the understanding and support of the US, as Sri Lanka faces multifaceted challenges in achieving a negotiated political settlement to the conflict. The US remains closely engaged with the developments in Sri Lanka, which interest has been amply demonstrated by several high level visits to Colombo by officials of the Department of State during 2006. Similarly, visits to the US by several Sri Lankan Cabinet Ministers, Advisors as well as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army took place during 2006.” The Ambassador also informed guests that, “The two countries also remain engaged in seeking to curb international terrorism in all its manifestations and both countries are collaborating with each other in arresting the menace of money laundering and arms smuggling, as such activities fuel our own conflict, as well as those beyond our shores.” Reminding that Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic, multi lingual, multi religious and multi cultural society he said “ We have to remind ourselves that our diversity is not only a fact of life, but also the source of our strength”.

An important feature of the event was the formal launching of ‘Coalition of Sri Lanka Americans” (COSLA) in the U.S. a non-profit organisation with a central mission of promoting the identity and interests of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Americans living in the U.S. While presenting a “Sannasa’ announcing the establishment of COSLA to Ambassador Goonetilleke, Mr Sudath Gunasekera, President of COSLA said that the organisation has already identified conveners from states of California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The one-hour colourful cultural program included engaging dances by the Sri Lanka Youth Dance Group, the Ranga Kala Kavaya, two Bharatha Natyam items, a modern dance, children’s dances and a music recital. The cultural programme amply demonstrated the talent of the young Sri Lankans in the Greater Washington area and their eagerness to preserve and promote Sri Lanka heritage.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

05 February 2007

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