The 72nd Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence was celebrated at a special event organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC on 08 February 2020 at the University of the District of Columbia, with the participation of approximately 1000 members of the Sri Lankan expatriate community and other invited guests.
The proceedings commenced with the hoisting of the national flag by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States Rodney Perera followed by the singing of the National Anthem of Sri Lanka by a large group of children. The National Anthem of the United States was sung thereafter, followed by the observance of two minutes silence in honour of all patriots who have sacrificed their lives to preserve and protect the freedom, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
Following the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, Venerable Maha Sangha and members of clergy belonging to Hindu, Islam and Christian faiths conducted religious observances. Most Venerable Rajakeeya Panditha Wehihene Pannaloka Nayaka Thero, Ven. Maharagama Dhammasiri Nayaka Thero, Ven. Katugastota Uparatana Nayaka Thero, Ven. Karaputugala Indrarathana Thero, Ven. Malabe Ariyadewa Thero, Ven. Warukandeniye Piyarathana Thero, Rev. Swami Mani Kurukkal, Mr. Seyed Rizwan Mowlana and Rev. Father Dilantha Arachchilage offered prayers and invoked blessings.
The excerpt of the Independence Day Speech to the Nation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was displayed on the giant screen. Thereafter the English and Tamil versions of the President’s speech followed by the Independence Day Messages of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena were read out by Mission staff in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Speaking on the occasion, the Guest of Honour, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia, Department of State Thomas Vajda said that this celebration along with the inclusion of religious observances from the Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian faiths, as well as reading the Independence Day messages in three languages is a powerful reminder of the diversity and vibrancy of Sri Lankan society. Mr. Vajda congratulated the Sri Lankan people for the recent free, fair and transparent presidential election in Asia's oldest democracy. While commending the statement by the President that he wants to be the President of all Sri Lankans, Mr. Vajda expressed that the Government of U.S. stands ready to work with the new Government of President Rajapaksa to advance cooperation on bilateral and regional issues.
Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Rodney Perera extended a warm welcome and his sincere gratitude to religious dignitaries and Sri Lankan expatriate community including the children who took part in cultural performances. Ambassador Perera underlined President Rajapaksa’s statement that Sri Lanka is a country with an ancient history, and a society nurtured by Buddhist teachings and the teachings of other faiths, and that all efforts must be made to safeguard our culture and our values.
Reflecting on the vision of President to pay special attention to ensure that our future generation will become productive citizens by nurturing them with the required knowledge, skills and abilities, Ambassador Perera emphasized that the Embassy is developing contacts with Universities, Research Institutions to bring in skills development, training, technological knowhow and educational exchanges.
Ambassador Perera underlined that the work agenda of the Embassy is based on Sri Lankas’ national interests and for the promotion of Sri Lanka–U.S. bilateral relations on three pillars, namely, engagement with the U.S. Government, Congress and State Administrations; Economic Diplomacy; and engagement with the Sri Lankan expatriate community. He also highlighted that the Embassy is working with U.S. and Sri Lankan companies to increase trade, investment and tourism. Ambassador Perera called upon the Sri Lankan expatriate community to rally around the Embassy to enhance the Sri Lanka-U.S. bilateral partnership.