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The Sri Lankan community resident in Geneva and the environs came together on Saturday (1 February 2014) to celebrate Sri Lanka's 66th anniversary of independence at an event organised by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva at the ILO premises. With over 250 Sri Lankans under one roof, the event was testimony to the country's rich and multi-faceted heritage.
Addressing the gathering Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha said, “while no doubt there is more to be done, and for that we must work harder, Sri Lanka's achievements to date is no mean gain. They must be juxtaposed with the fact that a few years ago Sri Lanka was known as the land where a ruthless terrorist organisation waged a bloody conflict against its own compatriots, with loss of lives and property almost every day”. He noted “but today when you watch the nightly news, it is a great solace to see that Sri Lanka is nowhere near the headlines. Even more important is that that no lives are being lost on account of terrorism. I think we tend to forget this reality despite all of us having lost someone of ours in the conflict which raged for 30 years”.
Ambassador Aryasinha recalled his appeal made to the community one year ago, to reflect on what more the expatriate Sri Lankans could do to contribute towards the development of the country and to counter the negative narratives being propagated - by clarifying genuine concerns and debunking falsehoods. He said "one year later, having come to know some of you better, the work you do, and the commitment you have for your country, I feel strengthened in the resolve that these obstacles are not insurmountable and that these can be overcome by working together". He said some had played a catalytic role in persuading friends and associates to visit Sri Lanka and to invest in Sri Lanka, while others had sought to contribute their expertise for the betterment of the motherland. There were also many within International organizations and other agencies based in Geneva who had leveraged the energies of these organizations towards the benefit of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Ambassador Aryasinha said "I am also greatly encouraged by what I have seen particularly over the past few months, where across Switzerland, some valiant Sri Lankans, found the time, resources and the energy to make their presence felt, by turning up and challenging the many one-sided events being organized in this country by pro LTTE elements". He hoped that the actions of those who had made this difference will inspire all, because these are challenging times for Sri Lanka, and particularly challenging times need particularly committed and courageous men and women to step up to the plate.
Religious observances on this occasion were conducted by the representatives of the main religions being practiced in Sri Lanka. Ven. Thawalama Dhammika Thero, Ven. Halyale Wimalarathana Thero and Ven. Kaluarachchiyagama Sumanarathana Thero conducted the Buddhist religious observances. Uma Shankar Kurukkal and Karthik Ragavan Kurukkal performed the Hindu prayers. Imam A.M. Zawahir performed the Islamic prayers, while Rev. Vincent Schmid and Rev. Sister Philomina Jesudasan conducted the Christian prayers.
The 66th Independence Day message of the President was read by Ms. Manisha Gunasekera, Deputy Permanent Representative, while Mr. Hasan Ali, Management Assistant read the Message of the Prime Minister and Ms. Priyanga Wickramasinghe, Minister Counsellor read the Message of the Minister of External Affairs.
Ambassador Nimal Karunatilake, Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization delivered the Vote of Thanks.
The hosts of the evening were Mr. Chatura Perera, Second Secretary in Sinhala, Mr. Hasan Ali, Management Assistant in Tamil and Ms. Dilini Gunasekera, Second Secretary in English.
The religious and ceremonial segment of the programme was followed by a dinner hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka.
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka
14 February 2014