"Help moderate negative narratives propagated against Sri Lanka" –Ambassador Aryasinha calls on Sri Lankans
Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha has called on Sri Lankans living abroad "to contribute towards moderating the negative narratives propagated against Sri Lanka – by clarifying genuine concerns and debunking the falsehoods".
The Ambassador made these observations when he addressed the 65th Independence Day celebrations attended by Sri Lankans living in Geneva and surrounding cities, held last week at the ‘ILO Headquarters in Geneva'. The event organized by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka in Geneva, and attended by around 250 members of the Sri Lankan community, showcased Sri Lanka's religious & cultural diversity.
Ambassador Aryasinha who noted that "these continue to be challenging times for Sri Lanka, as some, particularly living abroad,either mis-guided or with vested interests, continue to seek to distort the image of Sri Lanka", emphasized the need to "evolve a consensus and desist from seeking to exploit domestic issues as foreign policy issues". He said, "recognizing that there may be differences of opinion amongst Sri Lankans on some issues, it is important for us to identify and 'bracket' issues we disagree on, as ones where we need to work harder to reconcile our disagreements internally, but at the same time not allow them to adversely affect the image of our country abroad". Reminding that "such bracketing is something we constantly do in our daily lives - within our homes, offices and communities, where we close ranks on issues, for a higher purpose", he noted that "great nations that have succeeded in forging ahead against many odds, are those that have been able to leave domestic issues at the water’s edge".
The proceedings commenced with the recital of the National Anthem and the hoisting of the National Flag. Two minutes silence was later observed in honour of all those who sacrificed their lives to preserve and protect the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
Following the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, Ven. Thawalama Dhammika Thero, Ven. Uyanwaththe Saddarama Thero, 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. Richard Lord conducted the Christian prayers.
The 65th Independence Day Message of the President was read by Ambassador Nimal Karunatilake, Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, while Mr. Hasan Ali, Management Assistant read the Message of the Prime Minister and Ms. Manisha Gunasekera, Deputy Permanent Representative read the Message of the Minister of External Affairs.
In a colourful programme that followed, Sri Lankan children living in Geneva performed traditional Sri Lankan dance items. Miss. Binara Silva danced to the tune of “Rathnadeepa Janma Boomi”, while Miss. Bithuthsa Sellaiah, Miss. Rageetha Sellaiah and Miss. Sinidu Welikala, performed a 'Bharatha Natyam'.
Mr. Chatura Perera, Second Secretary delivered the Vote of Thanks.
Ms. Priyanga Wickramasinghe, Counsellor in Sinhala, Mr. Hasan Ali, Management Assistant in Tamil and Ms. Natasha Goonaratne, Second Secretary in English, were the hosts of the evening.
The programme was followed by a dinner hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka.
Given below excerpts from Address by H.E Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the 65th Independence Day celebrations in Geneva - 2 February 2013:
As the independence day statements of His Excellency the President, the Hon. Prime Minister and Hon. Foreign Minister made clear, Sri Lanka, having overcome long years of terrorism and its after effects, has made important strides in ensuring economic growth, social advancement and reconciliation for its people. But, as we celebrate our freedom, both from colonialism of the past, and terrorism of more recent origin, let us not forget that these continue to be challenging times for Sri Lanka.
After a 30 year long struggle with terrorism, not only do things not settle down over night, and there remains much to be done in finding consensus on a host of issues within the country, there are also some, particularly living outside the country, either mis-guided or with vested interests, who continue to seek to distort the image of Sri Lanka. As a result, the Sri Lanka which is projected out here, is considerably different from the Sri Lanka that is over there.
This is not a moment for any Sri Lankan or lover of Sri Lanka to be mere spectators. It is a time for all those who are genuinely interested in Sri Lanka’s future, to join in shaping that destiny.
It is in such context that I request that you reflect on as to what more you can actively do to contribute from afar towards this endeavour:
- While doing so yourselves, I ask that you encourage your friends, to visit Sri Lanka, to invest in Sri Lanka, and to make available their expertise, even for short periods towards the development of our country;
- I also urge, that both as individuals, as well as organizations, that you make even greater effort to leverage the policy of your host government, employer countries and organizations, in ways that contribute to Sri Lanka's progress;
- I also appeal, to each and every one of you, to in your own ways, contribute towards moderating the negative narratives presently propagated against Sri Lanka – by clarifying genuine concerns and debunking the falsehoods.
I recognize that there may be differences of opinion amongst us on some issues, as it should be in any democracy. However, I think it is time that Sri Lankans both in Sri Lanka and abroad evolved a consensus and desisted from seeking to exploit domestic issues as foreign policy issues, which will result in Sri Lanka continuing to be vilified abroad. Let us not forget that great nations that have succeeded in forging ahead against many odds, are those that have been able to leave domestic issues at the water’s edge.
This is why it is important for us to identify and “bracket” issues we disagree on, as ones where we need to work harder to reconcile our disagreements internally, but at the same time not allow them to adversely affect the image of our country abroad. Such bracketing is something we constantly do in our daily lives - within our homes, offices and communities, where we close ranks on issues, for a higher purpose.
- Asian Tribune -