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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2764

Sri Lanka envoy to France Prof. Hangawatte felicitated in Las Vegas

By Daya Gamage - Reporting to Asian Tribune
Las Vegas, Nevada 24 April (

He admits he is not a diplomat but the experience this onetime bureaucrat in Sri Lanka's judiciary system adjusting in the early eighties to an academic life the skepticism he displayed whether he has the correct frame of mind to transform himself to be a diplomat slowly withered away.

Public affairs and public diplomacy are two new areas that he will confront as a diplomat. He is conscious that an academic approach to diplomacy is not what is expected of him.

Nevertheless, he is confident that he will approach the art of diplomacy with an open mind the manner in which he successfully transformed his life from a bureaucrat to an academic. He was skeptical about that initial adaptation as he is now about transforming his life to a diplomat.

Those were the sentiments that a well attended audience heard at a farewell and felicitation ceremony accorded to Sri Lanka's new ambassador to France Professor Karunaratne Hangawatte last Sunday at the Nevada Buddhist Vihara in Las Vegas.

Why this farewell at Las Vegas one may wonder. Hangawaatte teaches criminal justice at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Mr. Hangawatte who was an assistant secretary to Sri Lanka's Ministry of Justice at a relatively young age in the late seventies was utterly frustrated by political interference in his duties, a non-partisan and apolitical approach he brought to his job, when he went in search of a different path as he landed in New York at the dawn of the eighties to read for his master's and doctorate in law. And then entering the academic life. He was skeptical of the move as he is somewhat now but he looks forward to a fruitful diplomatic tenure with his experience in changing his career from a bureaucrat to an academic.

In the eighties and thereafter, it was a new experience for him away from bureaucratic rumbling into the path of academia. He was extremely successful.

All the above sentiments were at display when Prof. Hangawatte addressed the Sri Lankan expatriate gathering at the Nevada Buddhist Temple that felicitated their erudite pedagogue who is now leaving his seat of learning as his nation's ambassador in France.

A new life Mr. Hangawatte needs to adjust to serve his South Asian nation.

While expressing certain limitations about his impending diplomatic duties he was confident he could adjust to the world of diplomacy the way he adapted from one profession to another three decades ago.

It is a new challenge, Mr. Hangawatte told his fellow Sri Lankan expatriates.

This writer who knew Prof. Hangawatte for two decades and has interviewed him many a time for the Online Daily Asian Tribune addressing the gathering at the felicitation ceremony underscored that the defeated separatist movement in Sri Lanka has risen its head in a different form using public affairs and public diplomacy tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka. As the ambassador to in Paris, somewhat the epicenter of this over flown separatist ideology, Sri Lankans expatriates in the United States are confident that Mr. Hangawatte discharge his duties to safeguard the image of his nation.

Sri Lankans have the traditional habit of describing someone close to their heart as 'our man' or 'our person', and Prof. Hangawatte clearly fits this description, said Las Vegas civic society stalwart Douglas Perera when he addressed the august assembly. Rather than using the term 'my man' Mr. Hangawatte is 'our man', the man close to our hearts who will represent the Sri Lankans in France said Mr. Perera.

The farewell and felicitation ceremony at the Temple premises was a fitting tribute to an intellectual giant "our man".

The Chief Monk of the temple Venerable Alawala Subhuthi thero reminded the gathering that when his temple faced obstacles for its survival Mr. Hangawatte was one of the few who steadfastly stood by him and encouraged to continue the meritorious deeds ignoring the brick bats.

Prof. and Mrs. Rasadhari Fenseka, latter known for her brief stint in the Sri Lanka cinema and sister of the doyen of this South Asian nation's cinema Malani Fonseka, and their two sons were greeted to the traditional sound of drums and other rituals associated with such Sri Lankan ceremonies. It was a very colorful event well organized by a "trio' Douglas Perera, Wijeratne Tennekoon and Sarath Bambarandage with elegance. The towering figure of the Las Vegas Sri Lankan expatriates Venerable Alawala Subhuthi Thero conducted the religious ceremony to bless the occasion and the departing diplomat and his family.

What struck when Professor Hangawaatte was addressing the gathering was how tears rolled down his cheeks when he mentioned about his parents who were humble peasants in a remote village in the District of Kurunegala in North Western Province of Sri Lanka, the father being a chieftain in the village, how the family was raised with restricted resources. Mr. Hangawatte never forgot his humble beginnings when he noted it before the felicitation ceremony.

The Sri Lankan expatriates volunteered to felicitate and give a fitting farewell because of his humbleness in day-to-day dealings with his fellow expatriates, which was never forgotten by them. It was this closeness to him, "Our Man" affinity, that made the entire ceremony colorful and meaningful. Undoubtedly, he will take those qualities when dealing with the French and the Sri Lankan community in Paris.

The Asian Tribune wishes him all the best in his diplomatic endeavors in France.

- Asian Tribune -

Prof. Hangawatte addressing. Ven. Alawala Subhuthi chairing the ceremony
Douglas Perera greeting Ambassador Karu Hangawatte
diconary view
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