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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2556

US: Election has brought hope of "Inclusive Future" for Sri Lanka

By Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune Political Note
Washington, D.C. 18 January (Asiantribune.com):

The United States gave strong message to Sri Lanka from the premises of the latter's diplomatic mission in Washington: The message the January 8 presidential election in Sri Lanka gave was that the nation expressed hope for an inclusive future, meaning an inclusive society.

The significance is the display of the sentiment of United States' expected belief that Sri Lanka would usher in an inclusive society when it participated in celebrating the most sacred to the Sri Lankan Tamils, most of whom are Hindu, Thai Pongal, at Sri Lanka's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C.

The choice of words of the U.S. assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal at the embassy-organized Thai Pongal ceremony on Thursday, 15 January in the presence of Sri Lanka's ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam was noteworthy; the seriousness of the United States about substantial changes in the governance under the new Sirisena administration.

The choice of words and the message were delivered immediately after the crucial presidential election in Sri Lanka in which the minority Tamils, mostly Hindus, along with minority Muslims helped vote out the Rajapaksa administration to voice their displeasure for the lack of an inclusive society rather than endorsing the opposition candidate whose platform on minority issues were even unclear, when the state department and officials in Obama White House were of the strong opinion that the minorities have been sidelined since the conclusion of the separatist war beating the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

When Nisha Desai Biswal expressed at the Sri Lanka embassy in Washington "with the transition that the election had ushered in Sri Lanka, the season had brought hope for an inclusive future for all Sri Lankans", the United States was telling Sri Lanka its understanding of social inclusiveness as a process by which efforts made to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background, so that they can achieve their full potential in life.

The U.S., since the war ended, has been advocating 'reconciliation' and 'reparation' giving Sri Lanka the message that it is a multi-dimensional process aimed at creating conditions which enable full and active participation of every member of the society in all aspects of life, including civic, social, economic, and political activities, as well as participation in decision-making processes.

The U.S., in emphasizing on reconciliation and reparation, used the Helsinki Declaration of July 2008 to impress on the Sri Lankan former Rajapaksa administration in the past and renewed its call on the current Maithipala Sirisena regime.

The Helsinki Declaration stated: "An inclusive society is a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction."

The end of a bountiful harvest season celebrated by the Hindu Tamil community the world over at Thai Pongal, was marked by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington on January 14 with a large gathering of guests from the Sri Lankan expatriate Tamil community, high level representatives from the US Department of State led by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal, and community leaders.

Addressing the gathering, Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal said that the celebration of Thai Pongal is a celebration of community life, prosperity and desire for harmony of the season. With the transition that the election had ushered in Sri Lanka, the season had brought hope for an inclusive future for all Sri Lankans. She recalled the rich diversity of Sri Lanka, which had impressed her during her visit to the country a year ago. Reiterating the recent messages from the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry, Assistant Secretary Biswal expressed the desire of the United States to work together with Sri Lanka for shared prosperity and to forge stronger bonds between the two countries.

Conducting the traditional Hindu religious observances, Swami Sivanatha Kurukkal blessed the President, the government and the people of Sri Lanka as well as the Embassy staff and those present. Mrs. Kanaga Ranganathan, a prominent member of the Sri Lankan community in the United States spoke of the significance of Thai Pongal for the Hindu Tamil community.

Having in mind the manner in which the minorities, especially Tamils, expressed their sentiments at Sri Lanka's recently concluded presidential election in which the opposition candidate won over the incumbent, and the United States' call for reconciliation, good governance and rule of law, Sri Lanka ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam very candidly declared recalling the recent election which he said renewed the country's age-old democratic traditions noting "the people from the four corners of the island reposed faith in a new government for the country to reach new heights in democracy, rule of law, good governance and reconciliation."

Welcoming a full house of guests, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam said that the observance of diverse national and religious events in Sri Lanka is a testimony to and a celebration of the true spirit of the country. He said that Buddhism and Hinduism had co-existed in the island for long years, later complemented by Christianity and Islam, all of which nurtured the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural character of the nation. Religion had served as an agent and source of harmony among all Sri Lankans as manifested once again by the visit of the Pope who celebrated mass with all the people of Sri Lanka. Recalling the recent elections in Sri Lanka which renewed the country’s age-old democratic traditions, the Ambassador said that the people from the four corners of the island reposed faith in a new government for the country to reach new heights in democracy, rule of law, good governance and reconciliation.

The US assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Bureau Nisha Desai Biswal earlier in the day conferred with Sri Lanka ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam regarding the new trajectory of the new administration in Sri Lanka.

Ms. Biswal's sentiments expressed at the ceremony later in the day clearly reflected what she discussed with the Sri Lankan envoy.

- Asian Tribune -

 Sri Lankan Ambassador  Kariyawasam and US assistant secretary Nisha Biswal
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