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