State Dept. hosts sendoff for Prasad Kariyawasam


Sep 13, 2017 Updated


From left, Assistant Chief of Protocol Gladys Boluda, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Tom Shannon.

By Aziz Haniffa

WASHINGTON – Having been appointed foreign secretary in his home nation of Sri Lanka, Ambassador to the U.S. Prasad Kariyawasam was given a formal farewell earlier this month, hosted by the State Department.

At an elegant reception in the department’s eighth floor Monroe Room, officials, lawmakers and others said their goodbyes and wished him well as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon called his leave-taking a “bittersweet occasion.” He described the diplomat as a “great friend, ally and colleague.”

Shannon said, however, since Kariyawasam was returning as a top diplomat in his home country, “we know he is going to be around to continue the close cooperation that we’ve built over time.”

The select group of guests included several senior U.S. government officials, Washington-based foreign diplomats from South, East and Central Asia, including India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Sarna, and envoys from African states. There were also attendees from leading U.S. businesses and nongovernmental organizations.

Shannon said Kariyawasam “is uniquely distinguished in the sense that he has lived through two transitions—the transition in his own country and the transition here—and he’s handled both wonderfully and has shown a patriotism to Sri Lanka, but also an understanding of the importance of Sri Lanka’s partnerships around the world and the ability to use those partnerships with countries like the United States, and also with our large Indian Ocean community.”

Kariyawasam had served two stints in New Delhi as the deputy chief of mission and also as Sri Lanka’s high commissioner in India, before he was posted in Washington, D.C. – his third stint in the U.S. He had earlier been deputy chief of mission in D.C. and also Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN.

The senior State Department official praised the envoy for work done “with clarity of purpose, with tremendous accomplishments.”

Shannon noted that his departure is not the end. “We look forward to continuing this partnership, continuing this friendship.” He said that in his role as foreign secretary, Kariyawasam “will be a powerful voice.”

“Sri Lanka can have a voice in the wider Indian Ocean that we believe can be an important voice as the security of the Indian Ocean can benefit all mankind,” he said. He praised Sri Lanka’s ability to adhere to its democratic principles and ideals after a more than two-decade-old blood civil war and ethnic conflict. “Sri Lanka has done this in a way that is admirable and is going to be studied as a model and an example to other countries that have faced similar challenges,” he said.

Kariyawasam said he felt certain his work had helped forge lasting results in the nations’ relationship.

“As I conclude my tenure, I depart with a deep sense of satisfaction that our shared efforts over the past two-and-a-half years or so have mapped the course for an enduring partnership between our two countries in the years to come,” he said. “And I am heartened that I will continue to have a part in nurturing this important relationship, in my new role as secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Though I wind up as ambassador to the USA, I want to say that I will forever remain an ambassador for ‘U.S.-Sri Lanka relations.’ I believe there is so much that our two countries, though geographically distant, can achieve for mutual benefit,” he said.

He recalled the historic government transition in Sri Lanka in 2015 which gave rise to revived bilateral relations with the United States. He noted what followed: Sri Lanka’s selection for development programs by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, many high-level bilateral visits and the renewal of military cooperation.

He did not expect any of this to change, he said. He believed the trend would go forward under the current U.S. administration and the partnership would continue to be nurtured.

“We in Sri Lanka love visitors and enjoy being hosts,” he said. “So I will wind up my remarks by inviting all of you to visit Sri Lanka. And I look forward to reciprocating the hospitality I received from you during my assignment in this wonderful country.”