Professor Mohan Munasinghe, the 2021 Blue Planet Laureate, Receives Honors from Japanese Royalty

Professor Mohan Munasinghe, a Sri Lankan engineer, physicist, and economist specializing in energy, water resources, sustainable development, and climate change, was awarded the 2021 Blue Planet Prize, the top global environmental sustainability award “the Environmental Nobel Prize.”

Professor Munasinghe and Mrs. Sria Munasinghe attended the ceremonies for the Blue Planet Prize hosted by the Asahi Glass Foundation in Tokyo, where they were felicitated by Royalty and other grandees of Japan. The ceremony had been postponed to October 2022 due to the Covid Pandemic restrictions in 2021. The Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko of Japan granted Prof. Munasinghe and his wife an exclusive audience. In addition, they exchanged mutual felicitations with HRH Sonam Dechen Wangchuck, who attended the ceremony on behalf of her father, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan, the 2022 Blue Planet Prize laureate.

The award recognizes Prof. Munasinghe’s extensive environmental and sustainability research through his ground-breaking concepts, including the Sustainomics framework, sustainable development triangle, Millennium Consumption Goals (MCG), and balanced, inclusive green growth path (BIGG).

His work has influenced significant global accords like the 1992 Agenda 21 and UNFCCC, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2005 Copenhagen Accord, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and UN 203the 0 Agenda & Sustainable development Goals. Prof. Munasinghe served as vice chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has received the highest national accolades from the heads of five countries. Additionally, he serves as the President of the Presidential Expert Commission on the Sustainable Sri Lanka 2030 Vision, an Honorary Senior Advisor to the Sri Lankan Government, and a Distinguished Guest Professor at Peking University I,n China.

Acquiring post-graduate degrees in engineering, physics, and development economics from Cambridge University (UK), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), McGill University, and Concordia University (Canada), Prof. Munasinghe has also won numerous honorary doctorates (honoris causa). In addition, his forty years of exemplary public service are embellished with eminent designations such as Senior Energy Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, Advisor to the United States President’s Council on Environmental Quality (PCEQ), and Senior Advisor/Manager to the World Bank.

Launch of New U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka 

In a celebration of more than 70 years of U.S.-Sri Lankan friendship partnership and bilateral ties, the Honorable President Ranil Wickramasinghe, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, and the U.S Department of State’s Under Secretary for Management John Bass opened the new U.S. Embassy on Galle Road in a festive event that included officials and private citizens from both countries. 

“It was a great honor to celebrate our new Embassy in the presence of the President of Sri Lanka, honored guests, and colleagues, said U.S. Ambassador Chung. “We have had an embassy in Colombo since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, and the new campus symbolizes our enduring partnership with Sri Lanka. Americans and Sri Lankans worked together to build this state-of-the-art facility that epitomizes respect for the environment and appreciation of Sri Lankan architectural, cultural, and artistic themes. We are pleased to open our new doors to our Sri Lankan friends”. 

Under Secretary Bass stated: “The new Embassy highlights the important diplomatic relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka and provides the first impression of the United States for many Sri Lankans. It also demonstrates the sustainable design, construction, and operations that represent the best of U.S. architecture, engineering, and building standards.”

  The new Embassy is situated on the existing, expanded embassy site along the seafront in central Colombo. It provides a secure, modern, sustainable, and resilient platform for U.S. diplomacy in Sri Lanka. The architecture and landscape of the new Embassy were designed to embrace Sri Lanka’s ecology, history, and culture and are heavily informed by Colombo’s tropical climate. Domestically sourced natural stone and wood reference the region’s rich selection of materials in a neutral palette that draws attention to the lushness of the landscape. The Embassy’s interior incorporates textures and patterns inspired by local culture, art, and the surrounding gardens.

  A model of environmental stewardship, the new Embassy was designed to reduce energy costs and greenhouse-gas emissions while increasing security and augmenting renewable energy usage. To mitigate the effects of intense sun and heavy rainfall, the new Embassy integrates regionally available weather-resistant materials, an advanced stormwater management system, and photovoltaic arrays that will soon offset roughly eleven percent of the building’s annual energy use. The project is registered with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) — a global green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices — and is on track to achieve Silver certification.

The new Embassy also contains a permanent art collection, curated by the Office of Art in Embassies, that includes art in various media, including painting, photography, textiles, and sculpture by both U.S. and Sri Lankan artists. Highlights include site-specific commissions of Birds for Sri Lanka and a wall sculpture representing the atolls and coral life in the oceans. These works reflect an understanding of the diversity and richness of U.S. and Sri Lankan ecology and cultural heritage.

US Ambassador to UN Food & agriculture agencies in Rome to visit SL

United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

The US embassy in Colombo said that in addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).

U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.

Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

Journey to the Colombo Lotus Tower How the Lotus Sutra and Mt. Emei of China hearken back to Sri Lanka for a community of shared destiny

In China’s foreign policy in Asia, Beijing has already rejuvenated the Buddhist diplomacy in Sino-Sri Lankan relations that began in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Over two millennia later, Sri Lanka will soon inaugurate the Chinese-built 350-metre-high Lotus Tower in Colombo, a symbol that manifests the ancient Buddhist peace and diplomatic intercourse between the two nations.

The Buddhist tower, which is seen from predominantly Hindu neighbor India, is a hallmark of China’s geostrategy associated with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This purpose-driven skyscraper with its sophisticated telecommunications technology is the tallest in South Asia.

The Chinese re-engagement with the Buddhist “Kingdom of the Lion,” as the famous Chinese scholar-monk Faxian (337-422) had called the island in his Records of Buddhist Kingdoms, began the first recorded profile of Sino-Lanka religious foundation. Before arriving in the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377 BC-1017 AD) of Sri Lanka, Faxian travelled across India in search of Buddhist manuscripts. After the reign of Indian Emperor Ashoka the Great (304-232 BC), Buddhism had long departed its birthplace, but Sri Lanka remained the epicenter of Buddhist learning and teaching, attracting pilgrims from China, India, and elsewhere. This enduring Sino-Lankan Buddhist and diplomatic relationship continued—except for the period of European colonialism.

The undercurrent of that long history of civilizational cultures is still pervasive in the mindsets of strategic thinkers. With this legacy, my interests have naturally deepened over the years as the United States, China, and Sri Lanka have triangulated their diplomatic and trade relations. The Sino-Lanka connection has also increasingly drawn American attention, especially after The Kerry-Lugar Report (2009) in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee where I once worked. Thus, I ventured out to find this ancient history to get a glimpse at a possible future for the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, as past is prologue in Sino-Lanka relations.

  Rediscovering roots

Born in Sri Lanka, but later naturalized a US citizen, I developed an intense curiosity about the United States first, and China second. American Peace Corps and 4-H Volunteers visiting my village in the late 1960s had an enduring impact on my childhood views on the United States and its spirited sojourners in freedom. But the teenage years in the 1970s were progressively influenced by China and its ancient connections to Sri Lanka – especially my birthplace of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the second capital (1056-1236) of the Buddhist nation after the Anuradhapura Kingdom. 

My formative years were filled with the free propaganda literature of the “victorious” Cultural Revolution and its powerful images of industrial and agricultural China, promoted by the Socialist Government (1971-77) of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the first woman prime minister of the world. I was then a farmer’s son (a Catholic father and a Buddhist mother) adopted by my paternal Catholic grandparents in rice-growing Polonnaruwa, and attended the Sunday mass at the Holy Rosary Church and went to a Buddhist high school. I had the best of both worlds as I developed my affinity for a “Christian America” with political freedom and a “Buddhist China” with economic development.  

All that changed when I arrived in Minnesota on an American Field Service (AFS) high school exchange scholarship in 1978.

The latent interest in Sino-Sri Lankan affairs was revived when I became a visiting professor of the University of Maryland in Xian, the ancient capital of China. After my government service in the US Department of State, I began to visit China and travelled to all the provinces and climbed every major Sacred Mountain of Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist heritage that collectively forms the perennial Chinese culture and national identity.


While climbing the Sacred Buddhist Mountain of Mt. Emei, I had a satori (awakening) moment. I suddenly realized the enduring and purpose-driven Sino-Lanka connection, which is at last manifested in the Colombo Lotus Tower—the “crown jewel” of BRI.

Mt. Emei and Sri Pada

Mt. Emei, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sichuan province, is one of the four leading Holy Mountains of Chinese Buddhism, known as Chan Buddhism. Samantabhadra is revered as the patron bodhisattva of the Buddhist monasteries associated with the Sacred Mountain. Samantabhadra means “universal virtue” in Sanskrit; Mt. Emei is known as “the greatest beauty under Heaven.” Built in the first century on the location of an originally Daoist temple, it is the home of the first Buddhist temple in China, which has a historical significance as the birthplace of introducing Buddhism to the Middle Kingdom.

In Sri Lanka, the ancient Theravada Buddhists (the tradition of the Elders or the “Lesser Vehicle,” or Hinayana) venerated “Samanta” as the guardian deity of their land and the religion long before Buddhism arrived—with the monk Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka—in Sri Lanka in 246 BC. With the northward spread of Mahayana Buddhism (the “Greater Vehicle”), Samanta evolved into Samantabhadra (Puxian in Chinese), one of the four principle bodhisattvas dedicated to the four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China.

The visiting scholar-monk Faxian in the Kingdom of Anuradhapura wrote that Buddha’s footprint was carved “on the top of a mountain” of the Samanala, referring to Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada (the Holy Footprint) in Sri Lanka. Buddhists believed the Buddha visited the mountain peak and left the footmark while Christians, Hindus, and Muslims equally claimed their own connections—with Adam, Shiva, and Mohammed—to the sacred place for their faith.

Faxian also gave the first-recorded eyewitness account of Buddhist practices, numerous pilgrims, and various foreign merchants in the island, as the Chinese monk stayed at several places, most notably at the legendary Fa-Hien Cave (also Pahiyangala Cave). The erudite monk stayed two years (411-12) at the Abhayagiri Monastery in the capital city, and described Buddhist rituals, drew the pictures of images, and most importantly copied Buddhist sutras. 
The Lotus Sutra.

Among all Buddhist sutras, the Lotus Sutra is central to Mahayana tradition; the Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is the patron deity. The Lotus Sutra is collectively called the “Threefold Lotus Sutra,” in which the bodhisattva is depicted in holding a lotus flower—a symbol of purity rising from muddy waters—in his hand and travelling with a white elephant that appeared to Queen Maya, the mother of the Buddha. This shared image of elephant—a symbol of wisdom and strength—in various forms is widely displayed in the monasteries of Mt. Emei as well as on the way to Adam’s Peak.

Within the threefold discourse, the Prologue to the Lotus Sutra is the Innumerable Meanings Sutra that explains the true nature of all things in the universe. The Epilogue to the Lotus Sutra is the Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra that refers to the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue. In totality, the Lotus Sutra holds the final teaching of the Buddha for salvation from human suffering in the present life. 

The Lotus Sutra had a momentous impact on China’s hierarchical Confucian culture because it revealed that women, evil doers, and even animals have the potential to become Buddhas or reach Nirvana—the ending of the karmic rebirth and human suffering. In a nutshell, the sutra pronounces equality and freedom, especially among men and women.

Buddhism over Confucian values

The Lotus Sutra was originally translated to Chinese from Sanskrit by scholar-monk Dharmaraksa of Dunhuang in 286 during the Western Jin Dynasty (265-317). The earliest and later translations were revised and completed by Kumarajiva (a son of Brahmin father from Kashmir in India and Kuchan princess in China) in 406. Yale University Sinologist Arthur Wright writes that the equal status of women and mothers in Indian Buddhism was, for example, changed in the earlier translations from “husband supports wife” to “the husband controls his wife” as well as “the wife comforts the husband” to “the wife reveres her husband.” 

The prolific monk Kumarajiva, however, revolutionised the evolving Chinese Buddhism without relying on the earlier translations, through the concepts of Confucianism and Daoism, during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420). The surviving Indian manuscripts were nevertheless fragmented but the learned Kumarajiva abbreviated the Sanskrit and Prakrit versions of available Buddhist texts into Chinese.

Like the pioneering scholar-monk Faxian, when Xuanzang (602–64) from Luoyang in Henan province travelled to India in search of sacred books, the Tang envoy was equally concerned about the misinterpreted and incomplete nature of Buddhist manuscripts in China. Even though he never visited Sri Lanka, Xuanzang, who returned to the White Horse Temple in Luoyang, described the ancient capital of Anuradhapura and its Buddhist monasteries, monks, and manuscripts from the eyewitness accounts of travelling pilgrims and merchants. In his Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, Xuanzang—referring to Sri Pada as “Mount Lanka” in the “Sorrow-less Kingdom”—wrote that “the Tathagata [Buddha] formerly delivered the Lankavatara [means ‘Entering into Sri Lanka’] Sutra,” which is another important sutra in Mahayana Buddhism.

While Kumarajiva elegantly emphasised the meaning of the sutras, Xuanzang paid more attention to the literal and precise translations of Buddhist texts. Their central theme of the translations of the Lotus Sutra was focused on “the unity of all things and beings” for a peaceful and harmonious coexistence in freedom.Colombo as the symbols of lotus

With the rising Lotus Tower from the Beira Lake in Colombo, China has seemingly taken the Buddhist symbol to formulate an enlightened vision for a world of human diversity and equality. In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha counselled a Brahman: “Just as a blue or red or white lotus is born in water, grows in water and stands up above the water untouched by it, so too I, who was born in this world and grew in the world, have transcended the world, and I live untouched by the world. Remember me as one who is enlightened.” This portrayal may have appealed to China as an emerging global power, capturing the ancient legacy connected to the Buddhist nation. 

For centuries, the Buddhist “Kingdom of the Lion” attracted foreign visitors and pilgrims who often stopped over the ancient port city of Weligama in the southern coast of Sri Lanka to pay respect to the Samantabhadra Bodhisattva at a temple (near the Kushtaraja rock sculpture), the place of the stone-carved statue of Samantabhadra. Many Chinese and Indian monks and pilgrims had visited the visage of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva on their way to the “sacred footprint” on the summit of Adam’s Peak.

Among them was the famous Admiral Zheng He in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), who visited the island during his seven voyages (1405-33). The Ming emissary offered gifts to the sacred footprint of Sri Pada, including “1000 pieces of gold, 5000 pieces of silver . . . six pairs of gold lotuses, 2,5000 catties of perfumed oil,” and many other things. 

Like the Ming admiral, Marco Polo, an envoy of Kublai Khan in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), visited the island twice (1284 and 1293) and paid homage to the holy mountain. But his intent was also to take the sacred tooth relics of Buddha back to China. The Temple of Buddha’s Tooth Relics has for centuries been the symbol of national unity and Buddhist identity of Sri Lanka or a peaceful identity

As President Xi Jinping has now replaced Deng Xiaoping’s earlier motto of “Peaceful Rise,” Beijing appears to be looking for a “peaceful identity” in creating a harmonious community at home and abroad. The symbolic yet universal meaning embedded in the Lotus Tower might serve better as a strategic asset in Chinese diplomacy, as the BRI gains momentum in the Indo-Pacific region. It invokes the “universal virtue” of harmony, and revives the coveted noble concepts of equality and freedom, rooted in the sutras of Buddhism as opposed to Confucian hierarchy.

During his historic visit to Sri Lanka in September 2014, President Xi described the island as a “splendid pearl” while the two countries have recognised the importance of historic Buddhist affinity with the signing of over 20 cooperative agreements. 

Buddhism has always been an invisible attraction as Imperial China successfully integrated the Buddha’s Dharmic teachings as its own with those of indigenous Daoist traditions and Confucian ethics. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra must continue to serve as the forerunner of China’s peaceful identity and national unity for a pacific new order in Asia.

Professor Patrick Mendis, a Fairbank Centre Associate-in-Research at Harvard University, is the author of ‘Peaceful War: How the Chinese Dream and American Destiny Create a Pacific New World Order,’ which is translated to Chinese Mandarin in Beijing. Professor Mendis has visited all the provinces of China and lectured at over 30 Chinese universities and academies, including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the universities of Fudan, Nanjing, Peking, Renmin, Shandong, Sun-Yat Sen, Tsinghua, Tongji, Wuhan, Zhejiang, among others. He is a visiting researcher at the National Confucius Research Institute of China in Qufu, a senior fellow of the South China Sea Institute at the Qufu Normal University, a distinguished visiting professor of Asian-Pacific affairs at Shandong University in Jinan, and a senior fellow of the Pangoal Institution in Beijing.

USAID extends additional US$40 Mn in development assistance

USAID Administrator Samantha Power has announced an additional US$40 million in development assistance to help farmers purchase fertilizer and other vital agricultural inputs.

“Subject to Congressional approval, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will invest this money to provide farmers with fertilizer and other vital agricultural inputs,” USAID said in a statement.

“This critical support, implemented through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, comes just in time for maximum benefit to the upcoming “Maha” planting season and will benefit up to one million farmers in need of fertilizer across Sri Lanka, which includes 53,000 farmers in need of emergency monetary assistance.

USAID stands with the Sri Lanka’s people and is committed to providing this urgent support. The US Government will continue to explore ways to assist the country in meeting their immediate, medium, and long-term needs, and will continue ongoing efforts that boost sustainable economic growth, promote inclusivity, strengthen governance, and foster a free and prosperous Sri Lanka,” the statement added.

USAID to provide US$ 20 Mn as humanitarian aid

USAID Administrator Samantha Power said USAID will provide additional US$20 million as humanitarian aid in addition to US$40 million which will be given to procure fertilizer to assist one million farmers.

The total amount pledged by her, comes up to US$ 60 million.

Ms. Power said political reforms and economic reform should go hand in hand.

“Sri Lanka should ensure stable borrowing and stable balance of trade,” she added. (Yohan Perera)

For more information go to:


Please join United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung in her second town hall with the Sri Lankan-American Community. Ambassador Chung will provide updates on the status of U.S.-Sri Lankan relations, U.S.-led relief efforts, and her perspectives on the ongoing crisis and ways forward. Ambassador Chung will be joined by Deputy Assistant Administrator for the USAID Asia Bureau Anjali Kaur, who will share USAID’s humanitarian assistance plans with the community. The town hall will also feature a question and answer session; participants are encouraged to submit questions and areas of concern they would like addressed in advance and during the event via chat.

Date: Thursday, September 22, 2022
Time: 7.30am PST, 10.30am EST

Pre-Register, Submit Questions, and View the Virtual Event

Ambassador Julie Chung arrived in Colombo as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka in February 2022. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, Ms. Chung has served in senior positions throughout the Indo-Pacific and Western Hemisphere. Ms.Chung served as the Acting Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. She also has extensive experience in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, including as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Japan, Deputy Chief of Mission in Cambodia, and Economic Counselor in Thailand. In addition, she has served at the U.S. embassies in Iraq, Colombia, Vietnam, and Japan and the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China. She also served as an advisor on nonproliferation discussions of the Agreed Framework with North Korea while working in the Office of Korean Affairs in Washington.

Anjali Kaur is an international development professional with comprehensive experience at the field, country, and global levels with evidence-based, integrated global health programs. Before joining USAID, Ms. Kaur was the Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leading the worldwide policy and advocacy strategies for the HIV and TB programs. Before that, she was the Senior Director of Asia Pacific for Malaria No More. She established the India Office and expanded the organization’s work across the region, engaging with governments, the private sector, civil society, and the media. Ms. Kaur was also with UNICEF Polio Programme, where she worked at the country and HQ levels and the World Bank and UNFPA. She is a Fulbright Scholar and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University.

Key areas of the virtual town hall
*Status of U.S.-Sri Lankan relations
*U.S.-led relief efforts
*Perspectives on the ongoing crisis and ways forward
*USAID’s humanitarian assistance plans with the community

This event is open to the public and all are welcome. Please feel free to share the above link and the attached flyer with your networks.

For more information contact:
Keshini Wijegoonaratna- 213-400-7705 or

Adventurous soul, Achieving Academic Pursuits-Dr Patrick Mendis

Former PHS exchange student establishes an Minnesota State scholarship

It all started with two Americans studying in Sri Lanka. One was a Peace Corps volunteer from New Hampshire, one was a 4-H exchange student from Iowa. They stayed with Dr. Patrick Mendis, a child at the time, and his grandparents in their home in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. “These two exuberant and free-spirited young souls from Iowa and New Hampshire touched my heart after we rode on water-buffaloes in our three-acre rice field,” recalled Mendis.

He was raised by devout Catholic grandparents who cared for water-buffalo, pigs, chickens, a goat and a dog named Sheba. Though his home life was Christian based, he attended a Buddhist school and visited the Buddhist temple every full moon day. “During my formative years, I had the best of both Catholic and Buddhist worlds,” Mendis explained.

Inspired by the free-spirited, traveling Americans he had met as a child — and perhaps led by a bit of his own free spirit — Mendis first came to the United States at the age of 17. Encouraged by his high school teacher in Sri Lanka, he was one of 100,000 students to apply for the American Field Service (AFS) Exchange Scholarship. “I knew I didn’t have a chance because I didn’t speak English,” said Mendis, “but the national exam and the interviews were held in Sinhalese, my native language. I was lucky that I was selected as one of ten finalists among over 100,000 applicants to go to the United States.”

He traveled nearly 8,700 miles, all the way to Perham. He attended Perham High School (PHS) and formed a deep connection with his hosts, Bill and Dorothy Johnson, who he affectionately calls his American parents. He also developed close relationships with many families and individuals in the community. So evolved his “AFS family,” consisting of people such as Bill and Dorothy, the Andersons, the Hammers, the Haverlands, the Huebsches, the Knudsens, the Nelsons, the Simonsons, the Thomases and many other families.

After his graduation from PHS, he returned to Sri Lanka. While he was attending college there, a civil war broke out in the country. Concerned for his safety, his “AFS family” began raising funds to get Mendis back to Minnesota. “They asked me to return ‘home’ to Perham, which I consider my ‘birthplace’ in America,” shared Mendis.

He came back, and continued his studies at M State in Fergus Falls, later going on to attend the University of Minnesota, earning his Ph.D. His success continued to grow, and he began a long and illustrious career. He served under the former chief clerk and parliamentarian in the Minnesota House, Edward Burdick, whom Mendis considered his “guardian angel” and dear friend.

He also served under Ambassador Harlan Cleveland, the founding dean of the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, who he also considered a friend and mentor.

Beyond that, Mendis has served on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff of former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) and with several other federal agencies during the Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

Looking back, Mendis can trace his career all the way to his high school years in Otter Tail County. “All these great people have essentially imparted me the ‘Minnesota nice’ spirit and the sense of community that we are connected to each other,” he said, recalling the people who welcomed him to Perham and the wonderful mentors he has had throughout his life.

In an effort to share his success with his community that has meant so much to him, Mendis has established the Johnson-Mendis Scholarship through the Fergus Area Scholarship Foundation (FACF). The scholarship will be awarded annually to students choosing to attend M State in Fergus Falls. In honor of his high school experience at PHS, students from PHS will be prioritized followed by high school students from Fergus Falls High School.

“Throughout my life I have been a sojourner in the wilderness of strangers. Perhamites have always put great emphasis on education. I was one of those beneficiaries of their conviction on public education, which made my American journey possible,” shared Mendis. “… Nothing was possible without PHS and M State; they are roots which I can’t forget. In memory of my late AFS family, I established this Johnson-Mendis Scholarship for PHS students who wish to continue their studies at M State … There is nothing greater in America than helping one student at a time. It was the yeoman service that the Perhamites once did for me. I am just trying to keep up with that legacy and my Sri Lankan upbringing.”

Executive director of FACF, Lori Larson extended her thanks to Dr. Mendis. “I have had chills many times when I hear the stories of students who really need the financial support a scholarship provides,” she stated in a press release. “It is because of our donors’ generosity that these students are able to be here. Your support is truly appreciated!”

The scholarship will make more amazing adventures, like Mendis’, accessible to future college students throughout the county. “We can be adventurous souls whether we were manifested as a Peace Corps volunteer from New Hampshire, a 4-H exchange student from Iowa or an AFS scholar in Minnesota in America’s global journey,” said Mendis. Students can now apply for the 2022-23 academic year scholarship at Copy article link: Adventurous soul | News |

by Reporter Mary Bethel Olson The Daily Journal

Rep. Titus Urges U.S. Support for Sri Lanka

Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-01), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led nine of her colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Blinken and USAID Administrator Power urging them to take swift action to provide meaningful support to the Sri Lankan people in the face of widespread food, fuel, and medicine shortages. They also called on the Administration to continue to support the Sri Lankan government and people as they work to implement democratic and economic reforms. These reforms include advancing efforts to address longstanding issues related to accountability and reconciliation and to meet broader U.S. foreign policy goals for the region.

“We remain deeply concerned by the unprecedented and disastrous economic crisis currently facing Sri Lanka,” the Members wrote. “Although we greatly appreciate the $11.75 million in new humanitarian and development assistance that USAID provided at the end of June, more is clearly needed now. We urge USAID to take immediate action to provide additional relief to the Sri Lankan people, including increased food, medical, and fuel aid.”

According to the World Food Programme, due to widespread economic issues, three in ten households, or approximately 6.26 million Sri Lankans, are unsure where they will get their next meal. An estimated 60 percent of Sri Lankans are skipping meals to stretch food supplies and hundreds of thousands are being forced to wait in extensive lines to acquire daily necessities. If the current economic situation does not improve soon, some experts warn that the number of those suffering from dangerous food insecurity could rise to 22 million, or one-third of the country’s population.

In addition to Rep. Titus this letter was signed by nine other Members of Congress, including Representatives Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Gwen Moore (D-WI), David E. Price (D-NC), Jim Costa (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), and James P. McGovern (D-MA).

Read today’s full letter


The City of Los Angeles, USA Celebrates the 3rd Annual Sri Lanka Day in Honor of Dr Walter Jayasinghe

On December 4th, 2019 history was created within the walls of the magnificent Los Angeles City council chambers on a rainy morning amidst a gathering of distinguished leaders, where a community came together to celebrate Dr. Walter Jayasinghe and his invaluable philanthropic services rendered to this beautiful city of Los Angeles and the Sri Lankan community declare Sri Lanka Day to be celebrated every year on August 17th.

Today, August 17th, 2022 around 11.00am, the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA Chairman of the board, Dr Walter Jayasinghe, Vice President, Aeshea Jayasinghe and staff, and the City of Los Angeles celebrated the 3rd annual Sri Lanka Day, in honor of Sri Lankan culture and the remarkable contributions of Sri Lankan Americans in the City and beyond.

This year’s celebration was held outdoors and was marked by flags of USA, Sri Lanka, State of California and cultural exposition at the city of Los Angeles City Hall.

Click on the link below to watch the video of the Ceremony in 2019 when the City of Los Angeles declared to celebrate Sri Lanka Day on August 17th every year on Dr Walter Jayasinghe’s Birthday!!!