Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA, donated to the V2U Organization founded in Canada to support the second project in Mahiyanganaya, to prepare land for raising crops to cultivate a field which Keenathumulle Chuulawansa Thero spearheaded in five different locations.

Agriculture is an important part of the Sri Lankan economy, engaging one-third of the working population. However, most farm households have limited knowledge of production methods and also face a financial struggle to access land for cultivation. These obstacles constrain their ability to compete in the market and increase their incomes. In response to these challenges, Sri Lanka Foundation International and V2U Community Organization are partnering on the Supporting Opportunities in Livelihoods Development projects, which trains farm households in the eastern regions of the country on improved agricultural practices. 

The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA, Dr Walter Jayasinghe’s vision for this Project is a multi-faceted initiative to rebuild villages struggling educationally and economically. The ambition is a replicable model to create sustainable and holistic transformation through land cultivation. He believes a thriving economy is a system of production, distribution and consumption that efficiently uses all available resources to benefit all stakeholders of that economy. 

The project focuses on providing training on value chains of food production to have a sustainable impact in the rural economy, to promote residual income and healthy organic meals to families to be self sufficient.

With the support of SLF V2U Community Organization has disseminated this project proposal to a wide range of villages across Sri Lanka. Another land is been prepared for the next project in Dehiattakanndiya which is due to start next week.

The main objective is to build a sustainable agriculture, and management of resources, a solution to the hunger crisis in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Foundation Intl’ Recognizes Excellence Among the Sri Lankan Expatriates Around the World at its Prestigious Awards Show

The Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) Awards Ceremony 2022 celebrated 25 exceptional Sri Lankans from over four continents. This one-of-a-kind event was streamed online live and hosted over 450 guests attending the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on Sunday, November 13th, 2022.

For the Sri Lankan community worldwide, this event continues to be the most prestigious awards ceremony, which recognizes those in the Sri Lankan community whose work has had an essential impact on the lives of others.

In putting on the SLF Awards Ceremony, Sri Lanka Foundation hopes to show the community’s gratitude for the awardees’ creativity and outstanding achievements, increase awareness of their accomplishments, and, most importantly, inspire the younger generation to achieve excellence in their chosen fields. With this purpose at heart, it has been growing since its inception in 2003, boasting the most significant number of awardees celebrated, and with a tremendous demand for attendance that its live-streaming offer this year was essentially long overdue.

The opening remarks given by the SLF Chairman of the Board, Dr. Walter Jayasinghe, and the President/CEO, Dr. Dishan Jayasinha, instilled in the audience their deep commitment to the event’s purpose and set the stage for the outstanding awardees, which were to follow.

While the event centered on the awardees, the entertainment was as sensational as ever. The event began with a spectacular traditional welcome dance featuring Umendra Kahandawarachchi, Nirosha Wijegunasekare, and Akila Palipana from the SLF Academy of Performing Arts. Then, the elegant fashion show (produced and choreographed by Achala Weerasinghe, SLF Director of Cultural Affairs) featured stunning outfits created by the famous Sri Lankan designers Shanith Fernando and Hiran Wijesekara and beauty pageant title holders from the USA.

The entertainment continued with a stand-out performance from Talin Silva, an opera performance by the world-renowned soprano singer Tharanga Goonetilleke, and fabulous music by Tony Samara.

Most importantly, the event celebrated the following awardees in seven distinct categories:

For a lifetime of outstanding excellence and recognition at an international level Prof. Nimal Rajapakse, Prof. Ajit Yoganathan, Prof. Asgerally Fazleabas, Prof. Patrick Mendis, Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi, Prof. Tissa Illangasekare, Dr. Yasantha Rajakarunanayake, Venerable Henepola Gunaratna, late Desmond De Silva, and late Donald Karunaratna received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Hasini Jayatilaka and Prof Sharika Thiranagama received the Exceptional Achievement Award for their exemplary achievements in their field.

For their outstanding performances, Amith Boteju, Talin Silva, Rukshan De Silva, and Hiruni Wijerathna received the Outstanding Performance by a Young Professional Award.

For their ongoing exceptional growth and achievements in their profession Dr. Sumudu Herath Mudiyanselage, Dr. Zainab Ifthikar, and Mathew Abeysinghe received the Rising Star Award.

For his excellence in community service and role model Ashley Ashan Palipana was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Junior Award.

The Srimerican of the Year Award was presented to Keith Ranga for his contribution to the betterment of the Sri Lankan community.

The President’s Award was presented to Priyalal Kurera for his exceptional philanthropic services to the Sri Lankan American community and his motherland, Sri Lanka.

The Outstanding Community Service Award was presented to Prof. Deepthi Jayasekare and Prof. Dushyantha Jayaweera for their life-saving support extended to our communities worldwide, especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

As you know, the winners were nominated by individuals just like you. You can visit our website for more information on how to nominate a well-deserved Sri Lankan expatriate who has made a difference to humanity.

SLF Int, USA Outstanding Community Service Award SLF Int, USA Prof. Deepthi Jayasekera For his Excellence as an Infectious Disease Specialist in Covid Guidelines, Vaccines, Therapeutics and Community Service

Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr Deepthi Jayasekara attended Ananda College, Colombo from 1970-1982. He was a College Prefect, a member of Ananda orchestra (Ananda Udawa) in vocals and violin, a Boy Scout and a member of English/Sinhalese debating teams. Having graduated in 1982 with highest Advanced level results 4 A’s, he received the prestigious Thomas Amarasuriya academic award and a Mahapola academic scholarship for medical school.

Dr Jayasekara graduated from the prestigious Colombo Medical Faculty, University of Colombo with honors in Human Physiology and pharmacology. He played music for the medical students’ band called “Medix” which topped Sri Lankan music charts many times. He subsequently completed his internship at National Hospital of Colombo in General Medicine and Surgery. Dr Jayasekara migrated to USA in 1995 to pursue a post-doc research fellowship in HIV and clinical pharmacology at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco). While conducting research and juggling a young family, he applied and got into an Internal Medicine residency at USC-Los Angeles County hospital in 1997. He pursued a fellowship in Infectious Diseases 2000-2002;, published and conducted research in HIV, Tuberculosis and CMV retinitis at USC.

Presently Dr Jayasekara works as a consultant physician and Infectious Disease specialist at Emanate Health hospitals (Queen of the Valley and Inter-community), Arcadia Methodist, San Dimas and Kindred hospitals. Additionally, he is in a partnership of multiple Infectious Disease doctors called Foothill Infectious Diseases Group and Infusion Center in Claremont, California. He also serves as a regular member of leadership committees and has been championing hospital protocols such as sepsis, pneumonia, Covid-19 vaccines and treatment protocols over 20 years. Dr Jayasekara and Foothill ID specialists have been involved in the care of over 25000 patients with Covid-19 per hospital statistics during the 6 waves of the current Covid pandemic. He was chosen to deliver the first ever educational webinar to the hospital staff on Covid-19 vaccines in Nov 2020 before the MRNA vaccines were rolled out. He’s currently the chair of Internal Medicine at Emanate hospitals and the chair of Infectious Diseases at Emanate and San Dimas Hospitals.

The Emanate health organization honored him with a prestigious award for the work he has done with the pandemic in June 2022. Dr Jayasekara has thus far authored 10 newspaper articles on Covid-19 in Los Angeles, providing much-needed insight of the ongoing Covid policy changes and new therapeutics and vaccines. A regular CME speaker for the doctors and hospital staff on various subjects related to ID, Dr Jayasekara has delivered over 100 Continuing Medical Education (CME)lectures on subjects like Sepsis, Covid-19, New antibiotics in the pipeline, HIV, Diabetic infections, Transplant-related infections, hospital-acquired infections and more recently Monkeypox 2022 epidemic. He is also on speaker panels of few pharmaceutical companies like Allergan, Melinta, AbbVie, Tetraphase pharmaceuticals on various new antibiotics and on advisory board of probiotic company, Ferring. Dr Jayasekara is quite passionate about teaching his medical students from Western and Touro medical schools in California while serving as a clinical professor. He has published many scientific papers with those universities and Emanate hospitals especially during Covid period. Furthermore, he has delivered many academic lectures at various Sri Lankan organizations in Colombo such as Sri Lanka Medical Associatiom (SLMA), College of Physicians, College of Surgeons, College of Microbiologists, Faculty of Kotalawala Medical faculty, Nawaloka hospital critical care etc.

Dr Jayasekara is an active member of professional Sri Lankan organizations like SLMANA West, Ananda OBA West (ACOBA) and Sri Lanka Foundation and is currently serving on the boards (BOD)of those organizations. He served as the President of Ananda College Old Boys Association (ACOBA) West and Vice President of Sri Lanka Medical Association North America (SLMANA) West a few years ago. He is currently the Medical Director of Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA and has conducted many educational webinars on Evolution of Covid-19 pandemic, Covid vaccines, new Covid-treatments, CDC protocols etc. Spearheaded many charity projects related to Covid-19 pandemic including projects related to Colombo National hospital, IDH, and many outstation hospitals in Sri Lanka helping them in purchasing many equipment including much-needed ICU beds, ventilators, BIPAP and High Flow respiratory machines, surgical consumables etc. He also collaborated a landmark scientific paper with the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka which helped Sri Lankan Covid task force during many waves of Covid pandemic that devastated the country.

Dr Jayasekara is quite passionate about travel, Cricket and Basketball and is also known in our comminity as a vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist (violin, Piano, Keyboards, and drums) playing for few bands like Medix, Heartbeat, Emanate Hospital band etc. He lives in Glendora, California with his wife Roshani and their 2 children Arindra and Avishka. Arindra is a second-year neurology resident and Avishka, a recent graduate from USC Neuroscience and health policy.

SLF Int, USA 2022 Outstanding Community Service Award Prof. Dushyantha Jayaweera For his Excellence in Research and Clinical Work in HIV/HCV & Covid-19 Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Work

Dr. Jayaweera received his M.D. degree from Sri Lanka and trained in medicine in Sri Lanka, Great Britain, and Loyola University of Chicago. In 1992, he came to the University of Miami after serving as senior registrar at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom.

He began his work in Miami on HIV and infectious diseases and worked with the inner-city minority population infected with HIV while there and helping others. He believes that “we must place others’ interests above our own,” which makes a better place to live and benefits all. His focus has been on research that is centered on understanding the factors that impact communities of color and minorities, which have been long ignored, and finding solutions to improve their health outcomes. Even his research has pivoted depending upon the needs of the community. He was frequently teaching and speaking about HIV prevention and education in inner-city black churches.

His passion has been working in disaster relief. His first international mission was to Honduras when hurricane Mitch devastated the country in October 1998. The University of Miami sent a team with Dr. Jayaweera, and they provided medical care and delivered essential items such as medications donated by the University of Miami to the people in Tegucigalpa and La Lima. They spent a week helping the population affected by banana plantations in La Lima and saw hundreds of patients each day.

In 2010, Haiti was affected by an unprecedented earthquake with More than 50,000 homes were destroyed, another 77,000 damaged, and 220,000 people died. The University of Miami sprang into action and led the medical mission called “Project Medishare,” supported by some of the health systems in the US and donors. Dr. Jayaweera was there on the second week of the medical mission, setting up the field hospital and sleeping in makeshift tents. He was the chief medical officer, managing a large operation of 200 healthcare workers where thousands of patients were treated daily for trauma and other medical conditions. They set up two operating rooms and an ICU in a field hospital. As the International Director of the Rotary Club of Dade Land and Pinecrest Rotary (from 2002-2014), He was responsible, with other members, for providing community service in many countries. He raised funds for Nepal after the earthquake in April 2015. They raised close to $ 20,000.

As a member of the Rotary club his main contribution was to disaster relief in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami in December 2004. After the tsunami, it was found that the OBGYN unit at Galle hospital was completely destroyed. Dr. Jayaweera and the Rotary Club of Pinecrest and Dade Land collected money from all the Florida clubs and, with matching grants from Rotary International, donated close to $200,000.00 to the hospital to buy all the equipment for the clinic. He visited Sri Lanka and made sure that all the activities planned were executed as designed. Furthermore, with the help of Palmer Trinity School in Miami, he helped to repair a school in Galle, Sri Lanka. Even this year When COVID pandemic affected Sri Lanka, he started working with the Colombo Medical School and other leaders in Colombo to come up with plans to obtain essential items for patient care in Sri Lanka. He worked with SLF very closely in fund raising and education. He managed to work with the Sri Lanka diaspora in FL to raise funds for COVID relief efforts and these were transferred via Rotary club.

In 2012, he was appointed Associate Vice Provost for Human Subject Research, overseeing the activities of the ethics committees and serving as a liaison between these committees and senior institutional leadership. He spearheaded the accreditation of the university’s human research protection program by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs in the US. He was also instrumental in the creation or revision of a variety of policies and practices to increase compliance while partnering with investigators to address their concerns.

Dr. Jayaweera was appointed as the Executive Dean for Research and Research Education for the Miller School of Medicine in September 2015. He was the Associate Vice Provost for Human Subject Protection prior to this appointment. Dr. Jayaweera has over 20 years of experience with HIV and serves as the Director of the HIV/HCV co-infection clinic. He has received grant support from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Jayaweera has led and continues to lead numerous industry-funded trials on HIV and HIV/HCV confections and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles and 120 conference abstracts while maintaining a clinical practice and serving the UM research community. Additionally, he serves the larger South Florida community as an AIDS educator and is a senior faculty member of the AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Jayaweera has been involved in emerging infections. He started working on HIV at the beginning of the pandemic and hepatitis C in 2000, Zika in 2018 and COVID 19 in 2020. Over the last 20 years, he has received research funding for all these diseases. He was the principal investigator for the University of Miami funded by the NIH on the Janssen vaccine, convalescent plasma for inpatients and ACTOV-6 platform studies.

SLF Int, USA 2022 Outstanding Achievement Junior Award Ashley Ashan Palipana For his Excellence in Community Service & Role Model

Ashley Palipana is a 11 year old scout at St John First Aid Cadet, born in Essex, UK to Sri Lankan parents. He is a kind, caring and helpful young man who loves to make new friends and talk to people within the community. He attends Belmont Castle Academy. He helps other children in school by being a peer mediator in Math & English. He is also a team captain and a peer mediator who helps people when they have problems. His dream is to be a Neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital for children and would love to save lots of lives.

He won British Citizen youth Award along with twenty youngsters from around the country for having their unique and inspiring story. He is a great role model amongst his peers. He is a creative member of the community, involved with scouting endeavors with theme side scouts, attending the little Thorruch St Johns Ambulance youth program and local theater productions.

Ashley has raised funds for Great Ormond Children’s Hospital ( GOCH) charity. He continues his art exhibitions at the theme side theater art gallery to raise funds. He has been recognized by St Johns Ambulance for receiving the badger of the year award in 2015 for confronting a suicidal man in his home town. He convinced the man to get down from the bridge and took him to the local church where he was sent back to his home country. Today that man is safe and healthy with his parents and thank Ashley for his courage and bravery.

He is involved in many charity events with his singing, dancing and acting talent, also has a Facebook page for his Art Gallery the “Ashley Palipana Art Gallery”.

Ashley received the British Citizen Youth Award in 2016, honored by BCyA status given by Kimberly Wyatt, received the Badger of the Year (St John’s Ambulance) given by Princess Anne, nominated for the Diana Legacy Award by Se Scout, UK, winner of the Nine Art Awards given by the Purfleet UK, Opera House, also received First Prize from St Johns Art Competition.

He is currently involved in fundraising for the Cancer research and prevention of Dementia for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, British Red Cross and Royal Opera House in UK.

SLF Int, USA 2022 Rising Star Award Winner Sumudu Herath Mudiyanselage For his Excellence in Civil Engineering, Machine Learning in Homogenization and Design of Technical Textiles for Space Structure

Sumudu Herath Mudiyansalage is a student of Royal College, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Soon before his school graduation in 2010, he was ranked second in the country for GCE AL examination in physical science stream. After he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, he was awarded a prestigious Cambridge Trust Scholarship to pursue his doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge. Further, he bypassed the Master’s degree requirement due to his exceptional performance in Bachelor’s degree.

He received the Gold Medal for the Most outstanding graduand in both academic and extra-curricular activities of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa. In addition, he was awarded the Gold Medal for the first rank in Civil Engineering where he achieved a record-breaking GPA of 4.12(/4.20) which remains the highest in department history. At the same convocation, he received 11 more awards for all-round excellence. Some of his awards during his life at University of Moratuwa include: Dean’s List for obtaining Grade Point Average (GPA) above 3.8 in all academic semesters; National Prize for Enterprise Strategy (E3) in May 2012 CIMA exams (World rank 95); National Prize for Corporate Reporting (P2) in June 2013 in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) exams (World rank 7), Poh Scholarship recipient (out of 40,000 students).

Sumudu’s doctoral thesis contains his original research works of machine learning in homogenization and design of technical textiles for space structures at the University of Cambridge. His collaborations with NUS, Singapore and Cambridge, UK has led him to publish his works in high impact internationally peer-reviewed journals and conferences. To date, Sumudu is a co-author of more than twenty such scientific publications. Sumudu currently is a visiting professor at the TU Darmstadt where he looks at novel ways of simulating material systems using various statistical techniques.

He is very involved with the Sri Lankan community by: volunteering as a mentor for undergraduate students on their research and career prospects, advisor on foreign higher study opportunities for budding engineers from Sri Lankan Universities, mentor of the Sustainable Education Foundation (SEF), a non-profit organization to improve the quality of education in Sri Lanka.

SLF Int, USA 2022 Rising Star Award Winner Dr Zainab Ifthikar For her Excellence in Philanthropic Endeavors anD Academic Achievement

Zainab Ifthikar is passionate about medicine, and through her ongoing efforts, she wants to serve many underprivileged communities across the world. Moving to Saudi Arabia (where Zainab was born), she and her family have not forgotten their Sri Lankan roots. They constantly support the country at any time of need, through their organization, the MEI Foundation. She was only 16 year’s old when she launched an awareness program on acute kidney diseases prevailing in the North Central Province of her native country, Sri Lanka.

Ifthikar fell in love with the magnificence of human biology. She says, “the adrenaline rush of understanding the mind-boggling intricacy of how we function is just inexplicable; like finally, everything made sense in the world.” She is also a people’s person, and enjoys interacting with others, expanding her network, and helping those around her. Hence, she wanted to choose a career that would both fuel her knowledge whilst also merging her people skills and interest in community service.

Even after joining medicine, she continued to be an active person by partaking in all college activities. This was possible because of her medical school- Alfaisal University, and its unique structure. They provide medical students with an unmatchable range of extracurricular activities through the Alfaisal Medical Student’s Association (MSA). Zainab has participated in several MSA activities over the years; most recently serving as the director of Med Times (2021-2022), the esteemed Alfaisal College of Medicine magazine, which is made from cover to cover by their medical students.

In 2015, Ifthikar published her first book about poverty, titled “Poverty Is Not Passivity,” intended to bring out the emotions that lie behind the turmoil of poverty. Her second book was published in 2019 titled “Panacea Is Possible” and was directed towards water contamination in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

She founded the MEI Foundation in 2016, an NGO based in Kandy, with the vision to motivate, encourage, and inspire individuals to join hands in uplifting the underprivileged. Ever since, she has been doing small projects solely supported by her parents, family, and friends. She wishes to continue doing her philanthropic endeavors alongside her profession. 
In July 2021, Ifthikar was selected as the winner of the “Women’s Achievement Award 2021” by McKinsey & Company (a world-renowned consulting firm based in the US and operates in over 65 countries). She was selected for the award based on her two published books as well as her community services through the NGO she founded in Sri Lanka.

Ifthikar was also one of the master of ceremonies for her medical school graduation, carrying forth the honor of representing the batch at the ceremony held at Alfaisal University College of Medicine, Riyadh in May 2022 under the distinguished patronage of HRH Prince Turky Alfaisal.

Zainab intends to pursue a a career in Internal Medicine, whilst continuing her passion for writing and community service.

Med Times at Alfaisal University is headed by a Sri Lanka intern – Colombo Times

SLF Int, USA Exceptional Achievement Award Winner Prof. Sharika Thiranagama For her Excellence in Anthropology

Prof. Sharika Thiranagama is the Assistant Professor of anthropology at the New School for Social Research and Visiting Assistant Professor of anthropology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has researched two ethnic groups: Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicization, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home amid profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial amid political repression and militarization.

Since 2014, Sharika Thiranagama has also carried out new work in Kerala, South India centering on Dalit agricultural communities in Kerala, South India. She examines how communist-led political mobilization transformed everyday and political mobilization and reconfigured older caste identities, re-entrenching caste inequities into new kinds of private neighborhood life.

Prof. Sharika Thiranagama, In My Mother’s House: Civil War in Sri Lanka, deals, in detail, with the contrasting meanings of ‘home’ among the Northern Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims. Thiranagama portrays the images of the Northern Tamils, who determine a person’s character by learning about their home.

They consider their relationship with the soil the most important of all. This aspect is well researched in the book, which contributes significantly to political anthropology and the ethnography of violence, particularly concerning the concepts of home and displacement. The author investigates a number of issues, prominently the effects of the protracted war on the meanings amidst profound displacement, transformations of familial and generational experiences and the impact of the political violence on civilians executed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan state.

In a wider context, the book focuses on the controversial and dramatic ending of the long civil war fought since 1983 between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE and concluded in 2009 with the military defeat of the LTE. This conflict produced massive internal and external displacement of Tamils and Muslims from the north and the east. It also led to a significant number of academic studies on political violence, conflict, forced relocation, trauma, nationalism and ethnoreligious identity formation.

Prof. Thiranagamas book is a significant complement to these works as she deals with a completely new approach to the concept of home in Sri Lanka. Her main aim is to examine the position of the victims of the war and their historical and political trajectories’, which shape their ideas of home. She studies home as an everyday language of love, affection, sentiment and memory. To this reviewer, the most significant contribution of this book lies in elucidating the various ways in which the numerous internally displaced persons (IDPs) explore the meanings of home in times of crisis.

Prof.Thiranagama applies an innovative perspective on generations and generational divergences, focusing on the difference between young and old generations on experiences of war. The focus of this review is mainly on the two issues mentioned above.

Prof.Thiranagama also co-edited with Tobias Kelly the book, Traitors: Suspicion, Intimacy, and the Ethics of State-Building, first published on January 1st, 2009, by the University of Pennsylvania Press. The figure of the traitor plays an intriguing role in modern politics. Traitors are a source of transgression from within, creating their own kinds of aversion and suspicion. They destabilize the rigid moral binaries of victim and persecutor, friend and enemy. Recent history is stained by collaborators, informers, traitors, bloody purges and other acts of retribution against them. In the emergent nation-state of Bhutan, the spectre of the “antinational” traitor helped to transform the traditional view of loyalty based on social relations. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers’ fear of traitors is tangled with the Tamil civilians’ fear of being betrayed by the Tigers as traitors.

Here are some of her recent publications.
*In 2019, “Rural Civilities: Caste, Gender and Public Life in Kerala. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies and “Respect Your Neighbor as Yourself: Neighborliness, Caste, and Community in South India” Comparative Studies for Society and History.

*In 2018, “Introduction: Whose Civility?” in Special Issue Civility: Global Perspectives, Anthropological Theory and “The Civility of Strangers? Caste, Ethnicity and Living Together in Postwar Jaffna, Sri Lanka” in Special Issue Civility: Global Perspectives, Anthropological Theory Volume.

*In 2014 “Making Tigers from Tamils: Sri Lankan Tamils and Long Distance Nationalism in Toronto, Canada” American Anthropologist and “Female Militancy: Reflections from Sri Lanka” in Routledge Handbook of Gender in South Asia, Leela Fernandes, London: Routledge.

Prof. Thiranagama received the following Honors & Awards:

*Grant for the project, The Local Level Social Life of Global Ideologies (Kerala), The National Science Foundation. Cultural Anthropology Program (2015-2017).

*Post PhD Research Grant, Wenner Gren Foundation (2015-2016). Received President American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (2017 – Present).

*Elected Director, Board of Directors, American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies (2013 – Present). Elected Director, Board of Directors, American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies (2010 – 2013).


The V2U Community nonprofit organization was established in November 2021 in Toronto, Canada, by Thiwi Gama and Sanjeewa Pushpa Kumara in the USA. The organization’s vision is to rebuild Sri Lanka with “no boundaries or bias” while empowering Sri Lankans in the fight against hunger by promoting the cultivation of privately owned land for food production. The main objective of the V2U Community Organization is to educate Sri Lankans on food cultivation to create self-generating employment opportunities in agriculture and other related fields. 

Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA, donated to the V2U Organization to support a project in Morawaka, Matara district, to prepare land for raising crops to cultivate a field which Puwakbadaowita Saranda Thero spearheaded. 

The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA, Dr Walter Jayasinghe’s vision for this Project is a multi-faceted initiative to rebuild villages struggling educationally and economically. The ambition is a replicable model to create sustainable and holistic transformation through land cultivation. He believes a thriving economy is a system of production, distribution and consumption that efficiently uses all available resources to benefit all stakeholders of that economy. 

The V2U Community Organization has put in place monitoring efforts to ensure progress in a few months and better understand the occurrence, distribution and status of plant populations and there growth. Also, providing education to motivate farmers to become active players in agricultural production, processing and marketing will lead them to adopt environment-friendly farming practices. 

SLF has partnered with the V2U Community Organization to identify other locations to promote similar projects throughout Sri Lanka. 

This initiative is unique as, in addition to helping the farmers obtain a fair price for their products and creating employment for youth in the village (through processed food product manufacture and sales), we focus on: Helping the farmers improve through crop diversification through the introduction of better agricultural practices as well as,
*educating the children and youth, 
*mobilizing the community results in community development,
*creating a holistic transformation model. 

Click on the link below to know more details about the project:

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.