Sri Lankan students do not let war dampen New Year celebration

By Gus Bode

Sri Lankan students and faculty did not allow their native government’s decision to reject a cease-fire in a three-decade long civil war stop their New Year celebration from the other side of the world.

Roughly 100 people congregated in Carbondale’s Attucks Park Sunday to celebrate the start of the Sri Lankan New Year, which began April 14. Those in attendance were all smiles as they played games with one another and ate native Sri Lankan foods.

Talk of the war was quickly redirected to other subjects, but Cavinda Caldera, an assistant professor of Information Systems Technology, said he hopes the New Year would mark the end of the war that has affected Sri Lankans since 1983.


‘There is an end in sight, hopefully,’ Caldera said.

The Sri Lankan government rejected a cease-fire request from the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from northern portions of the southern Asian island that started the war hoping to form their own government, according to the New York Times.

According to the report, the Sri Lankan government has said it would accept only surrender from the Tigers, whom are severely weakened.

Haneef Anver, president of the Sri Lankan Student Association, steered conversations away from the war and said they should talk about good things at the party.

Anver, a doctoral student from Sri Lanka studying mathematics, said Sri Lankan New Year traditions are similar to the western celebrations of New Year’s Day. It is a time for families to get together and renew their hopes for the year ahead, he said.

Crowds gathered around those playing a Sri Lankan game where two people try to make their competitor lose his or her balance by hitting them with pillows. The first person to fall off of a narrow wooden board held up by two cinder blocks loses. Caldera said the games are played in Sri Lanka during the celebration.

In the park’s pavilion, Maheshi Udugama, a doctoral candidate from Sri Lanka studying biological chemistry, said she had a busy morning preparing native Sri Lankan dishes. Set up in buffet style, party guests were treated to dishes such as Lotus Root, the stalk of a flower seasoned with chili powder, spicy salmon and Dhal, a lentil soup with coconut milk and curry.


Udugama said she prepared foods that are a New Year’s tradition such as milk rice, a white rice dish cooked with coconut milk.

Anver said the celebration’s timing gives students a break from preparing for final exams. He said he hopes to invite more than double the number of people next year.