Life Abroad – Part 60 Not forgetting the old country
Posted on January 2nd, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Cdn-2010-tag---In-Focus---i.jpgThe gradual inflow of Sri Lankans into the UK continued from late 1950 in the form of students, visitors, professionals on work permits and anyone who qualified for an official entry permit to come into Britain.

From 1970s onwards the pattern changed where the influx began to increase by coinciding with several internal problems in Sri Lanka which gave rise to a new concept of seeking refuge in the UK.

Mavil Aru anicut

Dawning

Wherever there is a large congregation of people in any land, the social intercourse will automatically lead towards formation of groups. In such a back drop, The Sinhala Association emerged in 1978 as a pioneer in that direction by celebrating the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Others followed suit later.

During the past 35 years, this Association has been able to make a colossal contribution, especially during the thirty year old terrorist war, fearlessly facing up to Tamil Tiger propagandists face to face on British television and in many other forms in countering adverse publicity generated by the LTTE propaganda machine at its best.

It was recorded at one time around 60 Sri Lankan Associations were in existence in London alone. In certain circles a pointing finger was waved at the overdose of mushrooming effect on ‘insignificant’ numbers of such congregations. At extreme levels, the lubrication of the gossip machine gave rise to critical tittle tattle expressing that the emergence of a few such associations (comprising only husband and wife) was purely for the purpose of ‘seeking publicity and to rub shoulders with the elite, to be invited at the Sri Lanka High Commission functions, cocktails and finally aiming at getting nominated to Buckingham Palace annual Garden Party invitations through the diplomatic channel’.

Commitment

The Sinhala Association has displayed its commitment by propagating and upholding the Sinhala culture and coming out as a forceful unit to defend the motherland, especially at a time when the terrorist group and their henchmen were engaged in a calculated and well organised campaign to defame the good name of Sri Lanka by brainwashing the Western media and certain politicians, the result of which is evident even today, after elimination of the terrorist outfit completely.

Spreading their tentacles into a wider expanse, the Sinhala Association became the pioneers of exposing the home based performing artistes to Sri Lankan audiences in London and in European cities by taking the initiative to invite them and hosting variety shows with a mixture of Sri Lankan talent abroad. This paved the way for many other organisers to follow suit on a ‘commercial facet’ thus affording the rare opportunity to some of the Colombo based artistes to taste the flavour of the Sterling Pound and the Euro by entertaining Sri Lankan audiences in Western countries.

The Sinhala Association commenced this new concept initially by inviting Rohana Weerasinghe, the popular music director in Sri Lanka, to perform at the Chiswick Town Hall in 1979, followed by Victor Ratnayake in 1980, Nanda Malini in 1981, Pandith Amaradeva in 1982, Sisira Senaratne and Indrani Wijebandara in 1983, Latha Walpola, H.R. Jothipala and M.S. Fernando in 1984, T. M. Jayaratne, Malini Bulathsinhala and Sunil Edirisinghe in 1985, Angeline Gunathilaka and Ivor Dennis in 1985, Clarence Wijewardena, Mariazella Gunatilleka in 1986, Desmond de Silva, Vincent de Paul Peiris, Sunil Perera in 1987 etc .

Voice of Sri Lanka

During the terrorist war, when adverse publicity against Sri Lanka was at its zenith, President of the Sinhala Association, Douglas Wickramaratne, fearlessly confronted Tamil propaganda stalwarts openly face to face on the British television, BBC, Channel 4 and radio etc. He once disparaged a Tamil propagandist in front of millions of TV viewers when his opponent attempted to mislead the world by stating ‘Tamil were discriminated in Sri Lanka’.

Instantaneously armed with facts and statistics Douglas Wickramaratne’s list of prominent Tamils in the Government Service, naming them from the very top as Lakshman Kadiragamar being the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Rudra Rajasingham, the Inspector General of Police and names of Tamil High Commissioners and Ambassadors at the time in London, France, Singapore, Germany, China and Indonesia and a full list of senior Tamil police officers in the country made his opponent knuckle under like a beaten dog with its tail behind hind legs! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be).

Patriotism

At a time when the whole of the Sri Lankan diplomatic service from London collapsed shamelessly in front of a convincing the LTTE ferocious propaganda machine, the President of the Sinhala Association always had to appear gallantly on British TV and radio to face the music, on behalf of his motherland, as much as to ‘rescue’ the Diplomats who had been officially posted to London from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs! Douglas Wickramaratne’s oratory skills, coming a long way from the time he captained the Ananda College debating team as a student, with an additional knowledge on the Ceylon history and political background helped him volunteer and steer the battle always facing the hardcore elements that were against his motherland.

Browsing through http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature+youtu.be one could clearly see how effectively Douglas Wickramaratne puts his arguments across to Kumar Ponnambalam face to face categorically driving the message that ‘it was the Sinhala people who have been chased out of the North’ and what Ponnambalam preaching was hogwash when he was comfortably settled down in the luxury of Colombo life!

The Sinhala Association also afforded the opportunity to well known patriots such as Ven. Ell¨ Gunawansa thera, Prof. Nalin de Silva, Major General Lucky Algama, Dr. Harischandra Wijetunge, Dr. Pandula Endagama, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera etc, to address the expatriates on the ‘current issue’ at the height of the terrorist war with the whole aim of educating and to stimulating the Sinhala diaspora about the imminent dangers that were to befall on the country in the future.

Meritorious deeds

Turning onto the meritorious deeds executed by the Sinhala Association, the complete restoration of the of Medaoyamaduwa tank in Thanthirimale in the East, and rehabilitation of all those villagers who had been chased away by the LTTE and reinstalling them; involvement with the Lakviru Sevana at Wadduwa in the course of rehabilitation tasks of wounded security forces during the war and contributing funds collected by its membership to the Sri Lanka Defence Fund need to be highlighted in the history of their activities in embolden letters.

Equally, the production of a video recording by the Sinhala Association, at their own cost, exposing the recruitment of Tamil child soldiers by the LTTE hardcore, along with the massacre of innocent villagers at Thinneneveli, and distributing it throughout the world free of charge as an effective form of combating against adversative propaganda needs to be recognised with high regard, particularly at a time unfortunately when the government officials designated to deal with foreign policy were either day dreaming or in half a slumber (which only helped the Tamil terrorist propaganda to flourish to unprecedented levels).

Unification of expatriates

The Sinhala Association travelled an extra mile when Sri Lanka was accepted by the ICC to play Test cricket which commenced from Lords Grounds. Many members of the Sinhala Association accommodated some of the cricketers during their tours, treated them with rice and curry which they missed out so badly while in London, and most of all went in groups to the Lords and Oval Grounds to cheer the national players and to back them up.

The Sinhala Association was also instrumental in the formation of The World Federation of Sri Lankan Associations to campaign against the ever growing and mudslinging campaign by the LTTE stooges in the West. Federation’s first ever symposium was inaugurated from Canada, and in 1985 the venue was shifted to Hilton Hotel, Mayfair in London where many patriots namely, H.L.D. Mahindapala (Australia), Chandra Monerawela (London High Commissioner) Walter Jayawardena (Los Angeles), Dr. A.A.W, Amarasinghe (Altlanta, Georgia) Walter Jayasinghe (USA), Chitta Dimantha (Ohio), Ernest Corea (Australia), H. Piyasena expressed their views, and what actions needed to be taken in the future to safe guard the motherland from terrorism.

These were some of the yeoman tasks undertaken by the Sri Lankan expatriates acting as ambassadors for the love of their nation state which lamentably have gone unnoticed most of the time while certain government officials posted to overseas missions were reigning silence, probably in fear of their inadequacy in standing up to the occasion when needed!

Despite Tamil Tiger groups’ unwillingness to pay heed to any reconciliation due to their authoritative agenda which was only to ‘divide the nation into two’, Sri Lanka government efforts and its policy uttered by the former Minister of Defence, the late Lalith Athulathmudali that ‘Terrorists demands are not real and the world will not accept it; the Sri Lanka Government is committed to a political solution even if Tamil groups walked out of the 1985 Thimpu talks’ had remained unchanged until the situation reached a flash point triggered by the LTTE closing down the Mavilaru anicut sluice gates thus blocking the main source of water for the Mutter, Seuwila and Ichchalampattu districts to deprive water to more than 20,000 villagers.

While the security forces fought a battle with bullets with terrorists, Sri Lankan expatriates abroad have had to wage a different kind of propaganda war which to a certain degree has managed to minimise the damage done by false propaganda against Sri Lanka.

URL  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maD7TTH9H58&feature=youtu.be      be gives a bird’s eye view out of the enormous work done by the Sinhala Association in London over 35 years.

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