The inaugural BriSLA Awards took place recently and the following is an extract from the opening speech, made by Dr Zimar Sivardeen, chairman of the British Sri Lankan Association (BriSLA).
“You’re Royal Highness, my Lord Lieutenant, Lord Patel, distinguished guests; on behalf of the British Sri Lankan Association (BriSLA), we are delighted to have you here with us this evening.
We are grateful to our honourable speakers, Lord Patel of Bradford and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Mr Kenneth Olisa and all our special guests who are here on this important occasion. Many of you have travelled a long distance to be with us today.
If I may, I would like to extend to you a few words of greetings in our native tongue: areyubowan, wanakkum, assalamu alaikum. For those who do not know what I said; wishing you a long life, good evening, may peace be upon you!
Like so many other communities, the Sri Lankans living in this country have played an important role helping to make Britain prosperous. We, the British Sri Lankans, share in the different cultural experiences that make up our great British life. Our community has continued to mature as an increasingly integral part of mainstream British society. We are rooted in our traditions and open to other traditions.
BriSLA further encourages those who work to improve the welfare and involvement within wider society. We share the same communal values, which makes this country what it is and, although we still have our own cultures, we are growing into something greater than ourselves.
Our social integration became more established at the time of Queen Victoria, when travel was quite different; she invited many members of the Indian sub-continent to visit her in Britain. This was very successful as it led to a diverse community with a multicultural dialogue and cooperation.
Last week, we commemorated 100 years of those individuals, from all ethnicities, who fought on the same side as friends for the greater good. The red remembrance poppy represented the immeasurable sacrifice made by many people from different parts of the commonwealth, including many from Sri Lanka. We have worn the poppy over the past few weeks; we did it to show we care, we did it to show respect and, above all, we did it to mark a great moment in our shared history.
And many of us have been celebrating the festival of light in the past few days. A lamp spreads light equally to everyone: Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil and unifies people of all faiths. Happy Diwali!
Our aims in the BriSLA Awards are to raise awareness of the importance and benefit of social integration. We hope to achieve this through leadership, community service and inspiring others in society, whilst maintaining our links with different cultures. This particularly involves young people, who will take over from us.
I wish you all a most enjoyable evening.”
Dr Zimar Sivardeen’s Speech was very well received by all present at the 2015 BriSLA Awards and was followed by speeches from other notable people present. If you would like to know more about Dr Sivardeen or have a project you wish to discuss with him, then you can get in touch directly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.