BRISLA Awards 2019 – Winners Announced

BRISLA (The British Sri Lankan Association) hosted this year’s annual BRISLA Awards event on the Saturday 19th October 2019 in Westminster close to Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.

This event brings the best minds and the most passionate individuals who will play an ever-increasing role in promoting unity and celebrating diversity.

Says Dr. Zimar Sivardeen, Founder and Chair who proceeded over the judging process and hosted the evening:

“With every award, there was a golden thread running through them.  A vision, a commitment to make a difference and tenacity to make it happen. On our own, we can sometimes feel ineffective.  But when we come together in an event like this, we can see how every small step helps to shift a few mindsets or brings together a small group of people who were not united before.  When you add up all these movements – small, medium and large – we can believe we are making a difference.”

“Every Award presented on the night acted as a stark reminder to us all that our unified efforts to promote diversity and encourage unity amongst people of all faiths is paramount and indeed, essential.”

BRISLA is a non-profit organisation that aims to facilitate cooperation and build partnerships between the UK and Sri Lanka around issues including education, environmental factors, health affairs and promoting sustainable development.

Each year, a prestigious Award evening is held to reward individuals and organisations that strive for diversity and social cohesion in today’s challenging society.  This year, the annual event was held at the Conrad St. James Hotel, Westminster and in attendance were Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina, Mr Nirj Deva DL, the Lord Sheikh, H.E. Manisha Gunasekera and Jason Kouchak.

Dr. Sivardeen used the Awards evening as a platform to remind the audience that every individual has a role to play; to tackle and debate intolerance where possible, and recognise the power and strength diversity plays in today’s society.

Says Dr. Sivardeen on the night: “It was an honour and humbling experience to judge the Awards.  Everyone should be proud of their stellar work.”

 The 2019 BRISLA Awards winners are:

Outstanding Achievement in the Legal Field sponsored by Specsavers Opticians.

Presented by The Rt Hon Lord Justice Dingemans Judge of the Court of Appeal.

Winner: Harendra de Silva QC

Outstanding Achievement in Academia sponsored by GrowTraffic Ltd.

Presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina.

Winner: Professor Parosha Chandran

Excellence in Community Development sponsored by Research Intelligence Unit.

Presented by Venerable Dhammadassi Thera from Kingsbury Vihara.

Winner: Mr Ambalavanar Sathianathan

Excellence in Outstanding Leadership Award sponsored by John Keells Properties and Cinnamon Life.

Presented by Brigadier Alex Potts, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Regional Command, Aldershot.

Winner: Her Excellency Ms. Manisha Gunasekera

Lifetime Achievement Award sponsored by Indocean Developers (Pvt) the promoters of Altair.

Presented by Revd. Prof. Rob Gilbert.

Winner: Mr. Niranjan Deva DL

Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan Community sponsored by Al Rayan Bank

Presented by Jason Kouchak, pianist and composer.

Winner: The Lord Sheikh

The winners act as role models to our neighbours, our communities, and the next generation.  We are only a chapter and we need to inspire the people of tomorrow to continue this story.

Performance for Peace – Reflections and Prayer in Unity and Hope

Rev John Whitaker, Jason Kouchak and Dr Zimar Sivardeen

In May, BRISLA organised the Performance for Peace: Reflections and Prayer in Unity and Hope at St Mary’s Church, Putney following the tragic events in Easter in Sri Lanka.

The event, organised in co-ordination with leading international musician Jason Kouchak and friends, provided an environment to reflect and remember the lives lost and the importance of unity with diversity. The ceremony was attended by a diverse representation of distinguished guests from across all faiths and communities including diplomatic missions, religious representatives and leading social leaders including Mr Nirj Deva, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London

Speaking at the event, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, Chairman of BRISLA, spoke of the importance of dialogue and cultural understanding between communities as an important tool to build social engagement and inclusion. The ceremony included a moment of reflection followed by a beautiful performance from Jason Kouchak and supporting musicians. A summary of Dr Sivardeen’s speech is available to download with the full speech available on the YouTube video above.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

Further speakers at the event included Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, who spoke of his personal religious upbringing and the importance of diversity and community.

H.E. Manisha Gunasekera with Reverend John Whittaker

H.E. Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the United Kingdom, also spoke of the importance of international collaboration in building communities and social inclusion. This was supported by speeches from the Mayors of Wandsworth and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Mr Imtiaz Ahmed and Father Michael O’Dean.


Jason Kouchak and the talented musicians at the Performance for Peace

The event ended with the lighting of ceremonial candles to support the reflection and represent the role of cohesion between communities.

Agenda of the Performance for Peace

 

Message from BRISLA following the tragic Easter Sunday events in Sri Lanka

We express our sadness at the acts of barbarity in Sri Lanka during the holy Easter Sunday. 

We would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all those affected; worshippers of Christian faith during the holy Easter weekend, and individuals and families – both local and from overseas, who lost their lives. Our thoughts are also with the unfortunate members of all communities who were injured and who experienced this terrible scene.

We would like to thank the work of the emergency services and those who voluntarily donated blood during this tragic period.

These shameful and despicable attacks transcend politics and policies; belief and non-belief.

It is now more important than ever to highlight the objectives that BRISLA promotes; unity with diversity.

Moving forward, it is imperative that all of us from diverse origins join together in a spirit of peace and seek harmony.

We, as members of humanity, of all faiths and no faith, must stand together against these atrocities.

BRISLA Awards 2018 – Winners Announced

The BRISLA Awards celebrates local champions who embody BRISLA’s mission to achieve a cohesive, fair and prosperous society. Those shortlisted ahead of the evening were able to demonstrate to BRISLA how they had excelled in this quest and rightly earned their right to attend the prestigious awards thanks to their fantastic work within their own sphere.

Watch a video from the event kindly produced by Islam Channel

The winners were praised for their commitment by Dr Sivardeen, who opened the evening’s awards with an engaging speech.

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University, Wasim Khan MBE, CEO of Leicestershire Cricket Club, H.E. James Dauris British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to the Maldives and H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK delivered enthralling speeches relating to leadership, diversity and relations between the UK and Sri Lanka.

Guests in attendance at the Awards witnessed six overall winners receive their Outstanding Achievement and Contribution accolade across a four focus areas of:  Healthcare; Literary Arts; Performing Arts and; Entrepreneurship.

Two special awards of Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan were also crowned winners on the night.

The BRISLA 2018 winners:

  • Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare: Professor Karim Meeran

o   sponsored by Research Intelligence Unit

o   presented by The Worshipful The Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

  • Outstanding contribution to Literary Arts: Mr. Michael Roc Thomas

o   sponsored by Olympia Clinic

o   presented by The Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow

  • Outstanding contribution to Performing Arts sponsored by St James’s Place Wealth Management: Miss. Dilini Seneviratne

o   Presented by H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK

  • Lifetime achievement award sponsored by Al Rayan Bank: Dr. Desmond Biddulph CBE:

o   presented by Wasim Khan MBE, CEO of Leicestershire Cricket Club.

  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Mr. Des Gunawardena

o   Sponsored by Specsavers Opticians

o   Presented by Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor at Buckingham University

  • Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan community: The Rt Hon. the Lord Naseby:

o   Sponsored by GrowTraffic Limited

o   Presented by H.E. James Dauris, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to Maldives

Dr Sivardeen commented on the Awards evening:  ‘These pioneering awards pay tribute to the amazing work and dedication of secret heroes and this evening was about saying thank you and acknowledging the impact they all have.

‘BRISLA was established over four years ago, and we have made great strides in our mission to promote diversity and integration in our community.  But there is still a way to go, particularly now in unsettling times ahead of Brexit.

‘The Awards evening also gave us the opportunity to shine a light on our vision for 2019, and galvanise everyone in the room to maintain momentum with their fantastic work to create harmonious, inclusive communities.’

Mrs Chani Simms, secretary of BRISLA added:  ‘It has been a very humbling evening to hear people’s stories and learn about their resilience and commitment to create a diverse, united world.  Each shortlisted candidate knows that if we are to achieve this, it starts at a grass roots level and it was a delight to see individuals rewarded for their efforts. I applaud and congratulate everyone who made it through to the short-list.  You are all winners in my eyes.’

Dr Sivardeen concludes:  ‘The best way for our organisation to evolve and learn is to be inspired by others, and the evening delivered this with aplomb.  I, with my BRISLA attendees, leave the evening feeling inspired and with a renewed sense of purpose.’

 

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BRISLA Celebrate Commonwealth Unity With Lunch and An Inspiring Speech

British Sri Lankan Association (BRISLA) chairman Dr Zimar Sivardeen delivered a rousing speech celebrating the unity and diversity of the Commonwealth to distinguished guests at a big luncheon held in London this week.

The event, which took place at the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge on Wednesday 11 April, brought together senior figures to highlight the importance of the Commonwealth and discuss ways of tackling current and future challenges facing Commonwealth countries. Many special guests were in attendance and as always our Chairman, Dr Sivardeen reminded everyone how passionate BRISLA are about upholding the shared values of the Commonwealth nations.

Commonwealth Day 2018

BRISLA commonwealth luncheon 2018

The BRISLA luncheon took place almost exactly one month after we celebrated Commonwealth Day 2018, which was held March 12 this year.

The day of observation is an annual opportunity to celebrate the links between Commonwealth communities across the world. Quite a big celebration considering more than 2.4 billion people live in the 53 nations that make up the Commonwealth! It’s around 30 percent of the world’s population.

Traditionally, in the UK, The Union Flag is flown from public buildings on the second Monday in March to mark the occasion. The Queen also makes a special trip with her family to Westminster Abbey, where a service takes place. Elsewhere around the world, many countries celebrate in their own unique ways, but with the common bond that is the Commonwealth.

Each year, BRISLA mark the occasion and the continued unity of the commonwealth with a luncheon.

BRISLA Luncheon

This year was no different and as Sri Lanka and Britain are both important members of the Commonwealth, we came together in style to celebrate at the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge.

Mark Jones BRISLA Commonwealth Luncheon
Mark Jones

Our distinguished guests included; Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon OBE DL, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK, Mr Fergus Auld OBE, Head of South Asia Department and India Co-ordinator, Foreign and Commonwealth, Mr Zach Harkenrider, Counselor for Political Affairs, U.S. Embassy London, and former England cricketer Mike Gatting OBE.

Mike Gatting, OBE, Lynn Stanier, MBE, and Dr Zimar Sivardeen BRISLA Commonwealth Luncheon
Mike Gatting, OBE, Lynn Stanier, MBE, and Dr Zimar Sivardeen
Mark Jones BRISLA Commonwealth Luncheon
Cathy McCleod, MBE

The lunch was made additionally special, as Dr Sivardeen had previously been invited to sign the House of Commons Book of Tribute to former South African President, Nelson Mandela, joining the likes of leading political figures and celebrities including former President of the United States, Barack Obama and Paul McCartney.

Nelson Mandela was a key participant of the Commonwealth so Dr Zimar Sivardeen was humbled and honoured to be asked to write a message of peace and love to him.

Dr Zimar Sivardeen with the House of Commons Book of Tribute to former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

Here is the message left in the book on behalf of everyone at BRISLA:

“His courage to sacrifice his own freedom for his people and country, and rewrite history, is one of the greatest triumphs of the century.  In his honour, we must all remain dedicated to bringing people together to live in peace.”

A Rousing Speech

After lunch was eaten, Dr Zimar Sivardeen gave a powerful and inspiring speech:

‘The Commonwealth advantage – with its shared values, regulatory framework and language – has the potential to increase trade within the Commonwealth, reducing business costs between member countries. Diversity plays a key part in innovation, creativity and divergent thoughts.’

In keeping with this years theme of unity, Dr Sivardeen continued:

‘In the changing times of merging cultures and constantly shifting identities, feeling connected to our history and roots is important. Furthermore,  feeling connected to the range of people that surround us today, as well as celebrating the opportunities of the present moment,  is equally as vital’

And then to finish off his speech:

‘By standing together we do NOT stand alone’

Dr Sivardeen also emphasised the need to work together with young people to ensure their voices are heard on important Commonwealth issues and highlighted the important positive political, economic and societal contributions being made by women.

2017 BRISLA Awards – The Winners Announced

Leading figures in the British Sri Lankan community were recognised for their hard work at the annual BRISLA Awards earlier this month. The annual celebration, in its third year was sponsored by Specsavers and Sri Lankan Airlines and held at the historical Lord’s Cricket Ground. We had a great night proudly celebrating the achievements of British Sri Lankans in fields ranging from business through to healthcare.

Continue reading 2017 BRISLA Awards – The Winners Announced

Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year’s Celebrations.

Last month, BRISLA joined the local Harrow community to celebrate the Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. It was a beautiful day that was enjoyed by all who where lucky enough to be a part of the celebrations, and our President and Chairman, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, was honoured to be there and represent BRISLA on behalf of all our members. Continue reading Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil New Year’s Celebrations.

BRISLA Mercantile Trip to Sri Lanka

Last month, BRISLA was incredibly proud to be able to facilitate their inaugural mercantile trip to Sri Lanka, and we’re very pleased to report that it was a huge success on all fronts.  Continue reading BRISLA Mercantile Trip to Sri Lanka