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

The 2016 BRISLA Awards

Well it’s been a long time – and a lot of hard work – in the making, but last weekend saw the return of the annual BRISLA Awards, and this year the show was even bigger and better than last time.  Continue reading The 2016 BRISLA Awards

BriSLA’s Keynote Speech

Last month, March 2016, BriSLA was honoured to meet the British Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Phillip Hammond MP, who confirmed that he shares BriSLA’s vision for a better world. Continue reading BriSLA’s Keynote Speech

BriSLA Speaks at Commonwealth Day Celebration


BriSLA Chairman and President, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, has made an impassioned speech at a Royal Borough Ceremony marking Commonwealth Day.  Continue reading BriSLA Speaks at Commonwealth Day Celebration

Announcing The Return of the BriSLA Awards


After the huge success of last year’s event, the BriSLA Awards, a national awards ceremony set up by our very good selves (the British Sri Lankan Association), are set to make a glorious return in 2016 for a second run.  Continue reading Announcing The Return of the BriSLA Awards

BriSLA Attends The Sri Lankan Christian Association Interfaith Advent Service

BriSLA Interfaith Advent Service Sri Lankan Christian Association

On Sunday 6th December, BriSLA were honoured to be invited to join the Sri Lankan Christian Association for a very special interfaith Advent Service. Held at the United Reformed Church in Kensington, London, this special annual service was attended by BriSLA Chairman and President, Dr Zimar Sivardeen, on behalf of the British Sri Lankan Association.


Multifaith Church Service

This Sunday service is one of the most important in the Church of England calendar, as it traditionally marks the start of the period of advent and begins the official countdown to Christmas. It is an important time of year to practising Christians, and yet it is not only Christians who partake in the rituals of this festive season.

Fortunately, the Church of England has recognised that, in this great multicultural country of ours, the need to build bridges between multiple faiths is not only important but crucial if a cohesive society is to be built. And as this is one of the driving beliefs behind the British Sri Lankan Association – to use our time on earth to better construct links between our two countries and their many and varied religions – it is an aim that we hold close to our hearts.

BriSLA Interfaith Advent Service Sri Lankan Christian Association

As a result, Dr Sivardeen was thrilled to be invited to attend the event, stating;

“As the President and Chairman of BriSLA, I was delighted to be invited to attend the event at the United Reformed Church, but the great honour was being asked by the Minister to help light the advent candle.”

Dr Sivardeen went on to say that;

“it was wonderful that BriSLA could be involved in such an interfaith event as this, this is exactly the sort of thing that we want to encourage.”

In addition to the Minister of the Kensington United Reformed Church, the Revd Dr James Mather, the Advent Service was attended by several other notable community members, including

  • HRH Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Serbia
  • Cllr Robert Freeman, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  • Mr Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka
  • Ms Charmaine Jayetilleke MBE, Community Leader and recent winner of a BriSLA Award in Community Service.

BriSLA Interfaith Advent Service Sri Lankan Christian Association

The British Sri Lankan Association, as a still fledgling organisation, was not only grateful to be a part of such a vital event, but was also honoured to be amongst such distinguished company.


Interfaith Week at the House of Lords

This excellent interfaith Church service follows on from a recent event that Dr Sivardeen attended at The House of Lords in celebration of Interfaith Week. The event, held on 17th November 2015, was organised by Mrs Ajantha Tennakoon and hosted by Lord Sheikh, with a host of community and faith leaders from around the country in attendance too.

With the theme of ‘building interfaith trust to strengthen community relations, promoting peace and harmony amongst faith communities’, the event brought together Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists (the Hindu and Sikh representatives were unfortunately unable to attend), who all spoke of their experiences, listened to talks by prominent members from each community and prayed together in remembrance of the Paris Terror Attacks and in the hope of greater social cohesion.

Speaking of the event afterwards, Dr Sivardeen said that

“it was a great honour to be invited to attend this event and it brings me great confidence for the future to listen to those who spoke so eloquently here today. I know that people from all faiths and countries can live together peacefully if we all work at it hard enough.”

You can find out more about this event (plus many other issues and occasions relevant to the British Sri Lankan community) on Page 18: Issue 1252 of Newslanka.


Get In Touch

As this is a cause that is both close to our hearts and enshrined in the Constitution, BriSLA will continue to work to forge links and build bridges between people of all faiths, communities or countries, and we would love it if you would like to get involved too.

You can find out more information about our organisation and its work by taking a look around our website, or why not visit our Membership Page if you’d like to join the club?

BriSLA Interfaith Advent Service Sri Lankan Christian Association

If membership is not for you but you’d still like to keep up to date with the news and goings-on at BriSLA, then you can do so by joining our growing community of family and friends online; you can like our Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter or add us to your circle on Google+.

And don’t forget to keep coming back to read our regular updates on our Blog too!

If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of the BriSLA Committee, about anything at all, then you can use any of the methods on our Contact Page to reach us.

We look forward to speaking to you soon and hope you will join us in our quest to make the world a better place!

Dr Sivardeen’s Opening Speech at the BriSLA Awards 2015

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).

Continue reading Dr Sivardeen’s Opening Speech at the BriSLA Awards 2015