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August 02, 2017
Sri Lanka's men, women from all communities and all religious groups from all walks of life; professionals, businessmen, civil society activists, politicians and students, domiciled in the United Kingdom gathered under one roof in London on July 16 to discuss issues related to the welfare of every Sri Lankan working, living or studying in foreign countries and their dependants back home.

Sri Lanka's economy mainly depends on the foreign income earned and remitted to the country by Sri Lankan young men and women toiling in the desert lands of the Middles East, very often under unfavourable or unfamiliar conditions. Those living in western and other countries too going through difficulties while having to look after their own families living with them and also in providing financial assistance to their dependants in Sri Lanka. They also, through their voluntary social service organisations and charities provide financial and material assistance to set-up various projects needed for the normal living of those in Sri Lanka. These Sri Lankans overseas have been and are always ready to render all forms of assistance in the event of natural calamities which affect their people. Thus their contribution has become invaluable for the welfare of the people back home. Governments of Sri Lanka have until recently shown little or no interest on the welfare of these people living overseas or that of their families in Sri Lanka excepting only giving attention when there is some serious issue.

'ETHERA API (WE OVERSEAS)' a brain-child organisation of Sri Lanka's Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) was initially founded to fill this need. As at now thirty branches of the organisation have been established in twenty countries in the Middle East, in Europe, in South Korea and in Canada with a Head Office operating in Sri Lanka with our Chief Guest today as the President.

Although the UK Branch too was initiated around a year ago it launched its public appearance with this convention held on last July 16th at the Novotel Hotel in Heathrow. With a view making the event as one of all the Sri Lankan communities and religious groups the UK Executive Committee of Ethera Api held discussions with several organisations representing Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim communities to which there was encouraging response. Representatives of those organisations graced the event by their presence and participation in the events. Thus the convention could be claimed as the first of its nature where all Sri Lankans in the UK, irrespective of communal, religious or other differences gathered under one roof to discuss an issue common to all Sri Lankans.

The Chief Guest at the event was Hon. Sunil Handunetththi; Member of Sri Lanka Parliament; Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises and President of Ethera Api Organisation.

Together with Religious Dignitaries representing all Faiths other distinguished guests present were the Deputy Mayor of Harrow Council, Ms. Kareema Marikkar; Newham Councillor Paul Sathianesan and representatives of Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim organisations. Following the lighting of the Traditional Oil Lamp President of the UK Branch, Mr. Ajantha Kangahaarachchi delivered the Welcome Address in English and was followed by Mrs. Subashini Loganathan in Tamil and in English by Ethera Api Mr. Mohamed Marzook Ethera Api UK Executive Committee Member. The Welcome addresses referred to the various problems and difficulties faced the Sri Lankans working and living in foreign countries and their dependants in Sri Lanka, and the need for an organisation to address the issues facing this valuable section of the people of Sri Lanka'.

Making unity among all Sri Lankans for the benefit of the country as the theme of her speech delivered in a combination of Sinhala, Tamil and English languages, Deputy Mayor Ms. Kareema Marikkar called upon all Sri Lankans to work together to find solutions faced by them. Councillor Mr. Paul Sathianesan emphasized that the diaspora can make valuable contribution for the development of Sri Lanka and that the Sri Lanka Govt. should find ways to engage with the diaspora constructively. He further said that the Tamil people are friends of other people of Sri Lanka and not enemies and wish to live with respect, equality, harmony and are eager to have peace and harmony among all communities towards building a strong Sri Lanka for the benefit of future generations.

Secretary of COSMOS (Committee of Sri Lanka Muslim Organisations) - UK in his speech referred to the discussions his organisations had with the representatives of Ethera Api - UK and that COSMOS would extend its support to them. Secretary of the Ethera Api - UK Gamini Wickramarathna too addressed the gathering.

Chief Guest Sunil Handunneththi in his address said that although Ethera Api is an organisation initiated by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna participation in its activities is open to every Sri Lankan irrespective of his or her political views or involvement as the objectives of the organisation is to work for the welfare of all Sri Lankans living or working overseas and their families back home, and that there is also no communal, religious or other restrictions for engagement with Ethera Api. Until the founding of Ethera Api there was no organisation in existence to pay attention to the interests of migrant Sri Lankans who are an important section of the people of Sri Lanka making financial and other contributions much needed by Sri Lanka the Chief Guest said. He said that no less than 60% of Sri Lanka's foreign earnings is derived from remittances made by Sri Lankans working or living overseas and if the flowing of that revenue ceases the economy of Sri Lanka will crash within minutes causing dire consequences. He stressed that it is therefore necessary that this category of people are given due recognition and their welfare is sufficiently looked into by Govt. policy makers in Sri Lanka and that while the JVP had already made proposals to the Govt. of Sri Lanka in this respect and have been able to win some of them and that more has to be done and the direct engagement of migrant Sri Lankans to pursue for their rights and privileges is necessary and that would be the primary role of Ethera Api organisation he said. Mr. Handunneththi emphasized that the good future of Sri Lanka depends on peace and harmony among all its peoples beyond communal, religious or other differences and that Ethera Api bringing under its umbrella Sri Lankan migrants of all shades to focus attention on issues common to all will be able to promote that thinking among all Sri Lankans overseas. In conclusion he urged all those present at the event to carry the message of this need to others was well so that all migrants can work together to win their rights and for the general welfare of their motherland. Secretary of COSMOS - UK, Committee of Sri Lankan Muslim Organisations, Mr. Liyas Wahid, in his speech said the wish of the Muslim community is to live side by side with other communities in harmony, peace, and that the dream of COSMOS too is ideal Sri Lankan society and that The Cosmos is glad to meet the organisation that his organisation will be glad to engage with other organisations with similar objectives and will co-operate with Ethera Api in its efforts to achieve this noble vision.

Not forgetting the achievements and contributions of Sri Lankans domiciled overseas with the presentation of momentos the following were honoured for Arts and Culture; Dr. Akram Mohammadu, Charity Worker and Writer); Mr. Sarath Jayasundara for Sports; Newham Councillor Mr. Paul Sathianesan for promoting Peace and Reconciliaiton; Mr. Rajeewa Alakakone Businesman and Charity Worker. Mr. Daya Ananda Ranasinghe, Editor, Lanka Viththi for Media; Ms. Prema Ganegoda and Ms. Priyavijaya Fonseka.

Besides discussing human-related issues listed on the agenda the audience did not miss enjoying a treat of cultural and cultural performances rendered in Sri Lankan sytle. Beginning with the soft violin recital of Ms. Lavanya Loganathan, Jagath Jayatilleke, Dinesha Sanjeewani, Nimal Fernando and Ravi Siriwardena sang popular Sinhala numbers while Parkkavi Thillairajan and Vishnija Nithyanantha rendered meladious Tamil numbers. Attanayake Group provided the traditional Kandyan Dance performance. Enthused by the enjoying mood of the audience the Deputy Mayor Kareema Marikkar walked to stage to show her singing talent in Sinhala, Tamil and English numbers with Councillor Paul Sathianesan joining in 'Enndadi Rakkamma' with Dinesha Sanjeewani adding the Sinhala version.

Gamini Wickramarathna the Secretary of the Ethera Api UK Branch proposing the Vote of Thanks briefed on the hard work done by Members of the UK Branch and commended their contribution. He also thanked the Chief Guest for taking time to travel to be present despite his many engagements in Sri Lanka. While appreciating the presence of the religious dignitaries he extended his gratitude to the several Sri Lankan Organisations in the UK for their solidarity and co-operation he invited them to be a part of Ethera Api.

Dhammika Kumara Music group kept up to the occasion meeting the musical need of the various singers.

Sound system was provided well by Amal Edirisuriya.

Event Manager Chandana Edrisuriya demonstrated his expertise in setting-up the orderly functioning of the event.

MS. Prema Ganegoda
Prema Ganegoda was a very talented student of dancing master Mr. Hin Baba Darmasiri
during her school years. Then she was discovered by Sri Lanka drama
maistro Sugathapala De Silva and his "Thattu Geval" became her first drama in 1963.
Through Darmasiri Wckramaratne's 1967 drama 'Handata Banda Iniman', she progressed
to Mr. Navagaththegama's 1971 'Gangavak, Sapaththu Kabalak saha Maranayak', which
won her the Best Actress of the year award. In 1971 she and her family settled down
in England have since become a most popular couple who have been rendering their silent service
to many Sri Lankans, especially those in the art field, by providing them shelter at their place
on many an occasion. The distinguished work she did for the Sri Lankan expatriate community was
organizing cultural events in the UK to maintain the identity of Sri Lanka since 1971. Luckyest wide
Dr. Akram Mohammadu
Author of "Flying with the Flamingos", a moving story about immigrants.
He also made an immense contribution towards building two much-needed
cancer hospitals in Sri Lanka, one in Jaffna and other in Galle (Karapitiya).
Most impressive was his contribution to bringing the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese
communities together for this work. He and his fellow charity workers were marching
Jaffna to Colombo, Jaffna starting point of the march was 5000 people when reached
Colombo it was 15000 people participated in this movement. that is phenomenal.
Mr Dayanananda Ranasingha
Is the person who provides us news from Sri Lanka publishing "Lanka withthi"
where had no Internet, mobile phone, facebook, Etc. it was and is, very difficult
and challenging work but, continuing doing so, till today.
Mr. Sarath Abayasundara
Successes full entrepreneur who is the Sri Lankan Cricket ambassador to Europe.
most importantly his work providing opportunities to young sri Lankan cricketers
to play, have experienced in international cricket fields and build the reputation
of their own. By doing such noble work was indeed help to increase Sri Lanka cricketers
and the team's morale up to face to the pressure of the international crickets
Mr. Ranjeewa A Alahakone
Successes full young entrepreneur who involve so many charitable works on religious,
cultural and sports sector in the Sri Lankan expatriates communities in the Great Britain.
the Most importantly his hard works on promoting harmony and equality among Sri Lankan
Expatriates in the Great Britain. as well as in the Sri Lanka. The Most impressive is his
endeavor on bringing the much-needed investment to Sri Lanka's industrial sector.
Councillor Mr. Paul Sathianesan
A young man fled from Sri Lanka from fear of prosecution arrived in London,
sought asylum 1985. A refugee who start life from scratch, with no money,
little English, devoted to the right of asylum seekers, work for them
without considering any matter of ethnicity of the people. Accomplished
high academic degree, had national and international recognition and become
a successful politician who is devoted to promoting and doing immense
work on reconciliation and racial harmony in the Great Britain.
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