එතෙර අපි - Ethera Api -We overseas-UK summit 2017. Novotel Hotel Heathrow

Photograpgy By Bandula Manage

“එතෙර අපි සංවිධානය" යනු එතෙර වෙසෙන ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් මුහුන දෙන ගැටළු සම්බන්ධයෙන් විසදුම් සෙවීමට පිහිටවූ පුළුල්තම සංවිධානයයි. මෙහි වත්මන් සභාපතිවරයා ලෙස කටයුතු කරන්නේ පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රී සුනිල් හඳුන්නෙත්ති මහතායි.

කිසිදු පක්‍ෂ, පාට, ජාති භේදයකින් තොරව ඕනෑම විදේශගත ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයෙකුට මෙම සංවිධානයට සම්බන්ධ විය හැක. මෙය ලංකාවෙන් පරිබාහිරව වෙසෙන සියලුම ලාංකිකයන්ගේ සංවිධානයයි. එසේම මෙම සංවිධානයේ විශේෂත්වය වන්නේ විවිධ රටවල වෙසෙනා ලාංකිකයන්ගේ ඒ ඒ රටවල පැන නැගී ඇති ගැටළු එම රටවලදීම විසඳා ගැනීම සඳහා වන සංවිධානයක් පමණක් නොව එම ප්‍රශ්න පිළිබද ශ්‍රී ලංකාව තුළද හඩක් නගමින් විසදුම් සෙවීමට පිහිටවූ සංවිධානයකි.

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.