Fare thee well Lal Wickrematunge – diplomat extraordinaire
By Aubrey Joachim
Diplomacy – the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way. Lal Wickrematunge epitomises this definition to the letter. It is for this reason that he is being felicitated by hundreds of Sri Lankans from multiple groups and social organisations in New South Wales leading up to his departure from Sydney mid-October.
His four year stint as Sri Lankan Consul General in Sydney has come to an end all too soon. There has not been a predecessor who has achieved as much as Lal has during his time in office. Perhaps the most important on the list of achievements has been his attempt to bring the whole community together and projecting a united Sri Lankan diaspora. Let’s hope that what he started will continue.
Lal had the uncanny ability to engage with every Sri Lankan group with ease. He even inculcated this mindset within the Consular staff. The Consul General’s choir – including himself – was a regular participant at the Sri Lanka Catholic Association Christmas Nativity play as well as the Wesak celebrations at the Buddhist temple. They sang Christmas carols with equal eloquence as they sang Bhakthi Gee. The choir comprised Buddhists, Christians as well as Muslims. He and his team also associated with the Hindu and Muslim communities. He made it a point to attend as many social events of Sri Lankan organisations – be they old school associations or other associations. He was equally comfortable at a ‘peduru party’ as he was at a Bell Birds dance party.
His ability to harness the community was unrivalled. Religious or ethnic background did not matter to Lal who as a Sinhalese Buddhist was the first non-Catholic to captain the cricket team of St. Benedict’s College in Colombo. His best friends included Tamils, Colombo Chetties, and Burghers – his neighbours in Kotahena. Even in his Consular role he knew whom he could call upon to get an outcome – a wealthy Australian Sri Lankan business person to fund an event or multi-ethnic Sri Lankan volunteers to contribute their trade skills at the Buddhist temple when needed.
The ultimate proof of his ability to bring all Sri Lankans together irrespective of religion or ethnicity was when he worked with the Sri Lankan Catholic Chaplain in Sydney and the Archbishop of the Sydney diocese to bring together the largest gathering of Australian Sri Lankans to a memorial service for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings at the premier Catholic Shrine in Sydney – St. Mary’s Cathedral. He showed Australia what a united community the Sri Lankans can be.
Diplomacy is also – the profession, activity or skill of managing international relations, by a country’s representative abroad. Lal was not a professional diplomat, yet he could out-do those schooled in professional diplomacy by a mile. For a start his command of the English language was beyond excellent. Facing a TV camera or being grilled by journalists was not a challenge but an opportunity looked forward to. His media background was an advantage. He was not only articulate but able to critically unravel and address issues. Whenever he was required to bat for Sri Lanka he played a good innings. Lal however did not just talk – he walked the talk. His tenure as Consul General saw a number of innovative trade promotional events that portrayed Sri Lanka’s products and services as well as tourism opportunities. He thought outside the box.
Each February 4th Lal organised the Sri Lankan independence celebrations on a platform that demonstrated a perspective of the country that showed the wider Australian community as well as the diplomatic circle with whom he developed a rapport the rich historical and cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka and made the Sri Lankan diaspora proud of their homeland. He was able to use his influence and ingenuity in organising these events. He himself was a proud Sri Lankan.
Lal always put the development of the country front and centre not only in the promotion of trade or tourism but also in doing whatever he could to lift the competencies and educational standards in Sri Lanka. Perhaps his last demonstration of negotiation skill in this context was convincing a leading Australian university to open a campus in Colombo not only for the benefit of Sri Lankan students but also to attract regional students to an education hub in Colombo.
Lal Wickrematunge the man will also long be remembered for the selfless manner in which he carried out his role. He had no personal agendas. No long term diplomatic ambitions, no offspring to benefit from his posting. It can truly be said that he did it for his country and his countrymen. He treated all his consular staff with equal human dignity be they professional diplomats or mere minor staff and drivers. He was a genuine human being.
In concluding it will be fitting to ponder the words of the famous poet Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘If’. It truly portrays all that is good and virtuous of the person that is Lal Wickrematunge.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Fare thee well Sir, in whatever you do and in whatever direction you go. Sri Lanka needs more of your ilk.
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death,
He is survived by his 5 stepchildren;
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
SPEECH, STATE DINNER
THE ROSE GARDEN, THE WHITE HOUSE
FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2019
PRIME MINISTER: Well he got me, Dame Mary, my great, great aunt would be very, very proud.
Mr. President, First Lady Mrs. Trump, thank you so much Mrs. Trump for the amazing night you’ve created for us here.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Jenny and I are truly grateful for this wonderful honour and the hospitality that you Mr. President the First Lady have extended to us and to our country.
As we join you here tonight, in the home, your home, and that of the American Presidency.
This of course was once the home of President Teddy Roosevelt who I’ve always greatly admired. He was also a New Yorker, he was also unconventional.
He was no captive of the establishment. He was also accomplished. Indeed some might say a maverick. He was his own man. He was a do-er and above all he was inspired by the great character of the American people. There is nothing he believed his nation could not do.
And this is the heart of American greatness. Mr. President, your belief in America and its people echoes this great spirit of that great president.
And it’s backed up by your life’s experience and the passion and work of your Presidency.
And Mrs. Trump, your kindness, warmth, and quiet grace in the welcome to Jenny and I and especially here tonight has been very special. And as Jen has said, very sweet.
General Washington once said it is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones. But the same is true of the friendship of nations.
Australia will never be accused of a indifference in our friendship to the United States.
And tonight Mr. President we are reminded that the United States feels the same way especially under your leadership.
I’ve noticed tonight the Marines who are on duty tonight, and I thank you for your service. But not just to the United States but to our alliance as well.
In 1943 the US Marine 1st Division was engaged in the first ever large scale U.S. offensive against the Japanese at Guadalcanal. At the same time Australian forces were in New Guinea also locked in the fiercest of some battles against the Japanese.
We both prevailed each doing our bit. Each carrying our own weight.
When the US Marine 1st Division arrived in Melbourne after six months of heavy fighting they were welcomed with a rendition of the Australian fake anthem Waltzing Matilda.
More than 75 years later the first division still plays Waltzing Matilda whenever they ship out.
It’s true Mr President, we have been in a lot of battles. But we have also stood together to realise the dividend of peace. Prosperity that comes from our embrace of enterprise and free markets and the rule of law. Our great immigration societies, education, liberal democracy and a commitment to the fulfilment of human potential.
This has been importantly included in our work together to expand the frontiers of science, technologies, and exploration.
To reach into space as we first did together 50 years ago.
When you launched, and we kept Apollo 11 in contact through the honeysuckle project, with earth and we beamed those most famous of images of all time to an enthralled and inspired humanity.
Events that no doubt inspired a young Andy Thomas from Adelaide who’s with us here tonight to launch into space on the Endeavour. Almost 30 years later. And now we hope to do this again under the vision of your Presidency, Mr President.
Our generation and our times call this great republic and our great Commonwealth to live up to the calling of young free nations to continually point the way to freedom.
In Australia we are reminded of this friendship by the great spire with the eagle atop that looks out across our nation’s capital in Canberra.
And earlier today we gifted a bronze statue of Les ‘Bull’ Alan, an Australian soldier carrying a wounded Marine off the battlefield on steep slopes in New Guinea in 1943 for is gallantry he was awarded the US Silver Star and the Military Medal whilst fighting alongside US troops.
Mr President we would be honoured if you would permit Australia as a gift to erect a life-sized memorial of this image here in Washington, at a place of your choosing, as a constant reminder of our dedication to our American friends and the bonds we have formed.
But for now ladies and gentlemen please join me in a toast.
To 100 years of mateship, and to 100 more.
To the people of these United States to the President and his magnificent First Lady.
And may God bless America.
Contact: Rosa Stathis, 0417 669 223
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney
Press Office of the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, Canberra
The All Blacks will for the first time in a long spell venture into the unknown in Japan for the latest edition of the William Web Ellis World Cup as the gap between themselves and the rest have narrowed comprehensively to make it within reach of a handful of nations.
Kieran Reid’s men are on a mission for a hat-trick of conquests after Richie McCaw led the Blacks to memorable triumphs at the last two editions, the last in England over the Wallabies.
For decades the All Blacks have gone to World Cup’s with a clear gap ahead of all nations and favourites to win the event. But in many episodes, they fell short usurped by the French on two occasions before the final.
New Zealand have been the most consistently ranked number one team since the introduction of IRB World Rankings, having held the number one ranking for more than 85 percent of the time during this period. South Africa and England make up the remainder.
The All Blacks have fittingly won the event on the most number of occasions (3), the last two and in 1987, followed by arch rivals the Wallabies and the Springboks two apiece and England once. The record clearly indicates the Southern Hemisphere dominance of the World Cup with the Englishmen being the solitary success story for the Northerners.
Wales will lead the Northern Hemisphere challenge as the most successful team in recent months. But the French have had a penchant for delivering the unexpected when they compete in the World Cup. Ask the All Blacks and they will readily testify to this.
The World Cup in Japan the first ever held in Asia sees the top twenty teams in the world go head to head to showcase their own brand of rugby in an event that will be watched by millions of viewers worldwide.
To see the styles of the Russians, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay, USA, Canada, Namibia and Italy will be a feature as they strive to stamp their class on the world stage. On form there should be a few upsets but the teams that have shown class and consistency are expected to rise to the top come crunch time.
Wales, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and England loom as the strongest challengers in Japan as the All Blacks strive to stay ahead of the closing pack.
It will no doubt be a titanic episode this time round and indications after the kickoff where the host nation knocked off the Russians in the tournament opener 30-10 shows Asia stepping up to the plate to challenge the might of the dominant nations.
A lush green village
I wish I could go.
The traveller believes
He will return home one day
But nobody leaving home ever returns.
The narrow alleys, the puja mandaps
Like a timeless traveller
I miss my town.
I am the luckiest
A divine river sings to me
Every moment every day.
Riding a boat on you everyday
Listening to the murmurs
That’s what I dream everyday.
Note to my destiny
You’ve taken me out of Bahadurpur village
But you won’t ever dare take
The Bahadurpur out of me.
The Sri Lanka Association of New South Wales Inc (SLANSW) Annual Winter Ball 2019 ‘Pride and Passion’ was held on a grand scale on Saturday, the 7th of September at the Mercure Hotel, Liverpool. Attracting a full house, the event was a great success raising awareness and funds towards the SLANSW’s seniors programs.
Chief Guest for the occasion was the newly appointed High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Australia, H.E Mr. J.C. Weliamuna.
There were a number of distinguished guests present including, Mr Lal Wickramatunga, the Sri Lankan Consul General for New South Wales and Queensland, the Honourable Mr Kevin Conolly, Member for Riverstone and Parliamentary Secretary for Education and the Honourable Ms Jodi Mckay, Leader of the Opposition of the Parliament of New South Wales.
The curtain raiser was a beautiful fusion dance performed by Ms Sasani Jayasinghe and the troupe.
The event commenced with the welcome speech by the President of the SLANSW Dr (Mrs) Gnani Thenabadu. In, H.E Mr. J.C. Weliamuna’s inaugural address to the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales, emphasized the need to further strengthen the bilateral relationship between Australia and Sri Lanka and reinvigorate trade and ‘people-to-people links’. Mr.Weliamuna took the opportunity to thank the outgoing Consul General, Mr Lal Wickramatunga, for his initiative to bring all Sri Lankan ethnic groups together and promote trade and tourism. The Consul General, Mr Lal Wickramatunga, arguably the most popular Consul General we have had in Sydney, appealed to the Sri Lankan expatriate community to help the motherland which had suffered from a brain drain to share their knowledge and experiences gained from living in a developed country. Both, the Honourable Mr Kevin Conolly and the Honourable Ms Jodi Mckay recognised the significant contribution made by Sri Lankans to the Australian community.
Guests were quick to their feet when popular band ‘The Kamis’ took to the stage to perform hits from good old nostalgic Waltz and Quickstep numbers to Rock, Samba, Ramba and also some ‘ABBA’ numbers.
Guests were welcomed to participate in a raffle draw and a charity auction consisting of cricket memorabilia from Sri Lankan cricket legends including Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vass, Mahela Jayawardana and the Sri Lankan T20 World Cup 2015 team. The MC of the event Mr Duke Ramachandran conducted the auction professionally which brought good offers for all the auctioned items with all proceeds going to the SLANSW’s senior citizen programs.
Over 25 electronic banners of the sponsors and portraits of the distinguished guests were displayed on the giant projector screen to run continuously during the event. There was a short Power Point presentation displaying the main activities carried out during the year by the SLANSW.
Special thanks to Mrs Sriyani Tennakoon for the elegant table arrangements, Mr.Saliya Tennakoon of Event360 for a wonderful job in stage management, sounds and lighting, D,J. Shankster for providing Sinhala pops and Baila hits, Roy Gunaratne of RoyGrafix, our official photographer for capturing the event beautifully as you can see from the photo gallery. Big thank you to Mr. Harry Solomons of Kingsgrove Sports, for his generous sponsorship and the Mercure Hotel for their delicious food and service. Last but not least the executive committee members and their families for their efforts for making the 2019 SLA Winter Ball ‘Pride and Passion’ a great success.