Farewell Felicitation for Mr. Lal Wickrematunga – Reporting from the Event Desk (Photos thanks to Janine Sebastian)
On a balmy Saturday evening on September 14th, The Sydney Bens felicitated their most prominent old boy; the affable and much loved Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunga. Canapés and drinks at the foyer bar provided the well-wishers ample opportunity to mingle and chat before being ushered into the beautifully decorated hall. The tempo of the night was expertly managed by the band Cazcade under the direction of leader and Sydney Old Bens’ President Yohan Pathinather.
Sherwell Fernando welcomed the guests and rightly described Mr. Wickrematunga as “a simple and popular gentleman who excelled in commercial & public service, sports and journalism”. The superlatives and achievements were further touched on with the honoured guest being called to the stage for a Q & A session with the effervescent and no stranger to public speaking, Mrs. Padmi Pathinather. In true style, Lal sailed through the questions with wit, charm and frankness indicative of his personality. When asked, “Who inspired you”? Without hesitation he went back to his schoolboy roots and mentioned Brother James “My boy, if you can look at your face in the mirror, then it does not matter”. The audience applauded knowing very well how close this statement strikes a chord with his character and the archetypal way he conducts himself. “You have been my strength and I will miss you” he said humbly. “Australia has been one of Sri Lanka’s closest allies”, he continued and impressed upon the audience how important it is to respect and accept the “Australian rules-based” society we live in. His talk ended with a rapturous standing ovation. The attendees at this event came from diverse backgrounds including a group from Melbourne plus table representations from Good Shepherd Convent Kotahena, St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia and Ceylon Society; a sellout function and testimony to the appreciation and respect people across the board have for our departing CG. A Benevolent individual who reaches out to people irrespective of status or race, Lal requested the night include a charity drive in honour of the Easter bombing victims. Several raffle prizes were awarded and Duke Ramachandran assisted in his incomparable manner, the auctioning of cricket memorabilia.
A wonderful spread of dinner was laid out and those with a sweet tooth were not disappointed either with dessert brought to the table while Band Cazcade unleashed its full arsenal – from nostalgic numbers to Rock, Rumba, Samba and Baila, if the rhythm was gonna get you, this was the night! Special vocalist Trevin Joseph who flew in especially from Sri Lanka and Nimal Punchihewa on drums attested their musical expertise as the revelers took to the dance floor in droves. At one stage tables had to be moved against the walls to accommodate more toe-tappers. The musical theme ‘My Way’ befitting his personality and character was embodied when Lal was invited by the band to sing the Perry Como old favourite “For The Good Times” – with a quiver in his voice and a tear in his eye, we all felt the sadness of his pending departure from our shores. THANK YOU MR. LAL WICKRAMATUNGA for the good times and for doing it your way in enriching our lives. We wish you well and can only hope regardless who comes into power; your services will be recognized to continue flying that Sri Lankan flag high as you have done.
* A special acknowledgement to major sponsor Enrichment Consulting and the Sydney Ben’s OBA for a wonderful night. A selection of photographs by Janine Sebastian is attached for your viewing pleasure.