Seasons Greetings from Former Consul General – Lal Wickrematunge

merry-christmas

I wish all Sr Lankan expatriates and their families the very best in the New Year. Whilst 

I wish everyone Happy Holidays I am concerned over those who have been affected by the raging fires

In New South Wales and Queensland and

Do hope that they are brought under control 

Speedily. A big Thank You to those brave firefighters 

Working to keep everyone safe. 

 

Lal Wickrematunge 

Former Consul General 




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Lal Wickrematunge bids Adieu – By Dilip Kumar

Lal with Dulip Shemara and Arun

Australia is an important ally of Sri Lanka and diplomatic relations between the two countries date back to 1947. Sri Lanka by such consideration picked their diplomats to Australia and more so to the business capital of Sydney, after much consideration. When Lal Wickrematunge was posted to Sydney, late 2015 there was but curiosity among the vast group of Sri Lankan origin people who had heard of him as a student of St Thomas’ Prep School and St Benedicts College, Newspaper Publisher and former Cricketer, administrator and not as a Diplomat. Sri Lankan Australians watched him carefully. Lal hit the deck running. Within months many asked if our new Consul General slept at all.He was present at the Buddhist Temple, Catholic Church, Hindu Kovil and the Mosque. He was on the Cricket pitch and Golf Course. No musical entertainment show, drama or a funeral was without his presence. Many a time he would buy a ticket and enter discretely to watch a charity concert and on other occasions be seen making a short but brilliant speech to an erudite audience. Above all he made friends. They were from a wide array of Australian Politicians to Sri Lankan professionals, University students et al.

 

Lal was the quintessential diplomat, humble to a fault, professional at all times but his easy manner made him approachable. Underneath that demeanor was a burning fire to portray Sri Lanka in more than fair light during many a telling time for his country.The real deal Diplomat he was, Lal did not show that he was victorious when he was winning such battles. He had that uncanny ability to make diverse groups come together as a cohesive unit. This was abundantly evident when he brought the diverse ethnic communities of Sri Lankan origin in Sydney and Queensland together under one umbrella after many years of staying clear of each other. Lankan national events were organised by a united group show casing that a single Sri lankan identity is but the most prudent way forward. A member of one community shared  his experience after one such meeting with the Consul General stating that the diverse group left the Consulate feeling that coming together as Sri lankans was their idea and not that of the Consul General. Such was his persuasive skill. The forging of a common Sri Lankan identity by Lal was telecast on Australian TV as an example to all Sri Lankans worldwide. The TV presenter went as far as to say ” one man in Sydney has achieved this remarkable success….” referring to Consul General Lal Wickrematunge. 

 

He with his willing staff at the Consulate were professional and efficient. He led by example and his staff too were an extension of his thought process. The Sri lankan National days held at prestigious locations such as the UTS University Hall, The Great Hall of the Sydney University and the Conservatorium of Music were attended by over 500 invitees. There were cultural dancers, musicians of diverse Sri Lankan ethnic background performing, with some even flown in from Sri Lanka. As expat Sri lankans we felt proud to showcase our  Culture, Music, Dance and Social standing to an Australian and World community. The Australian political and Business leaders as well as Diplomats from around the world were full of praise at the high standards of these events. You made us stand tall.

 

He  took charge of  a young lad who had lost his job, money, passport, his clothes, wandering around in an unstable mental state. Lal reached out to the lads old school mates  and facilitated his departure back to Sri lanka. He stood firm together with his Consul Ms Pramuditha Manusinghe to seek the release of  another lad unfairly incarcerated with a first degree terror charge with  much success. He took Consular services to the sick, disabled and elderly to their doorstep. Seniors meetings in Sydney was never without the presence of Lal.

 

He did not shy away from the Sri lankan refugee community either. Recently Lal was spotted at a Cricket tournament where a team of Sri Lankan refugees named Oceans 12 took part eventually becoming Champions. The team were clamoring to be photographed with the genial Consul General who readily obliged. He asked the lads to come home and play cricket for their country of birth. He was at ease with humanity.

 

Sri Lanka has been hit by man made and natural disasters in the recent past and Australia has always put up their hand to support the small island nation. It was to Lal’s credit that he had built up contacts with a few intellectuals whose advice he sought on many matters. On one such discussion I mentioned to him that Australian farmers in New South wales were reeling under a severe drought and it maybe a good idea to reciprocate Australia’s benevolence. Lo and behold, within a couple of weeks he had mustered the expat Sri lankans to donate 150 crates of dry rations, all piled up in his official residence, to be delivered to the farming community in NSW, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Sydney. Australian authorities will not forget the kindness shown by the Sri Lankan community nor the role played by the outgoing Consul General.

 

The Arch Bishop of New South Wales as the Chief Celebrant conducted a special memorial mass at the iconic St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney to commemorate and pray for the repose of the souls of the Easter Sunday bomb victims organised by the catholic community together with the Consulate General Office of Sri Lanka which drew a mammoth crowd. The church was packed to the rafters and representation of the Australian Government, both Federal and State were at a high level. During his brief speech at the candlelit vigil in the forecourt of the iconic Cathedral following  Mass, Lal said to an emotional crowd ” We have overcome with strength and fortitude, man made disasters before and we will do so again” . The crowd spontaneously broke into singing Sri Lanka Matha bringing tears to the eyes of all present. He was the master conductor and the people were his orchestra.

 

The stamp of success he leaves behind can be measured by no mean terms when Shemara  Wikramanayake the CEO of MacQuari Group during an exclusive farewell to Lal paid glowing tribute to his brand of diplomacy which she said, was never seen before. High praise indeed. So was the encomiam from Head of DFAT, Sydney. Lal leaves behind an enviable legacy and big shoes to fill. The Australian Sri Lankan community as well as those who had the fortune to meet him, will miss him. Go forth and contribute as best as you always will Consul General Lal Wickrematunge.

Veni Vidi Vici.

 

Dilip Kumar



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Press Release

Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney

The Sri Lanka and Australia Chamber of Commerce (SLACC) together with Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Sydney and Gilbert and Tobin Lawyers organised a Business Networking Event to explore business and investment opportunities in Sri Lanka on Tuesday 1st October 2019 in Sydney CBD.

Welcoming the guests, the President of Sri Lanka-Australia Chamber of Commerce, Kalum de Silva emphasised that major objective of this programme was to disseminate information on Sri Lanka’s business potentials among the Australian entrepreneurs.

Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Canberra J.C. Weliamuna, in his first meeting with the business community after assuming duties in Australia, remarked the importance of trade and economic collaborations between Sri Lanka and Australia.  He said more opportunities are open for Australian businessman to explore the Sri Lankan market and also to expand into the regions, as well as the global destinations.

Partner of Gilbert and Tobin Lawyers, Danny Tobin mentioned that he and his team were glad to facilitate business proposals between the two countries. Consul Commercial Abdul Raheem made a comprehensive presentation on Trade and Investment opportunities in Sri Lanka for Australian businessmen who are looking at Sri Lanka as an investment destination. Peter Harris, Chief Business Development Officer of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) spoke about their Sri Lankan experience in establishing a UTS branch in Colombo for higher education in technical studies.

Consul General Lal Wickrematunge, in his closing remarks, invited the Australian business community to visit Sri Lanka and explore trading opportunities beyond Sri Lankan market as numbers of Free Trade Agreements are in place and Sri Lanka is also currently having discussions with a number of trading partners to conclude Free Trade and enhanced Economic Cooperation Agreements. 

Sri Lanka and Australia enjoy cordial trade and economic relations for decades and two-way trade was USD 351/- million in 2018 registering the balance of trade of USD 35 million in favour of Sri Lanka. Australia and Sri Lanka signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2017 and two rounds of senior officials’ meetings were held in Australia and Sri Lanka in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Consulate General of Sri Lanka

Sydney

02/10/2019

 

Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney Sri Lanka Business Networking Event in Sydney



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Fare thee well Lal Wickrematunge – diplomat extraordinaire

By Aubrey Joachim

Mr-Lal-Wicrematunga Consul General Lal Wickrematunge

 

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.



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Sri Lanka Makes Stronger Presence at the Fine Food Australia – 2019

The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Sydney in collaboration and coordination with the Coconut Development Authority (CDA) and the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) organized Sri Lankan Pavilion at the Fine Food Australia from 9th to 12th September 2019 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.

Ten Sri Lankan coconut exporters were housed in the CDA Pavilion and four Ceylon Tea companies were under the Tea Board Pavilion.  In addition, eight Sri Lankan individual exporters representing food sectors participated and promoted Sri Lankan value added food products at Find Food Australia 2019.

The Sri Lankan coconut sector business delegation was led by Udaya Rupasinghe, Chairman of CDA.  This year’s highlight of the CDA pavilion was the Sri Lankan food demonstrations utilizing coconut ingredients. This initiative was introduced for the first time by the CDA to popularize the usage of coconut ingredients among the buyers and consumers at an international food exhibition.

During Fine Food Australia, the Consulate General of Sri Lanka organized a business breakfast networking meeting for the Sri Lankan exporters inviting Australian food importers and distributors. Sampath Samarawickrema, Director/Marketing of the CDA made the presentation to the audience focusing the varieties of value-added Sri Lankan coconut products which can be catered by the Sri Lankan suppliers to the Australian consumers.

Consul General, Lal Wickrematunge and Consul Commercial, Abdul Raheem of Sri Lanka Consulate General in Sydney also spoke at this B2B session elaborating the market expansion opportunities with Australia and the importance of market presence for Sri Lankan products in Australia. Representatives from the Export Council of Australia, New South Wales Business Chamber, Australian Business Summit Council and Austrade/DFAT participated at the interactions. Roy McCullah from the Australian Trade and Logistics Corporation made a brief presentation on market entry supports to Australia.

Fine Food Australia is the largest international trade event for the food industry featuring the latest ingredients, equipment and menu ideas for any food business. Numerous exhibitors from Australia and abroad presented the latest products to the industry. Visitors were buyers and decision makers from retail, foodservice and hospitality. Fine Food Australia is an excellent opportunity to participants to learn about the new trends in the markets and the food industry.

Consulate General of Sri Lanka

Sydney  

Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 ( Fine Food Australia – 2019 (

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PRESS RELEASE

Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia

Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia Sri Lanka MICE Road Show in Sydney – Australia

The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) in collaboration with the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Sydney organised a Sri Lankan MICE Destination Promotion at Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on Thursday, 5th September 2019. Twenty member Sri Lankan MICE trade delegation led by Chairman, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau participated at the B2B meeting followed by a roadshow with Australian counterparts.

The Sri Lankan MICE destination promotion was held in Australia after lapse of eight years and the objective of organising MICE Roadshows in Melbourne and Sydney this year were to capitalise the Australian market and to position Sri Lanka as a cost efficient and attractive destination for global conferences, corporate events and incentive travel.

Australia is also shaping up to be a key market for Sri Lanka’s MICE sector with flight connectivity and the convenience for travel between the two countries will continue to improve. Sri Lankan Airlines is planning to operate direct flights from Sydney from next year and the Australian budget airline Jetstar is also planning to start flights to Sri Lanka. Tourist arrivals from Australia have also been improving despite of the recent setback for the Sri Lankan travel industry.

Kumar De Silva, Chairman/SLCB and the Business Development Manager of the Sri Lankan Airline office in Melbourne, Dilshan made presentations in highlighting Sri Lanka’s MICE attractions.  Consul General, Lal Wickrematunge and Consul Commercial, Abdul Raheem also spoke at the occasion. ChannaUpluli Dance Group entertained the audience with mesmerizing cultural performances.  

Sri Lankan MICE trade representative and the Sri Lankan Airline offered raffle prizes for the Australian participants at Roadshows in Melbourne and Sydney. The Programme was coordinated by Ms. Achini Dandunnage, Senior Manager/SLCB and Consul Commercial of the Sri Lanka Consulate General in Sydney.

Consulate General of Sri Lanka

Sydney

6th September 2019


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Hopper Night at Toongabbie DISH

When Chef Manjula Fernando decided to close down DISH Restaurant in Toongabbie to concentrate on his thriving Glebe restaurant, the Sri Lankan community that patronized this cosy and homely eatery quickly went into action; calls, email and sms messages along with whatsapp notifications went rampant to secure table bookings for the final clout of the famous “All you can eat hopper feed”.  Large table bookings were made well in advance and the typical “last minute” diners were placed on a waiting list and some, regrettably missed out entirely.  It was a sell-out night and the entire restaurant was packed to capacity. Manjula and his very courteous staff lived up to expectation and did not disappoint the loyal diners who converged for this last hurrah. 

“A lot of people had been asking me to open in the city,” said Manjula. “Sri Lankans can more easily bring their friends to Glebe. They would tell me there was no proper place to take their friends to try real Sri Lankan food”.  With several restaurants already operating in the western suburbs (mostly kaddai style with a couple of exceptions) the restaurant which he opened in Glebe two years ago has proved to be a success with its open-kitchen layout. 

It was a sad day in many ways for the faithful diners and staff alike at Toongabbie. Having occupied these premises for 4 years, the ‘last supper’ on May 17th was a fitting way to bring the curtain down with a fine selection of accompaniments for the hopper obsessed patrons!

Maestro guitarist and singer Roger Menzies was in attendance fittingly supported by well-known Sri Lankan personality, the ageless and bouncing with energy Walter Seneviratne and the golden voice of Guy Varley. Well known music personality, Desmond De Silva a diner that night kindly obliged   with a cameo appearance and when saxophonist extraordinaire Loxly Attan stepped up to the plate, it was sheer musical delight ; a section of the restaurant quickly transformed into a dance floor to burn off the calories of a delightful dinner.

Sri Lankan Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge graced this occasion and very kindly made a presentation acknowledging the tremendous work Manjula, his wife and staff have rendered towards the Sri Lankan community at large.   

We thank the loyal staff at Toongabbie DISH for their services over the years and wish Mangula and his team the best of luck at Glebe – DISH Restaurant is situated at 381 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, NSW

(Open for Lunch & dinner, closed Tuesdays)

Click here or on the photos below to view the full album on eLanka Facebook page

Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH Hopper Night - Toongabbie DISH

 

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Community Watch – Engaging and intervening for a safer Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimBy Aubrey Joachim

To Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans terrorism is not a new experience. The country suffered a 30 year scourge where the intent of the perpetrators was achieving a specific political and demographic outcome. The country is now facing a type of terrorism driven by an entirely different global agenda – one of ideology and hate of a way of life that is alien to the warped beliefs of a particular minority group. How Sri Lanka became fertile ground for such ideology is a topic for another day. The immediate need is for a strategy to curb and eliminate the cancerous spread of this malice not just in Sri Lanka but wherever it may take root. It must also be recognised that an ideology cannot be confined to geographical or spatial boundaries. Its tentacles can permeate across physical borders – much like crypto currencies in the world of fintech. Major global terrorism incidents have been choreographed and managed via the dark web and often from locations far removed from the actual incidents. Welcome to the age of disruptive terrorism.

It is in this context that it was very fitting for the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney to organise a gathering of Sri Lankan diaspora to meet with NSW Police to understand some of the complexities and inter-relationships between the incidents back in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales – just as it would be relevant to Sri Lankan diaspora anywhere in the world. Officers from various quarters of NSW Police as well as the Community engagement Manager of Multicultural New South Wales, addressed the 100-strong gathering representing different Sri Lankan community groups at the Redfern Town Hall last Wednesday.

NSW Police Bias Crime Coordinator Mark Dance and Liason Officer Jade Istanbouli set the tone for the rest of the evening. Their key message was that in order to tackle bias crime aka ‘hate crime’, engagement and intervention was the key. The multi-cultural liaison coordinator advised the audience that multi-cultural community liaison officers were spread across a number of local area Police Commands and could be communicated with in confidence should there be any cause for concern among the community in the context of suspicious activity. A detective inspector explained the processes adopted by the Police to pre-empt criminal activity. He even said that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka had triggered processes where the Sri Lankan community at this end came under observation to prevent any fallout. He urged the community to be vigilant and observant. To a question from the floor regarding the context of vigilance he replied that anything unusual needed to be brought to the attention of the Police, no matter how trivial.

How should therefore the Sri Lankan community in Australia contribute to preventing hate crime at this end, in Sri Lanka or even further afield? While the fight against all forms of crime has kept abreast of technological evolution it now depends extensively on analytics and insight to prevent incidents. The data required to monitor and track such crime must be harvested from a number of sources. Crime agencies anywhere have significant access to publicly available data as well as specific data captured by various government agencies, financial institutions and the like. However, of significant importance in the current context of hate related terrorism is visual and sentiment data. Sentiments are at the heart of bias/ hate crime. Such data cannot easily be captured by sensors or devices. Humans are the best oracles for capturing such data. Do we observe suspicious behaviour? Do we notice objects that are out of place in particular surrounds? Do we notice a shift in attitude and mindset of persons? Are dress and personal appearances of individuals changing? Do we observe out-of-character comments made by individuals? Such data needs to be brought to the attention of the authorities. In this digital age anyone can contribute to prevention of biased crime. How often are radical comments or views on social media ignored? Can social media patterns be observed? Such observations are invaluable sources of sentiment data and in this day and age every concerned citizen must play their part in harvesting this data. This is a major role that the wider community can play in the current context.

In bringing the evening to a close, Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge made some pertinent comments to the audience that perhaps sheds some light on how and why Sri Lanka finds itself in its present predicament and how the country and its people can rise above the setbacks. The major observation is that we must recognise that we are ‘one’ Sri Lanka. For far too long we have let language, religious and ethnic/ racial biases influence our collective thinking. This weakness has allowed fault lines to emerge and misdemeanours within groups go unchecked. If as a collective Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia we are to be the eyes and ears for preventing hate related incidents back home – irrespective of the perpetrator groups, then we have to be united as ‘one’ Sri Lankan diaspora shedding ethnic and religious differences and instead confronting good versus evil.

Photos from The NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Click here or on the photos below to view the full album of photos on eLanka Facebook page

 

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney  NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Community Watch – Engaging and intervening for a safer Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimBy Aubrey Joachim

To Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans terrorism is not a new experience. The country suffered a 30 year scourge where the intent of the perpetrators was achieving a specific political and demographic outcome. The country is now facing a type of terrorism driven by an entirely different global agenda – one of ideology and hate of a way of life that is alien to the warped beliefs of a particular minority group. How Sri Lanka became fertile ground for such ideology is a topic for another day. The immediate need is for a strategy to curb and eliminate the cancerous spread of this malice not just in Sri Lanka but wherever it may take root. It must also be recognised that an ideology cannot be confined to geographical or spatial boundaries. Its tentacles can permeate across physical borders – much like crypto currencies in the world of fintech. Major global terrorism incidents have been choreographed and managed via the dark web and often from locations far removed from the actual incidents. Welcome to the age of disruptive terrorism.

It is in this context that it was very fitting for the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney to organise a gathering of Sri Lankan diaspora to meet with NSW Police to understand some of the complexities and inter-relationships between the incidents back in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales – just as it would be relevant to Sri Lankan diaspora anywhere in the world. Officers from various quarters of NSW Police as well as the Community engagement Manager of Multicultural New South Wales, addressed the 100-strong gathering representing different Sri Lankan community groups at the Redfern Town Hall last Wednesday.

NSW Police Bias Crime Coordinator Mark Dance and Liason Officer Jade Istanbouli set the tone for the rest of the evening. Their key message was that in order to tackle bias crime aka ‘hate crime’, engagement and intervention was the key. The multi-cultural liaison coordinator advised the audience that multi-cultural community liaison officers were spread across a number of local area Police Commands and could be communicated with in confidence should there be any cause for concern among the community in the context of suspicious activity. A detective inspector explained the processes adopted by the Police to pre-empt criminal activity. He even said that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka had triggered processes where the Sri Lankan community at this end came under observation to prevent any fallout. He urged the community to be vigilant and observant. To a question from the floor regarding the context of vigilance he replied that anything unusual needed to be brought to the attention of the Police, no matter how trivial.

How should therefore the Sri Lankan community in Australia contribute to preventing hate crime at this end, in Sri Lanka or even further afield? While the fight against all forms of crime has kept abreast of technological evolution it now depends extensively on analytics and insight to prevent incidents. The data required to monitor and track such crime must be harvested from a number of sources. Crime agencies anywhere have significant access to publicly available data as well as specific data captured by various government agencies, financial institutions and the like. However, of significant importance in the current context of hate related terrorism is visual and sentiment data. Sentiments are at the heart of bias/ hate crime. Such data cannot easily be captured by sensors or devices. Humans are the best oracles for capturing such data. Do we observe suspicious behaviour? Do we notice objects that are out of place in particular surrounds? Do we notice a shift in attitude and mindset of persons? Are dress and personal appearances of individuals changing? Do we observe out-of-character comments made by individuals? Such data needs to be brought to the attention of the authorities. In this digital age anyone can contribute to prevention of biased crime. How often are radical comments or views on social media ignored? Can social media patterns be observed? Such observations are invaluable sources of sentiment data and in this day and age every concerned citizen must play their part in harvesting this data. This is a major role that the wider community can play in the current context.

In bringing the evening to a close, Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge made some pertinent comments to the audience that perhaps sheds some light on how and why Sri Lanka finds itself in its present predicament and how the country and its people can rise above the setbacks. The major observation is that we must recognise that we are ‘one’ Sri Lanka. For far too long we have let language, religious and ethnic/ racial biases influence our collective thinking. This weakness has allowed fault lines to emerge and misdemeanours within groups go unchecked. If as a collective Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia we are to be the eyes and ears for preventing hate related incidents back home – irrespective of the perpetrator groups, then we have to be united as ‘one’ Sri Lankan diaspora shedding ethnic and religious differences and instead confronting good versus evil.




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