For the very first time, a Sri Lankan National Day event was held on board the ‘Magistic’ cruise in Sydney on 4 February. Organised by the Consulate General in New South Wales, the cruise hosted diplomats, members of parliament, media, defence personnel, business and community leaders and friends of Sri Lanka.
With the proud Sri Lankan flags fluttering, the Sri Lankan National Day cruise went past the famous Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge, Shark Island and other Sydney icons, for two hours with guests enjoying a delightful mix of Sri Lankan and Australian delicacies; kiribath, kokis, Sri Lankan fish rolls, vadai, battered prawns, among other delicious finger foods. The best of Sri Lanka’s Dilmah Tea and traditional delicacies, interspersed with iced tea mocktails and special Colombo sling giner ale. Consul General Ambassador Bandula Jayasekara proposed the toast with a glass of Sri Lanka’s Dilmah iced tea.
A tribute was paid to a dear friend of Sri Lanka, the late Tony Greig. The new Sri Lankan cricket t-shirt and a limited edition plaque of the world record batting partnership (one of just 400 pieces singed by Mahela and Kumar recording the highest partnership in cricket) was presented to Tony’s son, Tom, who follows in his father’s cricketing footsteps.
The festivities kicked off with Greig’s daughter, Beau, singing the Australian National Anthem and Chiranie Kulatilake singing the Sri Lankan national anthem. Later, celebrity Sri Lankan- Australian Chef and author of My Sri Lankan Kitchen Peter Kuruvita and Bree Hutchins regaled the guests with stories about the spices and flavours of Sri Lanka and how much the island nation meant to them.
Sri Lankan band led by Mastero Shelton Premaratnes son dished out Sri Lankan songs of yesteryear and Sri Lankan ballads during the two hours on board.
The invitees to the event were encouraged to wear traditional dress, and many obliged by wearing sarongs, osaris and sarees, lending colour and vibrance to the event.
Bond of friendship
In his speech, Ambassador Bandula Jayasekara Consul General praised Sri Lanka and Australia for having strengthened their relationship like never before. He thanked the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and the people of Australia for standing by Sri Lanka as true friends. He went on to say, “We are sure that the bond of friendship established between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Tony Abbot will remain for a very long time,” Ambassador Jayasekara also spoke about the successful visit undertaken by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Prof G.L. Peiris to Sydney for the Business Forum with the participation of Barry O Farrell, Premier of New South Wales with the Ministers address at the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
He lauded the tremendous interest among Australians to invest in Sri Lanka, led by James Packer, saying that even Shane Warne wanted to invest in Sri Lanka and was expected to travel to the island soon. He recognised the presence of Dr. Lakshman Jayaweera, Chairman of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, for building the bridges of investment between Sri Lanka and Australia. This year, he said he hoped to give new life to the Sri Lanka-Australia Business Council, building on the opportunities provided by a renewed bilateral relationship.
The guest of honour on this National Day was Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello who was also representing the Premier of New South Wales. In his address, the Minister went on to affirm the positive role of Sri Lankans in the Australian community, particularly their strong presence in the tertiary education sector. He ended by embracing the richness of Sri Lankan culture, its contribution to the multicultural fabric of Australia, and signalled the NSW government’s intention to set up a Sri Lankan Ministerial Committee to help smooth dialogue between the two countries.Among the special guests this evening were former Federal Minister of Sports and Director of CPH Holdings Mark Arbib, eminent Professors Siri Kannangara and Naren Chitty, Vivian Greig wife of late Tony Greig and children, Shemara Wickramanayake, Head of Macquarie Funds Group , Cameron Mcleod, Manager of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, General Michael Slater, Commander Forces Command in the Australian Defence Force, Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas, Rina Hores – Executive Director, Donald Bradman Foundation. The event was supported by the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s Dilmah Tea, Ananda Rajapaksa, Agx Intl, Universal Magazines, Digital Copy Centre, Blue Elephant restaurant and, Kingsgrove sports.