Sinhala Buddhist activist Karuna Basnayake felicitated
Press Release by British Sri Lankan Forum.
Mr Karuna Basnayake (86) was recently honoured by British Sri Lankan Forum (BSLF) for his long term commitment towards the Sinhala and Buddhist community by awarding a special commemorative plaque in presence of a large gathering in London. Mr Wimal Edirweera, President of Sinhala Centre was invited to present the award to Mr Basnayake.
Mr Basnayake, a patriotic senior citizen in our community has been involved in community work almost from his arrival in the UK well over 40 years. He was the 1st to open up a Sri Lankan shop in Hampstead, London. His clients at the time were people like former London Mayour Ken Livingston, distinguished Labour Party members like Venessa Redgrave and many more.
Mr Basnayake has been outspoken fearless critic of terrorist atrocities committed against Sinhala Buddhists and continued his patriotic work for number of years for the benefit of the nation. He was deeply touched when the Anuradhapura massacre occurred in 1985 and gunned down monks, nuns and 146 innocent civilians as they were worshipping inside the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi sacred Buddhist shrine and the Aranthalawa Massacre in June, 1987 killing 33 Buddhist monks and innocent villagers by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Mr Basnayake took the initiative to organise a remembrance pinkama in 1998, in memory of those who have died from terrorist attacks just after LTTE attacked most venerated Buddhist shrine, Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy killing 23 innocent worshippers including two infants and injuring large number of peaceful innocent civilians, who were on their way to the holy temple that morning. Since then his remembrance pinkama still continues to date in every January and two years ago BSLF members came forward in support of Mr Basnayake to continue this noble annual event and held its 16th commemoration last January.
He has been actively involved in welfare of poor and needy Sri Lankans and more recently resettlement and rehabilitation of war victims in rural areas of Sri Lanka. He has been a great asset to the Sinhala community in the UK and most of his work has been done without any publicity and keep in line with his Buddhist principles. He has been involved in London Buddhist Vihara from its inception and has also been an active member of Amarawathi Buddhist Monastery at Hamel Hampstead.
Mr Basnayake has a special affinity for art and sculpture. He made his debut in sculpturing at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury where he sculptured the life size bust of one of the most revered Buddhists in the 20th century 'Anagarika' Dharmapala. In 2004, a Buddhist statue (Samadhi Buddha - Anuradhadura era, Sri Lanka, about 3-4 AD) sculptured by Karuna Basnayaka won the People’s Prize award and the winning Buddha statue was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. A large gathering of both British and Sri Lankan friends were there on the opening day to see his works and amongst them was Professor Lakshman Perera.
On behalf of all the members of British Sri Lankan Forum, its President Janaka Alahapperuma said that this is a small token of gratitude for Mr Basnayake’s invaluable services to the community over a number of years. He also expressed his sincere appreciation to Mrs Prema Basnayake for all her assistance throughout this period. He further said BSLF would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr and Mrs Karuna Basnayake, good health and happiness for many more years to come. Large number of BSLF members, including its patrons Dr M.B.Ranatunga and Dr R.N.De.S. Amarasekera, supporters and well wishes were present at the occasion.