SRI LANKAN MUSLIM DIASPORA IN UK CELEBRATES 68TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY
Council of Sri Lankan Muslim Organisations (COSMOS-UK) and Sri Lanka Muslim Cultural Centre (SLMCC- Harrow) , jointly organised a special meeting and a prayer gathering in SLMCC Harrow, on Sunday 7th February from 4-7 pm , to mark the 68th Anniversary of Sri Lankan Independence, with a significant gathering in attendance.
They organized a similar event in 2003 too. Many distinguished guests graced this occasion, including HE Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, the acting High Commissioner for SL in UK, His Worshipful Councillor Suresh Krishna, the Mayor of Harrow , Ven. Dr.Handupelpola Mahinda Thero from the Sri Saddatissa International Buddhist Centre in Kingsbury, and local Members of Parliament for Harrow. Many high officials of the SL High Commission were also present.
The proceedings commenced with the recitation from the Holy Quran by Br. Aadhil Rizvi. Decked with Sri Lankan flags , the venue looked glamorous for this special occasion, while the audience rose up to sing the National Anthem at the start, with much emotion. COSMOS Chair Rizwan Wahab welcomed the special invitees and all those who came to honour this event of much importance to the Sri Lankan Diaspora belonging to all nationalities –Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims, with special mention about the significance of this event. Junaideen Mubarak ,Chair of SLMCC too spoke at the outset explaining the role played by SLMCC to host events of this nature.
HE Gunaratna who spoke at this event , commended the efforts made by COSMOS/SLMCC to commemorate this national event which relates to their motherland and also referred to the pivotal role played by the Muslim leaders of that time supporting the independence Motion, when the British insisted that three fourth of the population should be there to gain Independence .He also appreciated the role played by the Diaspora based in UK in the development process of Sri Lanka. He said that His Worshipful the Mayor of Harrow Suresh Krishna , who spoke next was incidentally one of the few other Sri Lankan born Mayors in Harrow. (There were other previous Sri Lankan Mayors in Harrow ; Nizam Ismail who hailed from Galle in South Sri Lanka was also one of the previous mayors, who graced this occasion). He expressed appreciation for the useful role played by the SL Muslim community both in UK and back in Sri Lanka. Ven . Mahinda Thero from the Kingsbury Temple too made a short speech congratulating the organisers for arranging this colourful national event.
Lukman Harees, a senior member of COSMOS, who is a writer and an author, made a special presentation at this event on ‘ National Reconciliation: a prerequisite for national Lessons from the Independence Struggle in SL’ .He touched upon the pivotal contributions made by the early Muslim leaders who went beyond their community interests to ensure that Ceylon becomes independent before sorting out their community related issues. He analysed how a country which has all the hallmarks of progress at the time of independence ,ultimately failed in that respect due to majoritarian State policies and the political expediency of the political leadership from the time of Independence. He stressed the need to build upon the positive political changes which came about in 2015 to create a strong multi-ethnic, multi-lingual Sri Lanka.
Solicitor Anas Eliyas, who was involved closely with the organisation of this event, gave an enlightening speech in Sinhala touching upon his experiences in Law College in building inter communal amity . Both Harrow MPS (East and West) in attendance spoke of the need for integration in pluralistic societies like Sri Lanka and UK and spoke highly of the role played by SLMCC. Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East particularly said that the first duty of any government is to protect its borders and the second duty is to protect the minorities living within them and it was heartening to see Sri Lanka developing into a nation respecting its’ international obligations in human rights.
Asheikh Anas of the Harrow Mosque led the audience in prayer for peace and progress of Sri Lanka, while Azahim Mohamed ,Vice Chair of COSMOS proposed the vote of thanks . The event culminated with refreshments and in the view of the audience , the evening was well spent and useful.