Hi, Anura: It was a pleasure meeting you at the SLCAO Sinhala-Tamil new year celebrations. Sorry, I didn’t have much time to talk, as we were “fashionably late” in getting there.
Chrysani and I thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations commemorating the Sinhala-Tamil new year and the 35th Anniversary of SLCAO last Saturday (16th April 2011). The event was very well organized by you all…every detail was executed very well. Congratulations to you, the Executive Committee, Sub-committee members and volunteers for the superbly organized event. Thank you for that CLASSY event. Looking forward for many more. Pls remember, we are always here to give you our full support…ask and you will receive!
Anura, here’s the information you requested for the “SLCAO Memory Project”. Pls feel free to edit any part of the write up. Most of the contents appeared in last Saturday’s Program.
1. Name: Rohan Basnayake – Contact No: XXXXXX –
2. Yes, I was an Executive Committee member – following are the details:
1978/79 – Director of Social and Cultural Activities
1981/82 – President
1986/87 – President
1990-/91 – President
In 1978 SLCAO organized the first-ever cultural event called “Passport to Sri Lanka” at Carleton University to a packed hall of Sri Lankans and Canadians. It was a two-hour extravaganza featuring the songs and dances of Sri Lanka and these were interwoven with scenes of the day-to-day life of the people of Sri Lanka. This Cultural event unleashed the talents of the Sri Lankan community and from then on, on an annual basis, SLCAO organized many concerts with the coperation of other South Asian Associations in Ottawa.
“Passport to Sri Lanka” set the stage thereafter for SLCAO’s participation at Cultures Canada events on Canada Day at various locations in Ottawa and Gatineau. Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of the young and the old, Sri Lanka was able to take her due place in the Ottawa community.
1978 was a sugnificant year for SLCAO. Harrison Perera produced and staged 2 Sinhala plays, Maname and Kuveni, to packed audiences in Ottawa and Toronto. Sinhala language classes were conducted by Harrison Perera at a local High School in Ottawa in the same year, but because of the lack of interest of the membership, the language program fell through the cracks. In the same year, the first Newsletter of SLCAO with its new logo was launched.
In 1978, SLCAO was honoured with the appointment of one of its members, Ernest Corea, as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Ottawa (1978-81) and later Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. (1981-84).
SLCAO sponsored big names in Sri Lanka’s entertainment field to give concerts in Ottawa. These included M.S. Fernando (1984), H.R. Jothipala (1985) and The Gypsies (1986). Since 1996, the Band, “Lanka Breeze”, has been active at most social and cultural events sponsored by SLCAO.
In the field of sports, SLCAO has been quite active in organizing athletic events, cricket, soccer and netball matches for its members from 1976. In August 1986, the first encounter of the Tri-City (Ottawa-Toronto-Montreal) Cricket Tournament was played at Carleton University grounds. The 25th anniversary of the Tri-City Cricket Tournament was celebrated in 2010 on a grand scale. Eventhough the SLCAO was dormant in the late 1990s, this tournament was able to survive because of the enthusiasm of the Sri Lankan community. To-date this Tournament and other sporting events of the SLCAO are considered key events in the calendar of many Sri Lankan-Canadians.
Whenever there was an urgent need for money, whether it was for a disaster in Sri Lanka or a death of a member, SLCAO members were there to help and, as always, their generosity has been immeasurable. In 2004, when Muthaiyah Muralitheran (Murali) was in Ottawa to collect funds for one of his charities in Sri Lanka, the SLCAO and the Sri Lanka High Commission co-hosted a dinner in his honour at The Delta Hotel Ottawa, and this event was graced by members of the Diplomatic Corps, Parliamentarians and Sri Lankans. A lot of items of interest for local cricketers and fans were auctioned and the money was donated to Murali’s charity.