June 18, Colombo: British High Commissioner James Dauris hosted the Queen's Birthday Party on June 13th, celebrating the friendship between the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka.
The event was attended by President Maithripala Sirisena, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, Ministers and Members of Parliament, leaders of industry and heads of professional organizations, members of government departments and agencies, the police, the armed forces, university chancellors, senior journalists and civil society leaders .
Below is a condensed version of his speech to the audience:
The playwright Oscar Wilde commented: "I can resist everything except temptation".
I can resist almost everything except the temptation to tell you something about why seventy years of the relationship between Sri Lanka and the UK gives us lots of good reasons to celebrate.
1948 was not, of course, the beginning of our relationship. But with Independence came the beginning of a new chapter. Throughout the past seventy years ours is a relationship that many people have valued, invested in and cherished.
We have many reasons to celebrate today.
We are proud of our people to people links, and of the hundreds of thousands of people of Sri Lankan origin living in the UK who help to make our country as successful as it is today.
Today we celebrate our links through parliamentary traditions, the law and the Commonwealth. We were very pleased to have President Sirisena lead Sri Lanka's delegation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.
Our countries share flourishing educational and cultural links, a large part of the important work being done by the British Council in Sri Lanka.
We are proud too of our links through sports and are looking forward to having the England cricket team here, later this year.
We also celebrate the many business links we enjoy; some of them more than a century old, others new and equally exciting. There are a number of companies who have stories of successful investment which illustrate the possibilities for doing business in Sri Lanka today, opportunities that will only grow with sensible economic reform.
And we are proud of the work that our High Commission does, with all the organisations we work with and the projects we fund. The UK supports Sri Lanka in a number of projects including achieving its objective of being free of mines by 2020, promoting inter-religious dialogues in Trincomalee and Batticaloa, working with the Sri Lankan Police Service on tackling violence against women and supporting Sri Lanka's Peace-building Priority plan. The British government is currently providing funding of more than £50 million to development support in Sri Lanka.
As many of you will know, we don't have a national day in the UK. But we do celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's birthday. This year we celebrate her 92nd birthday and her 66 years – two thirds of a century – on the throne. We were delighted that Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex were able to represent The Queen at the official celebration of Sri Lanka's 70th anniversary of Independence in February.
Winston Churchill, historian as much as politician, commented:
"If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future."
I think it can equally be said that if we continue today to build on friendships founded in the past, they will be stronger still in the future in ways that benefit us all. And that is our firm ambition.