Sri Lanka Foundation International 2024 Award Winners with the Founder President, Dr Walter Jayasinghe, and Aeshea Jayasinghe, Vice President. - Photo: 2024

Sri Lankan High Achievers in the US Honoured at Hollywood Ceremony

A Review by Nandi Jasentuliyana, former Deputy Director-General, United Nations

LOS ANGELES | 5 May 2024 (IDN) — The Sri Lanka Foundation International Awards Ceremony, held this year at the Prestigious Sheraton Universal City in Hollywood, was a testament to the grandeur and significance of the event.

The ceremony was more than just an awards show—since it is a powerful testament to the resilience, determination, and global impact of Sri Lankans. By honouring these exceptional individuals, we not only reaffirm our belief in the power of Sri Lankan talent to shape the world around us but also strengthen our sense of national pride.

This event, by bringing the stories of these remarkable Sri Lankan expatriates to a wider audience, plays a crucial role in inspiring the next generation and fostering a deep sense of belonging and unity among us all.

The annual awards ceremony was established in 2003 by the Foundation’s Founder President, Dr Walter Jayasinghe, ably supported by its Vice President, Ms Aesha Jayasinghe. It recognizes expatriate Sri Lankans who have excelled in their professional fields and brought honour to their motherland.

The award winners

Among the winners are world-renowned inventors, scientists, physicians, lawyers, engineers, academics, entrepreneurs, musicians, and artists. In the Junior Category, outstanding young achievers are recognized as encouragement for them to continue to excel.

Among the winners this year were Dr Richard Gunasekera, Research Professor of Science, Technology, and Health working in the field of nanotechnology; Dr Ananda Thevathasan, Consultant Forensic Psychologist; Jay Nagendran, Environmental Engineer; Prof. I. S. Jawahir, Professor of Engineering; and Ravindra Gunawardena, Architect; who were the Lifetime Achievement Award winners.

Ravindra Gunawardena, an award-winning architect who, in addition to his outstanding work, has spent significant time educating young students in Architecture; Jay Nagendran, an Environmental Engineer who has been recognized in Canada for his work as CEO of the Environmental Authority and has made a commitment to educating the young; Dr. Ananda Thevathasan, who is committed to the betterment of Sri Lankans has helped thousands by organizing charities for Sri Lankans in need to feed over 44.000 children and fundraising for the Guys Mercy Mission in Sri Lanka to perform life-saving pediatric operations; and among them are those who hold multiple patents, have authored publications, and have been honoured by their professional Organizations.

Other categories of awardees included Trauma Surgeons Tanja Egodage and Sayuri Jinadasa, triple Ivy League degree holder (B.S. Princeton, Masters and MD Harvard and PhD. Columbia); Aerospace Engineer leading a team of Structural engineers working for Boeing on the world’s largest civilian aircraft, Enoka Fernando; Roy Malleappah, antivenom expert who discovered a simple spray to combat poisonous venom; Binara Dharmawardena, head of a charitable Foundation that provides free Ambulance service, in Sri Lanka; and sisters Tashya and Tiana Piyadasa, members of U.S. junior badminton team; reflecting the breadth of achievements.

Dr Manilal Fernando, the Head of a Charitable Foundation that runs a number of centres feeding orphans and children suffering from malnutrition (1500 meals daily, providing 475.000 meals a year and educational facilities for university students providing access to computers in remote villages), was awarded the President’s Award; and Aruni Boteju was awarded the Sri American of the Year award for social service, including arranging Direct Relief, a U.S. NGO  to send $300 Million worth of medical supplies to Sri Lanka and initiating the Sri Lanka Film Festival in California, the first such festival outside of Sri Lanka.

Striking feature

A striking feature of this year’s ceremony was the presence of a United States Department of State delegation led by the Hon. Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, who presented Dr Walter Jayasinghe with a plaque of appreciation commending the Foundation’s work. Also present was a ranking official representing the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.

Proceedings were interspersed with a professionally produced Fashion Show that showcased a parade of talented young Sri Lankans. The models effortlessly strutted the runway, showcasing the latest trends and designs in an alluring display.

Mesmerizing cultural performances by the Sri Lanka Foundation Dance Academy members captivated the crowd with their graceful movements and vibrant costumes, transporting the audience on a journey through Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage.

There followed a professional Latin dance group that took to the stage and ignited the atmosphere with their electrifying Salsa performance.

The winners, “the best of the best,” were selected by an anonymous Board of Distinguished Members based on a range of all-around evaluation criteria. The success of the ceremony highlighted the arduous task carried out by the dedicated staff of the Foundation, Ms Shirani Stanislaus, Ms Keshini Wijegoonerathna, Ms Achala Weerasinghe, and Mr Luoma Harrison, under the direction of the current President of the Foundation, Dr Dishan Jayasinghe.

As we celebrate the achievements of our expatriate community, we are reminded of the boundless potential that lies within the Sri Lankan people. These award recipients have not only reached the pinnacles of success but have also remained steadfast in their commitment to their Sri Lankan roots, serving as ambassadors of our rich culture and heritage.

These award recipients have become shining examples of Sri Lankan excellence on the global stage. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Sri Lanka Foundation International 2024 Award Winners with the Founder President, Dr Walter Jayasinghe, and Aeshea Jayasinghe, Vice President.

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