Ambassador Manisha Gunasekera of the Democratic Socialist Republic Sri Lanka in Seoul hosted a gala reception at the Grand Ballroom of the Millennium Seoul Hilton on Feb. 3, 2016 to celebrate the 68th anniversary of Independence of the country, which actually is the 4th of February.
An estimated 500 distinguished guests attended the party from the government, business, cultural and other segments of Korean society as well as the diplomatic and foreign communities.
From the Korean government attended Deputy Minister Shin Dong-ik of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral and Global Affairs, Member of Parliament Athuraliye Rathana Thero of Sri Lanka, Honorary Consul Shin Jung-Teak of Sri Lanka in Busan and representatives of various segments of Korean society, including the mass communications media, eg, Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post, publisher of two Korean and three English-language news publications.
Attendance from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps was also unusually large with many more ambassadors and their ladies attending than many other National Day diplomatic functions who included Ambassadors William Paterson of Australia, Dato Paduka Haji Modh Rosli Bin Haji Sabtu of Brunei Darussalam, John A. Prasetio of Indonesia, Hassan Taherian of Iran, Bessho Koro of Japan, Dato Rohana binti Ramli of Malaysia, Jose Luis Bernal of Mexico, Zahid Nasrulah Khan of Pakistan, Alexander Andreevich Tomonin of Russia, Gonzalo Ortiz Diaz-Tortosa of Spain and Charles John Hay of United Kingdom (see partial list of attending ambassadors at the end of this article).
Noted native chefs of Sri Lanka have been flown in Seoul from Colombo Hilton to prepare the tasty genuine Sri Lankan delicacies to overwhelm the Korean and international gourmets attending the party.
Thanking the guests for their attendance at the party, Ambassador Gunasekera of Sri Lanka said, “Sri Lanka and Korea enjoy historical bonds of friendship based on Buddhism and cultural links spanning centuries, which are are poised to be further elevated in the run up to the two countries celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations next year, in 2017.”
Then she said that following the inauguration of the new national unity Government last year led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe there is greater focus on broadening and deepening the partnership between Sri Lanka and Korea (see excerpts from speech at the end of this article).
There were many cultural items on display at the reception venue as well as picture materials that introduced various aspects of the country, especially the tourist attractions of the country.
Among them stood out Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock Sinhales’), the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which not only boasts impressive archaeological importance but also evidence of the country’s ancient history. Rising from the floodplains of the central valley, the Sigiriya Rock is called an ‘Icon of Sri Lanka.’ Sigiriya not only boasts impressive archaeological importance but also evidence of the country’s ancient history. The world-famous attraction features vertical walls topped with a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient civilization.
Cafe 395 at the Millennium Seoul Hilton, the venue of the grand reception of the Sri Lankan National Day, is among the few spacious, classy buffet restaurants in Seoul where the prices are the most expensive in Seoul. Naturally, the guests had their fill of the wide range of top-rate Korean and international foods and beverages, including the expensive crustaceans, as well as genuine Sri Lankan delicacies.
It was obvious that all the guests were happy enjoying the food and wonderful atmosphere.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Gunasekera of Sri Lanka:
I am delighted to warmly welcome you this evening when Sri Lanka celebrates its 68th Anniversary of Independence which falls on 4th February 2016.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Shin Dong-ik, I am honoured by your gracious presence with us this evening, which is symbolic of the strength of Sri Lanka-Korea relations.
I am also honoured and pleased to have among us this evening, the Reverend Athureliye Rathana Thero, distinguished and leading Member of Parliament and Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, who I respectfully recognize on this occasion
As we enjoy today’s celebrations, we may also recall that Sri Lanka has made significant progress over the past 68 years in building a democratic nation. However, despite impressive credentials, Sri Lanka has also had to confront formidable challenges as a relatively young country engaged in the nation building process, including the conflict that ravaged the nation for nearly three decades.
Yet today, Sri Lanka stands proud among the community of nations as a state that has successfully defeated the forces of conflict and established lasting peace. Today, our nation is engaged in a transparent process to bring durable peace, reconciliation and non-recurrence to all our people, of all ethnicities and religions.
Similarly, consolidation of democratic institutions, upholding good governance and the rule of law, eradicating corruption and strengthening accountability, and undertaking judicial reform, remain priorities of the Government.
Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea as two Asian countries, enjoy historical bonds of friendship based on Buddhism, and cultural links spanning centuries. These links are poised to be further elevated in the run up to the two countries celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations next year, in 2017.
At present, following the inauguration of the new national unity Government in Sri Lanka last year, led by His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, the President, and Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister, there is greater focus on broadening and deepening the partnership with Korea.
In accordance with the Government’s economic policy framework focused on promoting investment and exports, integration in global value chains, and creating a knowledge economy, Korea has emerged as a country of prime focus with which to consolidate economic ties.
Increased connectivity, including 3 direct flights per week between Seoul and Colombo by Korean Air, has contributed to the significant increase in tourist and business travel between the two countries.
An important dimension of our bilateral cooperation is labour relations, with approximately 30,000 Sri Lankan workers employed in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). Sri Lanka is deeply appreciative of the opportunities granted to Sri Lankan workers by the Korean Government, whose remittances make a significant contribution to the economy.
I would like to convey my Government’s deep appreciation to the Korean Government led by Her Excellency Madam Park Geun-Hye, the President, for the continued friendship and cooperation extended towards Sri Lanka in all sectors. My Government looks forward to further elevating our excellent relations to the next level.
I would also like to thank the Seoul Millennium Hilton Hotel for their support in organizing today’s reception, as well as the Sri Lankan Food Festival which is ongoing till 7th February. I am proud to announce that a master chef has been specially flown in from the Colombo Hilton to prepare a range of Sri Lankan delicacies that you would have occasion to enjoy this evening.
Partial list of ambassadors attending the party:
Ambassadors Albino Malungo of Angola, Jorge Roballo of Argentina, William Paterson of Australia, Elisabeth Bertagnoli of Austria, Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Md. Zulfiqur Rahman of Bangladesh, Natallia Jhylevich of Belarus, Guadalupe Palomeque de Taboada of Bolivia, Dato Paduka Haji Modh Rosli Bin Haji Sabtu of Brunei Darussalam , Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia, Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of Cote d'Ivoire, Grecia Fiodalicia Pichardo of Dominican Republic, Milton Alcides Magana Herrera of El Salvador, John A. Prasetio of Indonesia, Hassan Taherian of Iran, Bessho Koro of Japan, Khamsouay Keodalavong of Lao Republic, Otman S. Saad Ahbara of Libya, Dato Rohana binti Ramli of Malaysia, Jose Luis Bernal of Mexico, Kaman Singh Lama of Nepal, Zahid Nasrulah Khan of Pakistan, Irineo Raul Silvero Silvagni of Paraguay, Calin Fabian of Romania, Alexander Andreevich Tomonin of Russia, Emma-Francoise Isumbingabo of Rwanda, Omrie Michael Golley of Sierra Leone, Gonzalo Ortiz Diaz-Tortosa of Spain, Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia, Myrat Mammetalyyev of Turkmenistan, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine, Charles John Hay of United Kingdom, Botirjon Asadov of Uzbekistan, Mumba Smyth Kapumpa of Zambia