Colombo, Sri Lanka (02.02.2022): The Rotary Colombo East Vocational Excellence Award recognises and acknowledges the herculean contribution made by Mr Aritha Wickramasinghe in the field of activism.
Mr. Wickramasinghe has been an outspoken advocate of equality and justice from everything ranging from women’s rights to domestic violence to equal access to legal advice, animal rights, youth representation, queer rights, employee protections, child rights, child protection, and a host of advocacies.
He has served in an advisory capacity on government reform but should not be mistaken for a mouthpiece of any regime. If there is a humanitarian cause at stake, one will never fail to find him at the frontlines with his sleeves rolled up, making a difference where it matters. He has remained one of the few non-partisan voices and a beacon of inclusion and equality. He is a friend of Rotary, especially the Rotary Colombo East family, and has served as a panellist or resource person for more projects (organised by either Rotary, Rotaract, or Interact) than can be endeavoured to enumerate. Accolades for his work have only just started to pour in, and most recently, he was recognised as an Outstanding Role Model by Sri Lanka Unites for his activism work together with such
eminent names as Asha de Vos and Otara Gunewardene.
Mr Wickramasinghe delivering an inspirational acceptance speech touched on such diverse topics as business, economic policy, and activism. His illuminating address while presenting an interesting take on rebuilding the national economy, strived to emphasise that activism is not the birthright of people on the fringes but the responsibility of all those who are privileged. He emphasised how despite specialising in financial law, he is often mistaken for a human rights lawyer on account of his work; work that he engages in not because it is his occupation but because it is his duty. He expounded the role Rotary and Rotarians can play in making lasting social change in this country, not only as the result of the good work of Rotary but as individuals and corporate and social leaders. He expressed his gratitude to Rotary Colombo East for the honour bestowed and emphasised
that activism is not something to shy away from, but something to embrace. He unapologetically invited Rotarians and all people of privilege to speak up where their voice can make a difference, to use influence where influence can make a difference, and to use money where money is going to be the conduit for lasting societal change. He furthermore stated that it is the duty of the state not to constrain and regulate the free market, but to ensure the protection, rights, privileges, and inclusion of its citizens- emphasising that Sri Lanka is far from an inclusive society. To the laudation of the members of Colombo East, he announced his impending nuptials to his long-time partner Dave Hunter who was also present at the evening’s commemoration. He used the opportunity to express his discontent at being unable to be married in Sri Lanka-shedding light on the country’s archaic and ludicrous marriage and civil union laws. He also used the opportunity to shed light on equally asinine personal laws with the poetically construed phrase – “a Muslim girl is not equal to her husband, a Tamil daughter is not equal to her brother, a Sinhalese wife is not equal to her husband, and I am not equal to many of you.”
The meeting also saw the induction of Mr. Sriyal Nilanka, eminent LGBTQ activist and Co-founder of the Pragna Collective as a member of Rotary Colombo East, a reflection of the Club’s commitment to being a safe-space for Rotary in Sri Lanka.
In his initial address, he spoke of the glass ceilings that are being shattered in this day and age, lauding Rotary Colombo East’s Safe-Space policy saying in his address to the Club that “ten years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of being welcomed in spaces like this one, and today when I was inducted, I was told by President-Elect Lasantha (Wijeweera), I am a part of this (Rotary Colombo East)
The Club also presented awards to the winners of the Rotary Colombo East family’s essay competition on the four-way test with Rtr. Pankaja Kulatinge, and Kavita Gunaratne winning the Senior Competition and Divansshi Mukunthan and Mohamed Alhandeen winning the Junior Competition.