The reception commenced with the observation of two minutes’ silence in memory of the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka. In her welcome remarks, High Commissioner Gunasekera welcomed the Sri Lanka cricket team led by captain Dimuth Karunaratne, team management led by manager Ashantha de Mel, coach Chandika Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka Cricket representative in the UK Sarath Abeysundera, among others, and expressed the hope that the team’s performances would unite and inspire all Sri Lankans and hold the country high at a challenging time.
The High Commissioner also thanked Sri Lanka Cricket for endorsing the Commonwealth ‘Peace at the Crease’ initiative, which uses cricket as a tool to promote peace, reconciliation and sustainability throughout the Commonwealth family of nations. She applauded the remarkable achievement of Sri Lanka’s cricketing legend Kumar Sangakkara being appointed as the first non-British president of MCC this year, which is a matter of great pride for the British Sri Lankan community.
While wishing the team the very best at the Cricket World Cup, the High Commissioner also acknowledged the contribution of former Sri Lankan cricketers Asitha Jayaweera, Flavian Aponso, Dileepa Wickramasinghe, Keerthi Ranasinghe, Gihan Herath towards the development of cricket in the UK and Europe, as well as that of Tharindu Perera who is now head coach of the Yorkshire Women’s cricket team.
Lord Haselhurst, President of the All-Party Parliamentary Cricket Group; the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth; the Rt Hon Lord Naseby, President of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka; Geoffrey Van Orden, Conservative Member of the European Parliament for East England and Chair of the Friends of Sri Lanka in the European Parliament; and Ashantha de Mel, manager of the Sri Lankan team also addressed the gathering.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation by captain Dimuth Karunaratne of a cricket bat autographed by the Sri Lanka team for the ICC World Cup 2019 to the Commonwealth Secretary General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, as an endorsement of the ‘Commonwealth Peace at the Crease’ initiative.