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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2424

Mahendra Amerasuriya to be elected President Lions international

By Walter Jayawardhana

Illinois, 05 July, (Asiantribune.com): Mahendra Amarasuriya, scion of one of Sri Lanka’s leading philanthropists the late Thomas Amarasuriya will be elected tomorrow (July 6), as the international President, for next year, to one of the world’s largest service clubs, Lions International at the 90th annual session currently meeting at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago Illinois.

“Lion Mahendra Amarasuriya has now become a 'National treasure' to be regarded and respected as such,” quipped an overjoyed fellow Lion Vernon Boteju stressing that not even the whole membership of all Lion Clubs in Sri Lanka amount to be even two percent of the 1.3 million strong membership of all Lion Clubs of the world. Amarasuriya is the first Sri Lankan to be elected to the prestigious position in the clubs 90 year old history. Incidentally the club was started in the same Windy City of the United States in 1917.Mahendra Amerasuriya’s fate to become the head of the international body that enjoys a consultative status of the United Nations was somewhat ascertained when he became the third International Vice President of the body three years ago. Mahendra Amerasuriya’s fate to become the head of the international body that enjoys a consultative status of the United Nations was somewhat ascertained when he became the third International Vice President of the body three years ago.

Mahendra Amerasuriya’s fate to become the head of the international body that enjoys a consultative status of the United Nations was somewhat ascertained when he became the third International Vice President of the body three years ago. Lion sources said, “In recognition of his service to the association, he has received numerous awards, including many membership awards, the Master Key Award, eight International President’s Certificates of Appreciation, seven International President’s Awards, the Leadership Award and the Ambassador of Good Will Award, the highest honor bestowed upon association members. He is also a Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow.”

Like the son, his father the late Thomas Amarasuriya, who was a President of the now defunct upper house of the parliament, the Senate, was unanimously elected Ceylon’s first native chairman of the Planter’s Association of Ceylon when the European dominated association broke a 102-year old tradition in accepting him as their leader. Amerasuriyas became the leading philanthropists of the 20th century from the Southern Province who built some of the leading Buddhist schools in the country including the Mahinda College Galle and even the sprawling estate in which their ancestral home of Amaragiri Walawwa was donated to become Galle’s Lady Teachers Training School by all brothers, of the late H. W. Amarasuriya , Thomas’ elder brother. They were sometimes called the richest Sinhala family of the era.

On the American Independence day, July 4, the Incoming President Mahendra Amerasuriya with his wife Kushlani marched with nearly 750 of his Sri Lankan compatriots , men clad in colorful batik shirts and sarongs and women clad in Kandyan sarees accompanied by Kandyan dancers of the Channa Wijewardena dance ensemble along a stretch of Chicago streets.

The reputed dancing troupe of 16 drummers and dancers of both sexes clad in attractive costumes danced along two miles long Chicago streets making the Lion Flags waving Sri Lankans one of the most colorful sections of the whole parade. Two floats produced by Sri Lanka were paraded in the processions in which few thousands of Lions representing their respective countries of 203 member states including the People’s Republic of China took part. A float depicted the Tsunami disaster and another depicted preservation of eye sights from preventable diseases , two pet projects promoted heavily by the incoming President Amarasuriya through the Lions International in Sri Lanka.

Lion Cassian Fernando who flew from Moratuwa said, the Lions International built 3000 new houses as Tusinami Disaster Relief and fully manage two eye hospitals at Wattala and Panadura. Eye units at Kandy, Karapitiya, Hambantota and Batticaloa hospitals were also started with their help. “There are seven lakhs of people with preventable eye diseases in Sri Lanka and Lions are giving priority to help them,” Fernando said.

Fellow Lion, Abey Silva who flew to Chicago from Ratmalana said that the coming year will be an extremely busy year for the incoming President despite his busy life as the Chairman of several blue chip companies including the Commercial bank and Sevanagala and Pelawatte Plantations, since he will be compelled to visit most of the member countries guiding their philanthropic projects. A close friend of the Amarasuriyas, Abey Silva hoped the new President would make the 90 year old service club successfully face challenges of the change, cut down the usual 2.5 hour long meetings to one hour meetings and make the clubs more project oriented all over the world.

Many delegates who arrived in Chicago, took it in lighter vein, when many of the 750 delegates lost their bottles of arrack which they bought as gifts for their expatriate and US friends in Colombo through Dubai until they arrived at the New York airport where they changed planes to Chicago. None had advised many that no liquids were allowed to be carried inside US domestic flights as an anti-terrorist security measure. Hence, hundreds of bottles of arrack went down the drains of New York to the chagrin of many arrack loving Sri Lankan expatriates.

- Asian Tribune -

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