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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 5385

Mr WILTON(10.54 p.m.) —It is with great pleasure that I draw to the attention of the Australian parliament the presence in our country of an eminent Sri Lankan, Professor Carlo Fonseka. Professor Fonseka is Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. He is here on a medical study tour sponsored by the Universities of Adelaide, New South Wales and Newcastle.

Professor Fonseka has had a long history of humanitarian deeds. I cite as just one example of those deeds the fact that during the late 1970s and the 1980s Sri Lanka was running an inflation rate of something in excess of 50 per cent. But, despite that, Professor Fonseka, being the humanitarian that he is, was issuing prescriptions to his patients at no cost.

Professor Fonseka is a man of many talents. He is a member of the Central Committee and Politburo of the Lanka Samasamja Party, the LSSP, which is the oldest political party in Sri Lanka and was originally formed to fight for national independence and the social democratic rights of Sri Lankan minority groups. His many other talents include the fact that he has produced over 50 publications on a range of subjects. One of his books, entitled Towards a peaceful Sri Lanka, was published by the World Institute of Development and Economic Research, which is part of the United Nations university based in Tokyo.

As a prominent member of the Rationalists Society, Professor Fonseka conducted research to contribute to the concept that `mythological beliefs are unsubstantiated'. Furthermore, Professor Fonseka has collaborated with well known author Arthur C. Clarke in producing a BBC documentary on the psychology of firewalking. Indeed, he has written lyrics and composed melodies for many Sri Lankan songs.

The visit of such a prominent Sri Lankan as Professor Fonseka to our country will no doubt encourage our Australian-Sri Lankan community to continue to immerse themselves in the Australian community to the great benefit of our country. For the record, Australian Sri Lankans show their appreciation of their own rich background and tradition by celebrating and sharing it with the wider community through cultural festivals. They are indeed noted for their hard work. Many of the thousands who have come to Australia have done so without assistance and have also established professional careers for themselves.

Sri Lankans here have also added immeasurably to Victoria's reputation as an education centre. The level of education amongst Sri Lankans of the kind whom Professor Fonseka himself has taught is amongst the highest in Australia, and this has helped contribute to Victoria's social and economic development. Sri Lankans can contribute further to Australia's economic development by government and businesses harnessing the skills and knowledge of Sri Lankan businessmen to develop new trade opportunities for Australian firms in the Indian Ocean region.

I have no doubt that the visit to our country of a person of Professor Fonseka's stature enhances the role of the Sri Lankan community here and encourages them to perpetuate their fine activities in the aforementioned regard.

I conclude by saying that a prominent member of the Melbourne Sri Lankan community, Mr Jude Perera, will chair a public lecture to be given by Professor Fonseka on the topic `Critical analysis of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka'—a lecture which will no doubt attract many of the varying groups within the Australian-Sri Lankan community when it is held at Monash University next Sunday, 27 October at 3 p.m. in the Rotunda Lecture Theatre. In saying that, I invite all interested parties to attend.

I welcome Professor Fonseka to Australia. I would also add that we are indeed privileged and honoured to have the professor in our country.