Loyal Sri Lankan honoured
For Daniel Muthumala, satisfaction comes from watching children connect with their distant homeland.
The Tawa resident was recently honoured with a Queen’s Service Medal for his service to the Sri Lankan community. The 86- year- old has been in New Zealand 42 years and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Health and the Fishing Industry Board.
‘‘I moved to New Zealand to give my children the chance of a good education,’’ he said.
He used his management skills to help establish and run the United Sri Lankan Association in 1983 and the Sri Lankan Association of New Zealand in 2004.
Muthumala said his desire, once settled in New Zealand, was to make Sri Lankans here aware of their origins and culture.
‘‘I had this dream of getting our younger generation, even if they were born in New Zealand, to be aware of where their parents or grandparents have come from,’’ he said.
‘‘Ceylon and Sri Lanka have a history that spans 2500 years and it is very valuable for young people to know about their heritage.’’
Part of his strategy involved music – and Sri Lankan drums.
A free weekly workshop at the Tawa Community Centre was popular, colourful and noisy, he said.
An annual quiz night hosted by the Sri Lankan Association always drew about 125 people and was a brilliant way to refresh memories about their homeland, Muthumala said.
He was also proud to be an instrumental figure in forging a link with Orongomai Marae in Upper Hutt.
The marae has staged Waitangi celebrations in conjunction with the Sri Lankan community since 2004.
The cross-cultural celebrations had been beneficial for everyone involved, Muthumala said.
He was surprised to receive the Queen’s Birthday honour.
‘‘I was not that enthusiastic about it initially, I have to admit,’’ he said.
‘‘But my granddaughter was keen and I’m happy to accept it. I never did anything for attention.’’
Daniel Muthumala, a pillar of the Sri Lankan community in the Wellington region.