After many years of following the agenda of different foreign elements, finally Sri Lanka is in a transitional period to follow her own agenda. In a time like this, Sri Lanka needed to have a friendly diplomatic community which could help the country to move forward from where it was, than dragging it down.
The new Canadian High commissioner His Excellency Bruce Levy is one such person who likes to help Sri Lanka but does not like to dictate things to the host country as most western diplomats are fond of doing today.
I was thinking of writing a note about this down to earth diplomat from “great white north” for a long time but didn’t materialize until the recent chat I had with my friend Ruwan Jayakodi. Ruwan is an award winning Sri Lankan-Canadian chef, who returned from Sri Lanka recently after judging Sri Lanka’s most prestigious “Culinary Art 2010” competition organized by Chefs’ Guild of Sri Lanka, which was held at BMICH. Ruwan’s prep work on his encounter with the new Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, added few more hot spices, to cook this article alone with my own experience.
As he explained to me, his experience with Mr. Levy was kind of a funny one. During his work at the “Culinary Art 2010” exhibition as a judge, he invited Mr. Levy to attend the exhibition as a guest of honor in one of the days. On the day while every one was expecting Mr. Levy at the entrance to the exhibition with all the drums, dancers and the garlands Ruwan found Mr. Levy wondering inside the exhibition hall by purchasing a ticket on his own. Every one was laughing and brought him back to the front door and gave him the respect he deserves.
Finally found; from left: Chef Ruwan Jayakodi, Sri Lanka Chefs’ Guild Secretary Ms. Vergi Feltman, Canadian High Commissioner Hon. Bruce Levy and Canadian chef Mr. Eduward Colonrus who also attended the Culinary Art exhibition as a judge at BMICH.
At the end of the day, Ruwan wanted to escort the guest of honor back to his car but found out that he didn’t drive there but had walked himself to BMICH, from his residence at Bawuddaloka Mawatha. Ruwan was telling me, while all none VIPs coming in huge vehicles, this gentleman walked to the venue by his own. According to Ruwan, the simpleness of Mr. Levy became the talk of the day among the chefs, comparing an incident took place on previous day; where another High Commissioner from a different country had given real hard time to the organizers.
Mr. Bruce Levy was originally a journalist and joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1986. Prior to his assignment in Sri Lanka he was the Minister- Counselor (Political) at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Mr. Levy had postings in Manila, Bangkok and Hanoi. He also had assignments in Ottawa such as the Director of the US Relations Division and two different assignments in the Privy Council Office's Foreign and defence Policy Secretariat, therefore Mr. Levy does not need to be such a humble man unless he chooses to be.
Last October, I and few other members of “Canadian Friends of Sri Lanka” had an unusual last minute meeting with this gentleman in a coffee shop at Toronto Pearson International air port. As his all appointments dried out, he invited us to meet him at the air port just before he leave Canada to take up his new post in Colombo. All of us went to the meeting in full suit not knowing what to wear for the occasion. But it was too late when we found out that we were over dressed as Mr. Levy walked in wearing a simple tee-shirt and denim. He listened to us very carefully and asked so many questions related to Sri Lanka and our community in Canada.
Our friendly request to him at the time was to find ways to help the poor and the development of Sri Lanka. We also discussed some other matters Sri Lankan Canadians had to face at the High Commission in Colombo. He promised us that there will be so many changes and at the high commission especially the way his office operates.
I met him again in last December this time in Colombo, with one of my Tamil friend Sivam from Toronto. We found out that the high commissioner had given up his weekend in southern sea beach just to meet these two civilians from Toronto. During our conversation with him he told us that unlike the other postings he had before; Sri Lanka forced him to activate his “face mussels” very much. In other words he is smiling a lot and happy in Sri Lanka. He also said that he was working with some Sri Lankan charities and requests us to encourage Canadian-Sri Lankans to donate into these Sri Lankan charities. Supporting the poor is a quite a different angle from other western diplomats where most of them today are conspiring and funding NGOs which are trying to find ways to overthrow the government and discredit Sri Lanka.
He told us that Sri Lankan people are very friendly and totally different from what he heard about them before coming to Sri Lanka. It is quite true as LTTE in the Diaspora during past 30 years cultivated so much of hate against Sri Lanka and her people; the western media carried it on, as a wave and still continuing. We in the Diaspora had to fight this “one sided free-media” to balance it. But as long as true diplomats like Mr. Bruce Levy are there to understand us and convey the correct picture about us to the world; we feel we Sri Lankans are so lucky to have such a good friend.