In 1987 Sir John Nicholas, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1979 - 1984, Bill Farrer, senior partner at the prominent Lincoln's Inn lawyers, Farrer & Co., and other colleagues were called to the High Commission of Sri Lanka in London to discuss the possibility of setting up a Friends of Sri Lanka Association. This was at the behest of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister of the time, A C S Hameed, who had met such an association elsewhere in Europe.
Shelton Perera, the first non-British partner at Farrer & Co., had some years before introduced his firm to Sri Lanka and the High Commission in London and by 1987 the firm was acting for the High Commission, as well as for many distinguished clients in Sri Lanka.
In this way Sir John Nicholas became the founder President, Bill Farrer the Vice President, Jenny Smith (a partner at Farrer & Co) the Honorary Secretary and George Neale (a tea broker with Forbes & Walker in Colombo and Wilson Smithett in London) the Honorary Treasurer. Shelton Perera became a founder member of the committee.
The newly fledged committee held its first meetings at the offices of Farrer & Co. and from there they instituted the newsletter and an annual dinner at the Royal Over-Seas League, of which Sir John was a member. From the outset they involved, amongst others, the relevant Members of Parliament in the Association.
Betty Boothroyd MP and Michael Morris MP (now The Rt Hon the Baroness Boothroyd, OM PC and The Rt Hon the Lord Naseby PC) became Patrons. In 2009 we were pleased to welcome Sir Christopher Ondaatje OC CBE to our list of Patrons.
At the first annual general meeting of the Association on 10 June 1988 the objects and functions of the Association were formally set out as :-
- The objects of the Association, which shall be non-political, are to foster friendship, goodwill and understanding in all spheres of national life between the people of the United Kingdom and the people of Sri Lanka.
- The Association shall (inter alia) endeavour :-
- To maintain close unofficial contacts between the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka.
- To promote social activities including an annual dinner, receptions and regular meetings between persons interested in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.
To contribute to the spread of knowledge of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom.