Independent Television Network Limited (also known as ITN or simply as ITN Sri Lanka) is a Sri Lankan state governed television and radio broadcaster located in Wickramasinhapura, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka. ITN, a Shrama Abhimani Award winner (Oct 2009), broadcasts content to a wide demographic within Sri Lanka as well as the expatriate community. The programs are high quality and creative to promote the country’s economic and social development, cultural diversification and preservation as well as the environmental protection and promotion broadcasted in three languages; Sinhala, Tamil, and English. The ITN broadcast coverage extends to 99% of the island of Sri Lanka.

The Vision of ITN is to be the leader in Electronic Media, and their Mission is to Produce & Telecast Quality and Attractive people friendly media content consistent with the Sri Lankan Values and Culture to a wide range of audience.

On March 29th, 2022, at the Cinnamon Grand location in the Nugagama Premises in Colombo ITN Network organized a “Nuga Gama Aurudhu” Celebrations of the Sinhala & Tamil New Year to showcase the Sri Lankan Culture to the World Audience.

The President/CEO, Dr Dishan Jayasinha of the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA and his wife Zuigly Jayasinha were the Guest of Honor to grace the occasion. The Director of Cultural Affairs & the Director of the Academy of Performing Arts, Achala Weerasinghe was also present to witness the occasion as well as many other tourists who attended appreciated the event to the fullest.

The event was gracefully organized with many different cultural performances by Ranwala Balakaya to promote the Authentic Culture of Sri Lanka.

Dr Dishan, in his speech said he was so pleased to be a part of this Amazing Cultural Event as this is one of the Missions of SLF to promote the culture to the Non Sri Lankan Audience around the world. The ITN in the vote of thanks expressed their gratitude to SLF for showcasing similar events as well as for all the relief effort contributions given to Sri Lanka.

The event concluded with a delicious meal offered to all the guests which included the traditional food items and also a handmade natural Sri Lankan product was presented as a token of appreciation for gracing the occasion.

Click on the link below to watch the event:

Emirates and Dilmah Tea celebrate 30 years of partnership

Emirates and Dilmah Tea have enjoyed a longstanding partnership of brewing the finest teas on board and in Emirates’ airport lounges around the world for the past 30 years. To mark the milestone on International Tea Day, all Emirates’ customers will get a special tea box when they fly from Dubai on Saturday.

In addition, First Class customers on flights to the UK will be treated to a food pairing, and Emirates’ Onboard Lounge will offer Dilmah Tea infused mocktails on Saturday. The special tea pack for all customers who fly on Saturday contains three different flavours: Ceylon Breakfast, an Emirates exclusive Turmeric Coconut and Vanilla, and the popular Earl Grey with Honey.

In First Class, Emirates offers the Brilliant Breakfast tea created by Dilmah founder and passionate tea maker Memill Femando and will be paired with the afternoon tea service on board.

Moroccan Mint Green tea can be exquisitely paired alongside Labneh – a tangy and creamy yoghurt – with roast vegetables for vegetarians. Sushi and seafood goes well with Sencha Green Extra Special Tea – a fresh delicate flavour and smooth, herbal finish with a touch of sweetness.

“Emirates focuses on dishes that emphasise fresh ingredients of the highest quality. We pay special attention to every detail and the quality of the tea we offer our customers is no different. The fact that we have served Dilmah Tea for 30 years across all our cabins is proof of its quality and our satisfaction with the perfect cup of tea. We have an exceptional partnership with Dilmah and we have grown in tandem for the last 30 years. Over 9.6 million tea bags are used each year across our fleet with more than 10 tea varieties on offer, including an exclusive Emirates Signature Tea served in First Class,” said Thomas Ney, DSVP, Service Delivery at Emirates.

Dilhan C. Fernando, son of Dilmah Founder and CEO of the family company explained: “For 30 years we have grown a tea inspired collaboration with Emirates, offering customers a uniquely Emirates experience in tea. To celebrate the Pearl Anniversary of our partnership in tea, we made a tea that is as rare as it is magnificent. A seasonal tea with extraordinary finesse, handpicked from tea bushes prepared for months and crafted into a numbered limited edition tea. Our co-operation with Emirates truly presents the luxury in fine tea, and – in our tea mocktails and food pairings –contemporary, tea inspired hospitality. For the last 30 years we have created these unique moments for Emirates customers either on the ground in its lounges around the world or at 40,000 feet and this year is no different. We are excited to have the special 30 year blend on board Emirates’ fleet.”

A world-class partnership:

Millions of world class cups of tea have been poured for Emirates’ customers since the airline’s partnership with Dilmah began in 1992.

The airline brings the finest products on board through long standing partnerships worldwide, including support for local suppliers and artisans. Emirates takes the Dilmah brand to more than 130 destinations on six continents.

The teas offered on Emirates are chosen by popularity amongst customers, catering to different preferences like minty or citrus infusions as well as by looking at tea drinking trends. With an increasing focus on wellness amongst customers, the airline recently introduced a new tea in its airport lounges – Turmeric, coconut and vanilla featuring antioxidant properties.

On board, the most popular tea in Economy Class is the Dilmah Ceylon Black Tea while passengers in First and Business Class favour Moroccan Mint and Breakfast Tea. Emirates serves a selection of six teas in Business Class and its airport lounges and a further six teas in First Class.

Not Forgotten and Still Living

Prof. Patrick Mendis, a multidisciplinary scholar and award-winning diplomat, has represented both the governments of Sri Lanka and the United States in the United Nations system (Photo—courtesy of the University of Minnesota).

Who is the J’pura alumnus and American diplomat behind our scholarships?
By Professor Chandana Gunathilaka

It was for the first time at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura’s history that a single graduate of our Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce was awarded both the Dr. Patrick Mendis Prize and the Venerable Dr. Walpola Rahula Prize at the convocation ceremony.

That was one of our most outstanding students in the Department of Finance: Uwin Ariyaratna. He was recognised with the Dr. Mendis Prize for having the best performance in academic excellence and extra-curricular leadership at the university. He also received the Venerable Dr. Walpola Rahula Prize for having the highest average score obtained among 1200 plus students in all 12 departments of our faculty.

While serving as a lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, this high-achieving scholar is currently pursuing his MSc degree in applied finance in my department.

In most cases, these prizes and scholarships are often endowed in memory of well-known leaders, intellectuals, and diplomats. Neither Uwin Ariyaratna nor earlier recipients since 1994 have ever realised that Dr. Patrick Mendis is still living in the United States.

Yet, virtually everyone knew that the late Venerable Dr. Walpola Rahula was a legendary Buddhist scholar and the first Theravada monk to hold the American chair of Buddhist studies at the Northwestern University in Chicago. Internationally renowned for his highly influential book, What the Buddha Taught (1959), the venerable monk, who attended the London and Sorbonne-Paris universities, later served as an illustrious vice chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, and promoted management education in Sri Lanka.

Thanks to the legacy of the venerable Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mendis earned his BSc (first-class honours) degree in business administration and economics from our Management Faculty in 1983. He is an author of over 200 articles and more than 10 books, most recently, Peaceful War: How the Chinese Dream and the American Destiny Create a New Pacific World Order. The first recipient of the International Confucius Award from the People’s Republic of China and the Benjamin Franklin Award from the US Department of State, Dr. Mendis is currently a distinguished visiting professor of culture and diplomacy at the Chinese Culture University as well as a distinguished visiting professor of global affairs at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, the Republic of China.

In addition to the Mendis Prize, this Harvard and Minnesota educated Sri Lankan scholar set up the Edward Burdick Legislative Award at the University of Minnesota and the Millennials Award for Outstanding Leadership at Harvard University.

Prof. Mendis was born in Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. The first student to receive the UNESCO Award in 1976, the professor was later invited to give the public UNESCO lecture on the “Ancient China-Sri Lanka Buddhist Discourse and the Colombo Lotus Tower” at the Polonnaruwa Museum in 2018. At that time, Prof. Mendis served as an American commissioner to the United States National Commission for UNESCO at the US Department of State in Washington. He was twice appointed as UNESCO commissioner by US Secretaries Hilary Clinton and John Kerry during the Obama administration. His government service ended when the Trump White House withdrew from the UN agency in Paris.

His childhood interests in UN and international affairs led him to represent the government of Sri Lanka as its first youth ambassador to the United Nations in 1986. He was recommended by his mentor and friend, Ambassador Karunasena Koddituwakku, then the vice chancellor of our university, who described the American diplomat as the “renaissance man of Polonnaruwa” who had a fortunate journey of serendipity from a “mud house” to the “White House” in the United States.

Recognising his wide range of scholarship and leadership activities at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and the University of Minnesota, the UN Secretariat in New York honoured him with the UN Medal for the International Year of the Youth (IYY). During its 10th anniversary in 1996, Prof. Mendis was invited to chair the UN World Conference on the IYY in New York.

After becoming a naturalised US citizen, he served as a military professor in the NATO and the Pacific Commands of the Pentagon as well as an American diplomat during the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. Beside his senior executive service experience in the US government, he also served on the staff of the late Honourable Edward Burdick of the Minnesota House of Representatives in St. Paul and Senator Rudy Boschwitz of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Reagan administration.

When I chaired 14th annual International Conference on Business Management (ICBM) of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, I invited Prof. Mendis as the honoured chief guest to deliver a speech on “Managing Interface: China-US relations and Sri Lanka” in Colombo. He was then a distinguished visiting professor of Sino-American relations at Peking University in China while serving as a Rajawali senior fellow at Harvard University.

It was a proud occasion for all of us whose alma mater is Sri Jayewardenepura. Many corporate leaders and international researchers, including Prof. Evan Lau of Malaysia, graced the ICBM symposium. At the time, our Dean Prof. Anura Kumara and Vice Chancellor Prof. Sampath Amarasinghe ( Current Chairman of the University Grants Commission) were delighted to welcome the Harvard scholar—and most importantly, our esteemed friend and colleague.

Whenever he returned to Sri Lanka, Prof. Mendis often visited his former colleagues in the corporate and government sectors as well as professors and students at Sri Jayewardenepura. Nevertheless, he was officially invited to the Management Faculty more than 20 years after he had established the eponymous annual financial award. After the 2017 International Conference, former recipients of the Mendis Prize, faculty, and students gathered to greet the globally famous alumnus who has travelled to, and worked in, more than 130 countries.

Our well-regarded friend of Sri Jayewardenepura is listed on Who’s Who in the World as well as Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who among Asian Americans. He is also an elected fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, replacing the prominent late Prof. Cyril Ponnamperuma of the University of Maryland, where Prof. Mendis once served as a professor of international management.

While living in the United States and often travelling to China and elsewhere, Prof. Mendis has never forgotten his rural upbringing in his birthplace of Polonnaruwa. For this reason and many other contributions to higher education and international diplomacy, our celebrated alumnus is widely respected as “one of thirteen world’s famous people” born in Sri Lanka.

As I have demonstrated at the ICBM symposium, I fervently hope that one of our visionary leaders would reach out to Prof. Mendis for the benefit of developing our diplomatic tradecraft in foreign relations, corporate governance system, and post-graduate management education in our universities—or, at least inviting him as a visiting professor.

Over the years, I have observed that every “learning nation” like China, Japan, and South Korea has a vibrant character with designated programmes, such as the reversed “brain-drain” schemes. Likewise, Sri Lanka should reach out to its own illustrious citizens who live abroad for the advancement of our motherland.

*The writer is a professor of financial economics in the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

For more information go to:http//

Video Attached! President/CEO of SLF International, USA Meets Derana Start Up 2021 Prize Winners

On February 25th, 2022, Dr Dishan Jayasinha the President/CEO of the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA met with the Derana Start Up 2021 Entrepreneurs, Natalie Samarasinghe, Project Manager of Derana Start up 2021 and Roshan Fernando, General Manager Marketing & Project Chair of Derana at the TV Derana studio in Sri Lanka to handover the prizes for the Winners.

See attached Video:

Project Details:

Concerning the national interest of fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among Sri Lanka’s youth, Derana STARTUP 2021, the much-needed entrepreneurial TV show is now ready to showcase the Top 30 competitors. Implemented in Sri Lanka through a tripartite partnership between YouLead, USAID’s youth skill development and entrepreneurship program together with the TV Derana network and a Jordanian nonprofit organization, Partners for Good, Derana STARTUP 2021 seek to create a culture of entrepreneurial job creators while promoting demand for entrepreneurship among youth across the island.

Addressing the need of the hour, statistics show that less than 5% of Sri Lankan youth who complete technical training advance to start their own business. This is partly because Sri Lankan youth are less inclined to pursue a path down the entrepreneurial avenue as a negative social perception exists towards youth who are seeking out to be an entrepreneur. Derana STARTUP 2021 seeks to break through this unfortunate stigma through an exciting and competitive TV program. By attracting youth to share what could be potentially groundbreaking ideas with the masses, a culture of entrepreneurship will be introduced to Sri Lanka. Working for the man is no longer what drives our youth, being your boss will become a reality through Derana STARTUP 2021 and youth unemployment will be an issue of years gone by.

Derana STARTUP 2021 is called out to all youth entrepreneurs below the age of 35 who have an innovative product or service with business operations not exceeding over 24 months under the entry categories of individual, group and school levels. Over 4000 applications were received representing a diverse applicant pool. The applications were reviewed by a selection committee consisting of industry professionals and academics based on several factors including but not limited to the level of innovativeness and creativity of the product or service, commercial viability, potential competitiveness, sustainability, employment generation, social acceptance and the potential to expand the business. The top 30 finalists were selected from four selection rounds and went through various training and development workshops. They were also assigned a successful industry leader as mentors to develop and guide their entrepreneurial journey. The top 30 finalists are now ready to present their entrepreneurial projects to the general public through the TV reality show Derana STARTUP 2021. The program telecasts on Saturday 9.30 PM, Sunday 8.30 AM on Ada Derana 24 Channel and Monday 11 AM on TV Derana starting from the 8th of January 2022. The LIVE online telecast will be broadcast on Saturday at 9.30 PM on Ada Derana 24 Youtube channel. The viewers can vote for the best entrepreneurial project through SMS. The winners get to take home a cash prize of LKR 4 Million.

Derana STARTUP 2021’s end goal is to use this innovative approach to support innovation, increase the outreach, change behaviors, perceptions and increase demand for entrepreneurship while creating a support network, mentoring culture and access to resources which will, in turn, provide the required support for youth to become innovative entrepreneurs. For more details on the program, interested parties may visit

‘Tsunami’ bags two big awards at Bayelsa International Film Festival

Sri Lankan film director, screenwriter, and producer Somaratne Dissanayake won the award for Best Director (Tsunami).

At the same time, actress Niranjani Shanmugaraja won the award for Best Actress at the Bayelsa International Film Festival 2021.

Tsunami (Sinhala: සුනාමි) is a 2020 Sri Lankan Sinhala disaster drama film directed by Somaratne Dissanayake and produced by his wife Renuka Balasooriya for Cine Films Lanka.

It stars Niranjani Shanmugaraja and Darshan Dharmaraj in lead roles along with Himali Sayurangi and Bimal Jayakody and the Music composed by Rohana Weerasinghe.

The film is based on incidents that occurred in Sri Lanka during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004.

In October 2020, the film has qualified to represent the competition section of the Bayelsa International Film Festival in Yonago, Nigeria.

For more information:

Video Attached!!SLF Intl, USA Showcases 2021 Sri Lanka Day, One of a Kind Virtual Event!!!!! to the Global Audience

When 2021 Sri Lanka Day celebrations began many people logged in to the SLF Platform on August 20th from all around the world and entered the lobby were simply flabbergasted to witness such a detailed creation, with the information center, the Auditorium Exhibition hall, and the Networking lounge. The entrance to the Auditorium door opens and you are lead to the roof top in a elevator which is never seen any virtual event before. It was also breathtaking to see the creation of the virtual people moving around in the lobby and in their seats in the Auditorium and Networking lounge.

The attendees had the choice of deciding which segment of their interest and was able to enjoy it from the comfort of their homes.The five hour Amazing Cultural Performances from all over the world was viewed and enjoyed by many when some of the other Attendees were visiting and chatting with Vendors in the Exhibition Hall and the networking lounge was busy with people trying to connect.

The event continued on August 21st & 22nd, with excitement building up to win quiz prizes when our amazing live mc’s promoted enthusiasm and anticipation among the attendees to stay until the very end.

The “Pageant of Lanka” was showcased to give a feel of the original Parade that is hosted on the World Famous Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.

We appreciate our Sponsors for their contributions to support the event as well as showcasing their products. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all the volunteers for their valuable time to assist in many different ways.

The event ended with a Big Bang by the band “Sithara” to entertain the attendees with some nice Sihala Music.

Click on the link to watch the video:

Thank You to our Media Platinum Sponsor, Start Up Derana 2021 and Rural Enterprise Network


The Rural Enterprise Network (REN) store is scheduled to be launched to both Sri Lankan and international consumers on the 21st of August 2021 online. A social enterprise that focuses on the development of rural micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by supplying them with extensive marketing support, the REN Store strives to be the future of MSMEs. Backed by a group of well-experienced professionals, REN is a social marketing organization of its kind in Sri Lanka. Since 2002, they have helped numerous aspiring entrepreneurs and producers to improve their business performance and product quality.

Spearheaded by President, Mr. Roshan Fernando, the REN Store was established with the vision of ‘Eradicating poverty in Sri Lanka through the development of rural MSME producers’. Mr. Roshan Fernando too is no stranger to the struggle of MSMEs as the most immediate Past President of SLIM. Following his successful tenure, he has an in depth understanding of the struggles of MSMEs and has taken the initiative to establish a platform across which they can trade their products. With product categories ranging from Home & Lifestyle to Personal to Food & Beverages, the REN Store facilitates accessibility to Sri Lankan Homeware, Sri Lankan Living and Sri Lankan Cuisine. The product portfolio promises to represent traditional industries suitable for today, fulfilling the tagline of “Rural freshness to urban life”.

Speaking to the President of REN, Mr. Roshan Fernando on the impact of the REN Store he commented, “The REN Store is a cause that impacts the economy and the living standards of the rural community. By providing rural MSMEs with the necessary resources inclusive of a platform via which to sell their products online, we strive to enable these MSMEs to access both local and international markets. Understanding the toils of many rural families during COVID-19, we have recognized the necessity for supporting our fellow Sri Lankans and empowering them to achieve self-sufficiency by carrying out their business online. We will continue to strive to support MSMEs and expand so as to ensure that more rural communities have access to the benefits of a common network.”

The REN Store will be launched virtually at Sri Lanka Day in Los Angeles. When the annual Sri Lanka Day was celebrated in the historic city of Pasadena in 2019, thousands of visitors watched mesmerized by a miniature Kandy Perahera with decorated elephants on rollers and traditional Sri Lankan dancers that paraded the streets of Los Angeles. That day, Sri Lanka took its rightful place among the ethnic festivals held in America. This year, Sri Lanka Day 2021 will reach millions of viewers across the globe virtually via live shows. An elaborate public celebration that will highlight historical heritage, culture, and traditions of Sri Lanka to the world, it is the ideal platform for the launch of the REN Store. All Sri Lankans across the globe are invited and encouraged to visit the website to experience and celebrate Sri Lanka while supporting an MSME producer on


Rural Enterprise Network (REN) is a social enterprise operating with the vision of ‘Eradicating poverty in Sri Lanka through the development of rural MSME producers’, a cause that impacts the economy and the living standards of the rural community. Its main tasks are developing the Rural MSMEs and supplying extensive marketing support to them.
Link to website:

REGISTER NOW!!!2021 Sri Lanka Day Expo & Parade Goes Global on a Virtual Conference Platform

Register Now:

A spectacular presentation PROMOTING Sri Lanka’s arts, crafts & Merchandise on the global stage.

LOS ANGELES — When the annual Sri Lanka Day was celebrated in the historic city of Pasadena in 2019 the thousands of visitors who filed along the historic route of the New Year’s Day Rose Parade, gasped in amazement as they watched the ‘Pageant of Lanka,’ a miniature Kandy Perahera with decorated elephants on rollers and traditional Sri Lankan dancers, parading on the streets of Los Angeles. That day, Sri Lanka took its rightful place among the ethnic festivals held in America. 

  This year, Sri Lanka Day is going worldwide. As a virtual event Sri Lanka Day 2021 will reach millions of viewers across the globe. Although virtual events are not quite like seeing an event in person, these “quarantine events” are playing a fascinating role in keeping the public arts alive while public life is in lockdown. Each live event is unique and unfiltered, revealing a side of artists that many fans do not get an opportunity to seeup close. And like viewers, artists are looking for ways to display their unique talents. Through these at-home shows, they have found a perfect opportunity to blend performance with an uplifting experience, and that is what is offered by the Sri Lanka Day Virtual Event this year. It is billed to be an elaborate public celebration intended to expose the historical heritage, culture, and traditions of Sri Lanka to the world.

Sri Lanka Day celebrations are sponsored and organized by the Sri Lanka Foundation, based in Los Angeles, California, a brainchild of Dr. Walter Jayasinghe, a leading expatriate physician and a successful entrepreneur who came to the US in the early 1960s. In 2003, he established the Foundation to promote Sri Lankan cultural activities in the US and expose the American public to the many facets of the historical heritage and culture of Sri Lanka. Since then, the Foundation has been serving a wider community of Sri Lankans in and outside of the United States, and it is now the Sri Lanka Foundation International.

The Foundation’s premiere event is the annual Sri Lanka Day celebration. This year’s global event will be held on 20, 21, and 23 August. Throughout the three days, it will feature events from around the world when the sights and sounds and the unique taste of Sri Lanka will virtually come alive. It will feature Sri Lankan traditional music, dances, art, and theatre. The audience will also be treated to a tour de force of Sri Lankan art, artifacts, fashionable clothing, jewelry, sweets, spices, food to promote indigenous products and entrepreneurs. 

Mesmerizing dance and music performances from many countries will be staged throughout the three days. Keeping the audience entranced will be the traditional Kandyan and low country dances featuring vibrant costumes and ornate jewelry; Raban Pada, Hela Gee Rangana, ‘Thaala’ Nada, and other Sri Lankan classical and popular songs accompanied by well-choreographed dances with breath-taking spin movements and pulsating drumming. The performances are to be interspersed with a cultural fashion show with Sri Lankan models showcasing Sri Lankan costumes on the catwalk.

The main event will be the Kandy Perahera, the ‘Pageant of Lanka,’ a sample of the iconic Kandy Esala Perahera featuring a procession of ceremonial musicians, drummers, dancers, singers, stilt walkers, whip crackers, flag bearers, sword carriers, ‘Sesath’ Carriers, led by elegantly dressed ‘Nilames’ and various other performers accompanied by several elaborately adorned elephants, including the casket carrier parading the streets in celebration.

Among the highlights of the event are the expert presentations on topics relating to education, business, sports, health, and fashion.

Staging the virtual Sri Lanka Day event is a gigantic task. The planning and preparation for the event began several months back with hundreds of volunteers.  The Sri Lankan embassies and Sri Lankan community organizations worldwide have been brought together to plan and support the event.

According to the organizers, the Sri Lanka Day celebrations this year will have a global audience exceeding 50.000, and the event will exceed the standards set by long-established ethnic events anywhere. It should be a matter of pride to every Sri Lankan that their countrymen can stand side by side with other nations wherever they may be.

For more information contact:
Keshini Wijegoonaratna: 
email: or 213-400-7705
Achala Weerasinghe:email: or 213-400-1662
For vendors to register online or to watch the festival go to:

Written By:
Nandasiri(Nandi) Jasentuliyana
Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations, Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and President Emeritus, International Institute of Space Law & Policy.

Food Drive Huge Success hosted by Church of Scientology in Los Angeles

Thank you to all of the Volunteer Ministers who came out for our food drive last Sunday: Stewart, Trevor, Dawn, Scott, Keren, Luz, Tom S., Derek, Arlene, Tom W., Andrea, Abraham, Ron, Yates & Edwin. It was a huge success, thanks to the Volunteer Ministers of Southern California!

In addition to helping over 500 families with much needed food, we also welcomed 97 interested guests into the church for a tour and 74 watched the Stay Well Presentation! Following this, 17 purchased books and one started a Life Improvement Course.

Together, we are helping the people of East Hollywood!

This coming Saturday, 3rd of July, is the next food drive from 9am – 3pm, and we need your help!

Location: Church of Scientology in Los Angeles

Address: 4810 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, Ca

Kithul is Sri Lanka’s ‘syrup with a funk.’ One entrepreneur wants to bring it to the world.

In Sri Lanka’s Kalutara District, once Chaminda Ruwankumara sees that a palm tree’s flower is mature, he prepares to climb. He tucks a knife secured in a sheath into the back of his shorts, hangs a pot from the knife’s handle, and makes his way 25 to 40 feet up a makeshift wooden ladder wrapped around the tree. Ruwankumara then cuts the flower, collects its sweet sap and climbs back down. He does this up to three times a day.

Comfort and connection: Asian chefs and celebrities share how food can draw us closer and divide us)

Next, he boils the sap over a fire for several hours, until it becomes the thick, dark syrup called pani, known also as kithul syrup, kithul treacle or simply kithul. Though the tree, a species of palm called Caryota urens (also called the fishtail palm), grows in other parts of the region, the sticky, smoky, sweet-yet-savory syrup is purely Sri Lankan. And it is Sri Lankan tappers who for generations have made the dangerous climb to retrieve the sap, while receiving less compensation than advocates say their product and work are worth.

Samantha Fore, a first-generation Sri Lankan American chef in Lexington, Ky., calls kithul “syrup with a funk. It’s that funk that makes it so versatile.” When the kithul is pure and “done right,” she says, it is characterized by a depth of flavor ranging from smoky to savory. “Otherwise, it just tastes like watered-down or sugared-up syrup.”

A tapper climbs a palm tree in Sri Lanka’s Galle District in 2020. (Courtesy of Chanchala Gunewardena)

In fact, most mass-marketed kithul is diluted with water and sugar by middlemen, collectors/resellers or buyers — not usually by tappers or farmers, explains Chanchala Gunewardena, who in 2017 founded the small-batch brand Kimbula Kithul in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital. While several brands are available online and from South Asian stores outside Sri Lanka, they tend to be the mass-produced, cheap bottles that may only have a hint of kithul’s funk. “In Sri Lanka itself, a lot of people haven’t experienced real kithul for a while,” she says.

“After covid lockdowns, the kithul was really sugared down,” she adds, noting that some makers resorted to falsely inflating volume to avoid a loss of sales. The Asian dishes that bring our readers comfort and remind them of home With her company, Gunewardena is on a mission to prove that there is demand for well-sourced kithul, and, crucially, that it can fetch a higher price on a global market than the mass-produced brands. In addition to being vegan, pure kithul is low glycemic (and Kimbula Kithul certifiably so, by a lab in the United Kingdom), meaning glucose is released into the blood more slowly and that there is potential for kithul in the alternative-sweetener realm. Off the island, Kimbula Kithul is available in the United Kingdom and is heading soon to Australia and Singapore; as of this spring, a limited supply can be ordered via Kimbula’s website for delivery in the United States.

Complex issues adversely affecting the kithul industry abound, including land management under the Sri Lankan government; an outdated quota system that leads people to dilute the sap with sugar and water; a lack of infrastructure to accommodate such a perishable product; and the ever-growing reality of climate change’s weather extremes. (This species of palm is not currently cultivated and does not face the same environmental issues as oil palms.)

But kithul’s more immediate threat is a lack of tappers. “We’re not seeing a lot of young people go into it,” says Gunewardena. “The economic incentives have to change.”


Sap being boiled into syrup in Sri Lanka’s Matale District. (Courtesy of Chanchala Gunewardena)

The kithul trade is typically passed on down the line, with fathers teaching sons. Though it’s usually men who collect the sap, women are integral in the production and business side, and it’s very much a family-run business, Gunewardena explains in one of Kimbula Kithul’s Instagram posts. Women often handle the boiling of the sap, which must be done immediately after collection, before the sap ferments. Fermented sap, broadly called palm wine but known by many regional names, has long been enjoyed wherever palm trees grow, including parts of Africa and South Asia. In part because of this alcohol connotation in the old caste system, though, tappers were once looked down upon.

Netflix’s ‘High on the Hog’ showcases Black people’s vital contributions to American food “Overall, the esteem and the dignity of the work was not there,” says Gunewardena. “From a brand perspective, when I looked at the supermarket kithul bottles, the tapper was nowhere in the story of the product. But this whole industry relies on them, and if we don’t see them, don’t celebrate them, that’s our downfall.”

Ruwankumara, a tapper for Kimbula Kithul, has been collecting sap for about 10 years, though he didn’t begin until after his father’s death. His father didn’t teach him to tap because he thought it was too dangerous. In addition to dealing with snakes and insects, the climb itself is extremely tedious. Eight years ago Ruwankumara fell about 15 feet when his ladder broke away from the tree.

Once he and his wife had their son, Ruwankumara, now 37, started tapping again to bring in additional income, though he mainly plucks tea. (Most tappers work in another agricultural sector as well because such work is safer and more consistent.) The beginning of the year is prime time for kithul, and tappers can fetch a higher price, as it leads up to the Sinhala and Tamil new year in April, when kithul sweetens many celebratory foods.

Chanchala Gunewardena, founder of Kimbula Kithul. (Courtesy of Shashini Gamage) Amal Abeysekera, a lecturer in finance at University of Oklahoma, says that when he was growing up in Boralesgamuwa, a town on the outskirts of Colombo, “one of the most common ways I used to use it in the treacle format was to have it with curd made from buffalo’s milk.” One of his favorite things to make with kithul is pani pol. “You cook coconut in the syrup with spices like cardamom, nutmeg, that kind of thing,” he explains over a FaceTime call. “That’s a filling for different Sri Lankan desserts.” Kithul also works as a sweetener in typical western bakes, such as gingerbread cookies, cake and banana bread. “I also have made salted caramel from the kithul and made ice cream from it,” he adds. “It’s really good on ice cream.”

Ryan Chetiyawardana, a world-renowned bartender and bar owner in London, calls kithul’s deep sweetness “obviously delicious on porridge.” He also likes it in salsa, where its savory, smoky notes lift the natural sweetness of tomatoes. “You could glaze carrots with it or use it to give meat a sweet edge.” And yes, Chetiyawardana — who in early 2020 opened cocktail bar Silver Lyan in Washington, D.C. — also uses kithul in drinks, in ways that “bubble beneath the surface.” It works well in a whiskey sour, or with most any dark spirit.

But, “I think it’s more interesting in something like a martini,” he says. Indeed, just a quarter teaspoon of kithul stirred into a vodka martini (with the drinker’s preferred ratio of dry vermouth) creates a curiously savory sip, almost like a dirty martini despite its lack of olive juice.

Black barbecue gets a long-overdue spotlight in two new books Fore, who seeks to familiarize more people with Sri Lankan cooking through her pop-up restaurant Tuk Tuk, sees the syrup as nostalgic and distinct compared to other crops touched by Sri Lanka’s colonized past. “When it’s good pani, I use it to heighten desserts, add depth, an accent of sweetness,” she says. “Or I can cook it with onion, chile and tamarind and have a really good seeni sambol,” or onion chutney. Mass-produced kithul isn’t garbage, but it’s not particularly special, either. “In the same way you have industrial honeys and small honeys, it’s the same with industrial kithul,” says Chetiyawardana. One 265-milliliter bottle of Kimbula Kithul (complex, barely sweet) is $16.95, while larger brands such as MD (one-note, often sweet as caramel) go for $4 for 350 ml. It’s yet another example of paying more for quality and the knowledge that the workers behind a product are fairly compensated.

Kimbula Kithul, named for the crocodile that swims in Gunewardena’s mother’s native southern Matara District, is following in the footsteps of a few other pure kithul brands by working to get other such businesses to cooperate instead of compete. Gunewardena is sending a signal to the whole industry: Invest in the people who make this all possible by paying them what they’re worth, then increase the price at retail advertisement.

And it’s working: More small, pure kithul sellers are already popping up around Sri Lanka, and some tell her that Kimbula Kithul is the reason they got into this business. Rather than being upset that others are following her tactics, she celebrates it. “As long as they’re duplicating on quality and farmer compensation, there’s nothing bad about increased sales for tappers. It doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious, or competitive, I’m all those things,” she says. “But you can get stuck in the competition and get bogged in the drama of that, or focus on the possibilities.” “I’m in a position where I just have to get this product out there to get the support to get the infrastructure to build it,” she says. “That’s the immediate goal. Then we’ll chase the many dreams.”

By Kara Elder
Washington Post
Photos by Chanchala Gunawardhana