The British Sikh Association (BSA) hosted its most memorable Annual Dinner at the SAS Radisson Portman Hotel, Portman Square, London W1H 7BG on 26th September 2013 to pay tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby who was brutally murdered in a terrorist attack on 22nd May 2013. Homage was also paid to the armed forces for the supreme sacrifices they pay for the protection of our liberty. The Guest of Honour was Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and Chief Guest Mr Sukhdev S. Sidhu, Minister Coordination at the Indian High Commission, UK. Special Guest, Shri Madan Mohan Mittal, Minister for Social Security & Development of Women & Children, Health & Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs of the state of Punjab who was awarded the Jewel of Punjab Award.
Over 450 elite guests attended this glittering dinner which included: Mr Richard Harrington MP, Member of Parliament for Watford & Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party; Ms Chloe Smith MP, Member of Parliament for Norwich North and Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Mr Paul Uppal MP, Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West; Major General Bob Nitch, General Officer Commanding Support Command; Commodore Andrew Cameron, Chief Executive of the Charity Combat Stress; Lt. Col. Bob Christopher, Commander of the Central Volunteer Head Quarters Royal Artillery & Woolwich Station; Mr. Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote; Mr Ramniklal Solanki CBE, Founder & Editor in Chief of the Asian Media Marketing Group; Mr CB Patel, Chairman & Editor of Asian Business Publications Ltd., H.E. Mrs Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene; Lithuanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
The event started with a spectacular dance performance by the Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan group who gave guests a flavour of traditional Indian dance with their array of bright and vibrant colours.
A mesmerising two part performance was given by the ‘The Band of the Royal Life Guards’ who gave a strong presentation and a great sense of British pride; the performance left the audience spellbound.
Dr Sukhbir Kapoor OBE, Secretary General of the British Sikh Association, in his introductory speech mentioned that the Sikh holy scriptures talk about a universe brotherhood and that we are children of one God. The Sikh scripture advocate love for one another and our creator.
Dr Rami Ranger MBE, Chairman of the British Sikh Association, spoke about “religion being a force for good that should be used to unite and not divide mankind”. He made a noble speech on the role of religion and how it should be used to help lead a life of high morals and not to turn people into murderers and killers. Dr. Ranger’s speech was followed by a minute’s silence in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby.
Mr. Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote spoke about the importance of doing good for one’s community and society and thus portraying ones community in a wonderful light. He admired Dr. Ranger’s hard work, drive and passion which is evident in the work he does for the Sikh Community and referred to him as a role model for others to follow.
Lt. Col. Bob Christopher; Commander of the Central Volunteer Head Quarters Royal Artillery & Woolwich Station, Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, said that he was grateful to the BSA for recognising the work of the military and post Drummer Lee Rigby’s death he had been trying to educate the public about the role of the military.
Mr Sukhdev Sidhu praised the work being done by the British Sikh Association by promoting the message of Sikh Gurus for mankind. He quoted Philosopher Bertrand Russell’s quote, "If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the third world war of atomic and hydrogen bombs, then the Sikh religion will be the only means of guiding them. When asked, isn’t this religion capable of guiding mankind before the third world war? He said, Yes it has the capability, but the Sikhs haven’t brought their splendid doctrines in broad daylight".
Member of Parliament for Norwich North; Ms Chloe Smith MP, spoke about how delighted she was to be at the event and how the Sikh traditions and values stretch to all corners of the country including her own constituency.
Member of Parliament for Watford, Mr Richard Harrington MP, said he was humbled by the warmth the Sikh community extends to him and how he appreciates the Sikh values in today’s society. He was particularly grateful to the Sikh community in Watford for extending him a welcome during his election campaign.
The Guest of Honour, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe QPM, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service spoke about how he felt humbled at being asked to attend the British Sikh Association Annual Dinner and have the opportunity to share his experience with British Sikhs. He urged member of the audience to encourage their future generations to join the Police and serve their community, he added that a career in the Police was amongst the most rewarding.
The Sikh Jewel Award was given to those who brought honour to their community and country through their lives and by living up to the ideals of their Gurus.
The first award went to Mr Ravi Gidar, who has made significant contributions to the care of the elderly across the UK. Mr Ravi Gidar was honoured to receive recognition from his own community and talked about the Sikhs belief in integration, and its importance in the community.
The second award was given to Dr Pooja Dassan who has devoted her career to helping pregnant women with complex neurological problems. Dr Pooja Dassan felt humbled and talked about the second and third generation Sikhs doing well in the field of Law, Medicine and Politics. She also talked about the Sikh ethos of hard work and education instilled at a young age which encourages the young generation to take full advantage of opportunities.
The third award was given to Professor Jaspal Singh Kooner, who is widely recognised as one the world’s leading clinical cardiologists and clinician scientists. Professor Jaspal Singh Kooner, when accepting his award said heart disease is a common issue in the community and he will continue to work hard in-order to educate and inform of a better standard of living.
The fourth award went to Mr Paul Uppal MP for working tirelessly for his Wolverhampton constituents and being the first Sikh Conservative Member of Parliament. He talked about the importance of educational excellence given to children, so that they can get a good head start in life.
The Honorary Jewel of Punjab Award was given to Shri Madan Mohan Mittal. Whilst accepting the award Shri Mittal spoke about being honoured by the BSA and how he was proud to be born in Anandpur Sahib the birth place of Sikhism. He added that the Sikh principles go further by encouraging the integration in your adopted country and by making a name for yourself within that community. He closed by stating that he will present the award to Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab State, India.
Commodore Andrew Cameron, Chief Executive of the charity Combat Stress spoke about the hard work by volunteer groups who have given up their free time to help traumatised ex-military soldiers make a full recovery and help them integrate into society after serving time at war. This was followed by an insightful presentation about the noble causes of Combat Stress.
After the presentation Dr. Rami Ranger joined Commodore Andrew Cameron and made a sincere appeal for guests to show their true Sikh sprit and give generously to a noble cause of which more than £10,000 was raised for the charity, Combat Stress.
The Vote of Thanks was given by Interfaith & Charities Secretary, Dr. Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal who thanked the top table and hoped the evening had given them a good insight into the faith of Sikhism. He personally thanked all management and staff for making the Annual Dinner a success. A Special thanks was given to all the sponsors of the event including Punjab National Bank (Intl.) Ltd.
The Audio & Visual services on the night were courtesy of Ritzy Music and the delicious food was provided by Laguna Banqueting.