Caption: The Executive Committee of the Punjabi Society of the British Isles and Dignitaries presenting a Cheque to Commodore Andrew Cameron of Combat Stress.
The Punjabi Society of the British Isles (PSBI) hosted a spectacular Diwali Dinner at the SAS Radisson Hotel, Portman Square, London W1H 7BG on 8th November 2013 in support of the Armed Forces charity, ‘Combat Stress’, www.combatstress.org.ukwhich provides support for psychologically traumatized soldiers.
Over 430 elite guests attended this glittering dinner with the Guest of Honour being the Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Chief Guest being the Acting High Commissioner, Dr. Virander Paul.
Other high profile guests who attended the dinner included, The Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee; Mr Richard Harrington MP, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party; Ms Fiona Mactaggart MP; Ms Seema Malhotra MP, Opposition Whip & Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Business Group; Commodore Andrew Cameron, Chief Executive of the Charity Combat Stress and H.E. Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene, the Lithuanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
General Secretary, Mr Subhash Chander in his introductory speech wished everyone a very happy Diwali and spoke of the Punjabi community being known and commended for its positive contributions to every aspect of British Society and urged future generations to make the community stronger and better by giving back to society from where we have benefited so much.
The President, Dr Rami Ranger MBE, FRSA, spoke about the vibrancy, colourfulness and beauty of the Punjabi culture which has enriched Britain where it’s ever growing political presence is benefiting the country. While speaking on the charity ‘Combat Stress’, Dr. Ranger asked the audience to imagine the trauma of soldiers who have to go through the impact war which can adversely affect their mental health and as a result they require counselling to overcome the trauma of war. He praised the work of the charity for turning liabilities into assets for our nation again.
The Guest of Honour, The Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Member of Parliament for Buckingham and Speaker of the House of Commons spoke of the unique honour it was to be celebrating Diwali amongst the Punjabi community. He praised Dr. Ranger and the Executive Committee of the Punjabi Society of the British Isles for their hard work in promoting dialogue, social cohesion, fundraising for worthy causes and for 85 years preserving the history, art, language and culture of the Punjab. He described Britain a richer society as a result of its multi-racial and multi-cultural society and it is more blessed now than it has been at any other time in history.
Dr. Virander Paul, the Acting High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom himself a Punjabi, wished the guests a Happy Diwali and thanked the Punjabi community for contributing considerably to the positive image others have of Indian diaspora. He added that the good deeds and actions of the Punjabi community ‘Make India Proud’. He thanked the PSBI committee for organising such a wonderful dinner and was overjoyed when he was asked to attend as the Chief Guest.
The Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz MP, Member of Parliament for Leicester East and Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee spoke in admiration of the Speaker of the House of Commons and described him as ‘Simply the Best’, stating that it was rare for a national parliament to have speaker who is not only a great parliamentarian but is able to debate with best of the best. He praised the Speaker for his drive for equality and making a huge difference to parliamentary life. He went onto thank Dr Rami Ranger and the PSBI for the charitable work they do and raising the profile of the Punjabi community.
Mr Richard Harrington MP, Member of Parliament for Watford & Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party said that the evening was to celebrate the contributions of the British Punjabi community. With remembrance Sunday around the corner, he reminded the audience of bravery and sacrifices of many thousands of people from the Punjab who took part in the great wars.
Ms Fiona MacTaggart MP, Member of Parliament for Slough reminded guests that over 130,000 men primarily of the Punjab region fought for Britain in the first world war and that members of the same community are to this day, 100 years later are still making a positive and productive contribution to Britain through their ethos of hard work and honest labour.
H.E. Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene, the Lithuanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom said she was delighted to have been invited to the Annual Diwali and wished all present a happy Diwali. She said that we must all take responsibility to help the vulnerable in our society and urged guests to donate generously to Combat Stress, adding that together we can make a difference.
Commodore Andrew Cameron, Chief Executive of the charity Combat Stress spoke about the history of the charity and the work it does and has done to help integrate traumatised ex-military soldiers into society. He spoke of the types of psychological trauma service men and women and their families go through as a result need mental health care to help them. He added that the charity provides care for over 5000 UK veterans and this number is growing steeply. He thanked those present for their support.
Four special individuals were honoured with the Pride of Punjab Award for bringing honour to their community and country through their lives.
The first award went to Mr Atul Pathak, Managing Director of APPT Corporation Ltd., who has through his Philanthropic Activities helped so many lives. Mr Pathak has raised over £250,000 for various charities and also donates a percentage of his annual sales; last year he raised over £20,000 by trekking across the Sahara. Upon receiving the award Mr Pathak said that it was a privilege and honour to be recognised by one’s own community, he described the Punjabi values that are the basis of his philanthropic activities, adding that he is proud to have these values instilled in him.
The second award was given to Mr Kuljit Singh Gulati who has been a long serving member of the PSBI and has devoted a considerable amount of his time for the benefit of others through his distinguished and dedicated community services. Upon receiving the award Mr Gulati said that he was humbled with the recognition and dedicated the award to this vision of his Gurus whose teachings he tries to follow.
The third award was given to Mr Bhupinder Singh, Managing Director of Punjab National Bank (Intl.) Ltd. who has immensely contributed to the Banking industry with his out of the box thinking and innovative ideas. Upon receiving the award Mr Singh thanked the Punjabi Society of the British Isles for the honoured bestowed. He praised British tolerance for allowing him to achieve a great deal in Britain. He added that Punjab National Bank (Intl.) Ltd. will continue to work closely with the community and support businesses.
The fourth award went to Ms Seema Malhotra MP, Member of Parliament for Feltham & Heston, Opposition Whip & Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Business Group for her selfless service to her constituents and public. Ms Malhotra MP thanked the PSBI for the hard work they do in raising the profile of the Punjabi community and connecting the Punjabi community with others in the UK. She said we must keep alive our sense of purpose, so that together we can make a greater difference.
Dr. Rami Ranger joined Commodore Andrew Cameron and made a sincere appeal for guests to show their true Punjabi Spirit and show the world that Britons are a nation of grateful people and are grateful for our Armed Forces; on the night more than £10,000 was raised for the charity, Combat Stress.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr N.S. Rai, Treasurer of the Society. He thanked everyone present including the Executive members for putting together such a glittering dinner, Punjab National Bank (Intl.) Ltd. and Pernod Ricard for their generous support and other corporate firms who had given their support.
Guests were treated to awesome dance performances by the Las Vegas Showgirls.
The Audio & Visual services on the night were courtesy of Ritzy Music and the delicious food was provided by Laguna Banqueting.