UN Resident Coordinator Una McCauley was the Chief Guest at the event.
This award was “in recognition and appreciation of his outstanding contributions to the community, undeterred by his personal adversity, playing voluntarily eight different roles over 17 consecutive years to promote Accessibility Rights, focusing on enhancement of the quality of daily life of people of all abilities.”
The UN has just emphasised the need for people with disabilities to be guaranteed the full enjoyment of human rights, including the Right to Access, through the appointment of a special rapporteur on this key subject.
Hence, this timely initiative by the UNASL - the leading independent policy authority on the United Nations in Sri Lanka and a Sri Lanka-wide grassroots membership organisation - is of extreme national importance.
This year’s program was organised by UNASL in collaboration with United Nations Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It was held in the presence of a distinguished gathering of local and foreign dignitaries and saw the participation of children from over 75 schools from across the island.
APEX award recipient
A large tree in the vicinity of the UN compound in Colombo 7 fell on Perera’s moving car in November 1992, leaving him a paraplegic for life.
It was perhaps the first time a Sri Lankan professional with dis-Ability and confined to a wheelchair for life was recognised by a national body for ability within dis-Ability and appreciated for his outstanding achievements and significant voluntary contributions impacting society positively.
This is one of the key areas the UN CRPD stresses.
Three international bodies have accepted him as a Fellow, two international bodies have awarded him Chartered status and four more world organisations promoting accessibility have afforded him membership.
Perera has defied convention to break away from the shackles of the traditional roles of a chemist and a scientist with resilience and perseverance to be an outstanding achiever, raising the bar of excellence.
Since 1998, as a pioneering activist, he has aggressively promoted two concepts: Accessible Sri Lanka for All and Accessible Tourism for Everyone (ATE).
In 2010 November, he represented Sri Lanka at the International Congress on Standards in Geneva, Switzerland organised by the International Organisation for Standardisation ISO.
Over three years, appearing at all times in person on a wheelchair and seeking redress for physically dis-Abled persons accessing new public buildings, he successfully singlehandedly pursued a public interest litigation fundamental rights application and in 2011 April received a substantial boost when the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka issued a landmark order.
Subinay Nandy, the former UN Country representative for Sri Lanka, last year paid a glowing tribute to the untiring efforts made by Dr. Perera towards the ratification of the UN CRPD by Sri Lanka.
Down memory lane
Since 1948, 24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day. The United Nations organisation was established on 24 October 1945 with the UN Charter coming into force. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.
The United Nations Association of Sri Lanka (UNASL) was established on 19 August 1950 with the support of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake.
Registered as an incorporated body, it is one of the oldest non-governmental national organisations in the country.
The head of State (the Governor General of Ceylon and subsequently the President of Sri Lanka) is the Patron of this association, the Prime Minister is the Chief Vice Patron and the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition are Vice Patrons.
In 1951, UNASL gained admission to the World Federation of United Nation Associations (WFUNA), which was founded on 2 August 1946 by 22 United Nations Associations (UNA).
Dr. Lakshaman Marasinghe, a Barrister-at-Law (Inner Temple), Attorney-at-Law (Sri Lanka) and Emeritus Professor of Law of the University of Windsor, Canada is UNASL’s current President.
Right to accessibility
One of the UN’s primary purposes is promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms equally for all without distinction.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. It came into force on 3 May 2008.
The Convention stresses that persons with disabilities should be able to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.
Accessibility is one of the eight guarding pillars forming the backbone of this convention.
To this end, State parties which have ratified this convention are bound to ensure that persons with dis-Abilities have access without discrimination to the man-built physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications technology and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public.
Perhaps it is befitting for an eminent professional such as Dr. Perera to be afforded the opportunity to promote and make the concept Accessible Sri Lanka a meaningful reality, realising it as an indispensable part of the economic and social development plans of Sri Lanka.