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Mr. Aruna V. Abeygoonesekera Mnzm

Mr. Aruna V. Abeygoonesekera Mnzm

Consulate for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, New Zealand

For nearly three decades, New Zealanders have enjoyed Dilmah tea, a brand that is inextricably associated with its founder, Merrill J Fernando, who is celebrating his 90th birthday on 6 May this year. A regular visitor to New Zealand, Merrill is not only the face of Dilmah but has become an icon representing the values of compassion, sustainability, sharing and innovation.

I have had the pleasure of hosting Merrill and his sons Dilhan and Malik, during their visits to New Zealand on numerous occasions and accompanying them on in their travels. His presence has delighted participants at the Napier Art Deco festival and his public talks in Wellington about his life story have been received with standing ovations. It was entirely fitting that last year Merrill was awarded with an honorary doctorate from Massey University. This achievement recognised his contributions to the food industry globally as well as his strong connection with Massey through research collaborations, including work into the antioxidant and health properties of tea. The award celebrates Merrill’s prowess in business and science, but also his commitment to ethical food production and his philanthropic activities that has seen Dilmah known for its commitment to people. Since 1997, Dilmah has donated tea to all hospices across New Zealand. Dilmah has also been an invaluable sponsor of the annual celebrations of Sri Lanka’s independence held in Wellington each year organised by my office. I am sure that Kiwis join me in taking this opportunity to personally wish Merrill a very happy 90th birthday. You truly are a wonderful, warm and inspiring individual !!!