The ‘Distinguished Public Service Award’ conferred on Kusuma Cooray

31 July 2017 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Command presenting Ms. Cooray the Distinguished Public Service Award at the U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters

 

Sri Lanka’s former honorary Consul in Hawaii, Kusuma Cooray, Professor Emerita was recently awarded the ‘Distinguished Public Service Award’. It is the highest award that a civilian could receive from the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) of the United States of America.   
The award was presented to her by the Commander of the Pacific Command Admiral Harry B. Harris on 24th March, 2017 at the Pacific Command Headquarters, Camp Smith, Hawaii.   

At the award ceremony Admiral Harry Harris said “Kusuma during her 17 year tenure as honorary Consul of Sri Lanka has rendered service and assistance at considerable personal sacrifice motivated by patriotism, good citizenship and a sense of public responsibility.”   

 

In both her books she pays tribute to Sri Lanka in general and her town Moratuwa in particular

 

The following is the edited version of the citation accompanying the award: “For the distinguished public service to the Department of Defence as the 2nd Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Hawaii, from February 2001 to January 2017, Consul Cooray diligently worked to strengthen solidarity between the United States military leadership stationed in Hawaii and all levels of the Sri Lankan Government.

During her tenure she played a pivotal role in improving bilateral, multilateral cooperation in support of the United States Pacific Command’s mission with the clear purpose of enhancing the United States-Sri Lanka partnership. Consul Cooray was instrumental in further normalizing bilateral relations between the forces of the United States Pacific Command and the Sri Lanka Defence Force. She played a critical role in arranging the Commander U.S. Pacific Command’s participation in the November 2016 Galle Dialogue, which marked the first visit to Sri Lanka by a four-star Officer since 2003. Her distinctive accomplishments are in keeping with the finest traditions of public service and reflect great credit upon herself and the Department of Defence.”   

Kusuma is an exceptional diplomat and a celebrated chef. She worked for the University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific and retired as Professor Emerita. She has won many prestigious awards, the most recent is the La Chaine des Rotisseurs Gold Star of Excellence for mentoring young chefs. She is consulted frequently by many hotels and restaurants. Her illustrious career in the field of hospitality spans over 40 years, during which time she taught and mentored 3 generations of young people who today make the backbone of the Food and Hotel Industry in Hawaii.   

Kusuma generously volunteered to teach chefs in Sri Lanka as well. In 1998 she was the initiator and project director for the 2 year USAID funded “Island Nation: Island State”, a project in tourism development in Sri Lanka, a collaboration between the University of Hawaii, Kahala Hilton, Prince Hotels, Sheraton Waikiki and, Ceylon Hotel School, Chefs’ Guild of Sri Lanka and Ceylon Hotel School’s Graduates’ Association of Sri Lanka.   
In 1999 the Ceylon Hotel School Graduate Association Sri Lanka awarded her “Honorary Membership” in appreciation of the contributions made towards the upgrading of the Hotel and Tourism Industry in Sri Lanka.   

Kusuma is an author. Her first book titled ‘Burst of Flavour – The Fine Art of Cooking with Spices’ published by the University of Hawaii, was awarded the Hawaii Book Publishers Association Po’Okela Award –Excellence in Cook Books- Award of Excellence 2002. Her second book ‘From Ocean to Plate - Cooking Fish with Hawaii’s Kusuma Cooray also published by the University of Hawaii and awarded the Po’Okela Award of Excellence in 2015. Her 3rd book will be launched in 2018.   
Kusuma is a product of Moratuwa, one of the populace towns in the country situated along the western seaboard that has produced men and women of stature, who left lasting impressions on the country. Moratuwa is well-known for its professionals, sportsmen, musicians, woodcraftsmen and the fisher-folkswho venture out to the sea to bring ashore their harvest of fish.   

In both her books she pays tribute to Sri Lanka in general and her town Moratuwa in particular.   
Kusuma left Sri Lanka in 1972 for culinary studies in Britain and thereafter left Britain in1975 for the United States where she met Ranjit Cooray and settled down in Hawaii. Ranjit a Fulbright Scholar from Sri Lanka was also from Moratuwa. He joined the University of Hawaii in 1971 where he completed a Master’s degree in Botanical Sciences. He was attached to the University of Hawaii Lyon Arboretum when he passed away in January 2001.

(Russell C.Chitty)

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