Daily Archives: October 19, 2006

Private sector must lead people to say “Enough is enough”

Sri Lanka’s two main political parties – the ruling SLFP and main opposition UNP, which together represent a majority of the country’s population – are presently shaping what could be a historic southern consensus. However, much more needs to be done in terms of ensuring that sustained political will translates into a north-south consensus, said Chandra Jayaratne on BENCHMARK recently.

The recently retired but still highly-respected business leader declared that the corporate community, religious leaders, NGOs and other civil-society actors should unite and speak out in one voice, demanding an end to Sri Lanka’s protracted conflict.

Recent political developments between government and opposition have been hailed by the business community, which has generally advocated a national government. But the one time head of the Joint Business Forum (J-biz) told BENCHMARK that it is time for everyone to unite and say: “Enough is enough!”

Jayaratne was sharing his views about the role that the business community could play to catalyse a viable resolution to the long-drawn-out conflict. Commenting on hoary business responses to the peace process, he observed: “They meet, write papers, make suggestions and issue press statements. But beyond that, there is no unity in the private sector.” Fundamentally, the private sector is neither united nor integrated (“everyone is doing their own thing”) in seeking to bring about an end to the conflict, the erstwhile CEO of Eagle Insurance told BENCHMARK.

“Advocacy today is not going to take them far. If the leaders of both sides are not willing to listen to the international community, or even human-rights commissions and international jurists, I do not believe they will listen to the voice of business,” he opined.

In this regard, the challenges confronting the Sri Lankan private sector cannot be compared to the issues once faced by the business communities in South Africa and Ireland, in which countries the political leaders were willing to listen to highly-placed captains of commerce, Jayaratne pointed out.

When BENCHMARK queried whether the business community here was in any way afraid to make a bold move for peace, he said: “I think business is scared to talk on many subjects – not only on peace… even on issues pertaining to governance. But I think the strength to talk, express ideas and act will come to them if they empower the common people whom they serve.”

Jayaratne elaborated: “The people at the top, on both sides, will listen only when the people talk – not when the business community, the international community or NGOs talk,” he averred. The business community should not forget that the general public – or, more specifically, the voter – is the most important player in this regard. The country’s leaders are likely to listen to those who have the power to elect them, he asserted. Thus, fresh initiatives are needed, he averred, explaining that it is not acceptable for everyone – including business – to do the same things others have done before… and expect a different result.

According to Jayaratne, harnessing the potential of the people is not a difficult task for businesses, which reach the common masses as a matter of course virtually daily through their respective distribution networks. “They can reach every household through a leaflet distributed through their retail and wholesale chains,” he emphasised.

Jayaratne urged: “Don’t ask business to do it alone. If the media joins hands with business and business takes the bold step of joining with everybody else in civil society, they can reach every household with one simple message: ‘Enough! We now need peace’…”

The former head of what is arguably Sri Lanka’s most influential trade chamber explained to viewers of BE NCHMARK that forming one coalition of all those who are affected – sans the government and the LTTE, who are not affected – is essential. “We don’t need the international community. We can apply pressure on both sides to solve this,” he affirmed.

Jayaratne underscored that ‘people power’ and single-minded unity among the business community as well as other stakeholders are vital in catalysing a resolution to the most pressing issue that has been daunting our nation’s progress for the past two-plus decades.

“I think a good example [of latent people power] is that the people in the north and east left their homes as soon as the conflict started again, recently. They were not there to shield the LTTE this time. ‘Enough is enough,’ they said,” he noted.

Jayaratne, whilst pointing out that the business community has failed to realise that ‘people power’ is its greatest strength, urged corporates to make use of this factor and think out-of-the-box to bring about a solution to the conflict. BENCHMARK is presented by LMD and produced by ‘the wrap factory’. It airs every Sunday on TNL at noon, with a repeat at 9.05 p.m. -Financial Times

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UNP wants to enter the government to get a political mileage

By  Walter Jayawardhana

Los Angeles:- As revealed in the last working committee meeting of the United National Party many in the party want to follow a hunt with the hounds and run with the foxes policy by entering into a grand coalition with the ruling Sri lanka Freedom Party.

As expressed by many in the working committee meeting they were delighted to have ministerial plums in the cabinet and some wanted to demand even 50 per cent of the available ministerial positions for the UNP stalwarts, party insiders said.

In fact such demands were put forward mostly by UNP leaders like Rajitha Senaratne who has been mostly critical of the Mahinda Rajapaksa policy of going to war when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam blocked the Mavil Aru Irrigation canal. He has been also a crusader of Kumar Rupasinghe’s National Anti War Movement, which has been accused of being a fifth column for the warring Tamil Tigers.

Even Ranil Wicremesinghe’s beautiful friend Rosie Senanayaka reportedly wanted the party to demand a fifty per cent of the cabinet positions.

But many wanted to have the plums of office while gaining political mileage in order to form the same kind of UNP government with a policy of appeasement to the Tamil Tigers reversing many gains of the present government over the LTTE.

National Organizer S. B. Dissanayaka and his political colleague Mahinda Wijesekera point out the greed of office among many UNP stalwarts is being used by the leader of the party to do away proposed reforms to curb his dictatorial powers in the United national Party. Dissanayaka and Wijesekera Company are accusing that under the present UNP constitution the party leader cannot be changed unless he dies or decides to resign. They say many party members were ready to change those regulations but now they were more concerned about winning a ministerial plum by being in the good books of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wijesekera recently said that the proposals for those party reforms are to be submitted by them by November 19 and for Ranil Wickremesinghe to keep dictatorial powers that enable him to appoint the Secretary General and Chairman of the Party was not in keeping with any accepted democratic norm in the world. National Organizer S. B. Dissanayaka said that he was fully opposed to the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe protégé Tissa Attanayaka as the Secretary General and parliamentarian and founder leader D.S.Senanayaka’s grandson Rukman Senanayaka as the party Chairman.

Immediately after the last Presidential election Rukman was leading a group of rural members of parliament together with Karu Jayasuriya in demanding Wickremesinghe to resign. But Wickremesinghe used Tissa Attanayaka to avert that revolt and gradually won him over by offering a powerless title in the party.

Criticizing Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement that the UNP would support the government’s budget Wijesekera said in the face of the country’s economic downfall that was an unacceptable position. Wijesekera questioned how he could support the government without even knowing whether the government was prepared to accept a federal solution or a unitary solution. He attacked the party leadership for giving an open check to the hands of the government.

After agreeing to support the government’s budget, at a recent UNP press conference UNP parliamentarians Laxman Kiriella and Bandula Gunawardena made scathing attacks on the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Bandula Gunawardena accused the government of producing false figures at when presenting their last budget and said it has brought about economic ruination. Kiriella accused Rajapaksa of promising to unite all political parties within three months and said he could not unite even with his own coalition partner the JVP so far. But Kiriella did not mention that it was his own party that has been dragging their feet about any unity for the last 11 months.

Many have said it was not a United National Party which was trying to enter the grand coalition but a disunited national party. Many in that party love to have the ministerial plums even without winning an election and at the same time criticize the government. They want to run with the foxes and hunt with the hounds. They want to have a political mileage at the cost of the government and very much want to join the coalition.

Marines to land at Hambantota

As part of US, Lanka Naval exercise

*Sea-battle won’t jeopardise planned manoeuvre
*Over 1,000 US Naval personnel to participate

by Shamindra Ferdinando

An unprecedented joint US-Sri Lanka military exercise is likely to be conducted in Southern Sri Lanka shortly. The joint exercise will involve the Okinawa-based Marine Expeditionary Force and Sri Lanka Navy.

This was planned during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister, a well informed source revealed, expressing belief the US would go ahead with the exercise despite Wednesday’s sea-confrontation off the Navy’s Southern Command Headquarters, Dakshina.

About 1000 US personnel are expected to participate, an authoritative official said. Two specialized transport craft-Landing Platform Dock would be involved in the exercise, he said. The exercise would involve amphibious landings on the Hambantota beach. The SLN’s Special Boat Squadron (SBS) is expected to join the exercise, the first major training activity involving US forces. Since 1995 US forces, including Special Forces, took part in a series of relatively small training exercises here under, what a senior US official termed as, Extended Relations Programme.

The Marine Corps’ forward-deployed air-ground-logistic-base is ready for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to amphibious assault and high intensity combat. The force maintains a forward presence in Japan and Asia to support the US – Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and our other alliance relationships. The force conducts combined operations and training throughout the region in support of our National Security Strategy," according to a statement posted on its website.

The Military is confident that the Sea Tiger attack would not put off the planned exercise. The joint training exercise takes place in the backdrop of significant US crackdown on LTTE activity, particularly efforts to acquire arms, ammunition and equipment from US sources. At least 19 persons, including several non-Sri Lankans, are detained in connection with the ongoing investigations. -The Island

Microimage and Open-Plug clinch Asian Mobile Innovation Awards

Singapore: The GSM Association (GSMA) on Tuesday announced the winners of the inaugural Asia Mobile Innovation Awards at the world-famous Raffles Hotel.

Microimage won the award for Most Innovative Mobile Application or Content and Open-Plug scooped the prize for Most Innovative Technology Development. The competition – sponsored by Ericsson – is exclusively for young, small and start-up companies across Asia developing exciting, innovative technologies, applications and content for the fast moving mobile space.

Microimage has developed the world’s first patented local language messaging and content browsing application to provide customised, local language support for entry-level applications on mobile devices in emerging markets.

“We are absolutely delighted that the judges selected our localised messaging and content browsing service as Asia’s Most Innovative Mobile Application or Content offering,” said Harsha Purasinghe, CEO, Microimage of Sri Lanka. “The award is fitting testimony to the hard work of the team at Microimage and will act as a catalyst to our company’s international expansion. We would like to thank the operators, partners and customers who made this happen.”

Open-Plug’s ELIPS is the first open software framework designed for mobile phones, which enables ELIPS-based handsets to be tailored and configured far more quickly according to the requirements of operators. “This award will catapult Open-Plug onto the global mobile stage and will be a major milestone in the development of our small, innovative company,” said Nicolas Sauvage, CEO, Open-Plug Taiwan. “For our component-based ELIPS framework and MMI to be named Most Innovative Technology Development in Asia is an incredible achievement. We couldn’t be more proud of, and grateful to, the people that made this happen – our employees and partners.”

Microimage and Open-Plug were judged winners by a prestigious judging panel comprising senior representatives from Bharti-Airtel, KTF, Smart Communications, SpinVox – winners of this year’s global innovation award – and Ericsson after a round of ‘elevator’ pitches at the 3GSM World Congress Asia in Singapore. In addition to their awards, the two winners will receive an automatic place on the shortlist for the innovation category of the GSMA’s Global Mobile Awards at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona next February. For full details on the Global Mobile Awards, visit: http://www.gsmawards.com

The GSM Association (GSMA) is the global trade association representing 700 GSM mobile phone operators across 215 countries of the world. In addition, more than 180 manufacturers and suppliers support the Association’s initiatives as key partners. The primary goals of the GSMA are to ensure mobile phones and wireless services work globally and are easily accessible, enhancing their value to individual customers and national economies, while creating new business opportunities for operators and their suppliers. The Association’s members serve more than two billion customers – 82% of the world’s mobile phone users. -Financial Times

Lanka heading for record FDI; $340m netted already in 9 months

By Sunimalee Dias

Sri Lanka is heading for a record FDI figure this year with the first nine months already netting US$340 million.

“Today we have surpassed our previous records and once again Sri Lanka could remain positioned,” Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told journalists yesterday at the launch of the UNCTAD World Investment Report by the Board of Investment (BOI). The FDI figure in 2005 was US$ 272 million and 2006 full year forecast is around US$ 500 to 600 million. However the Government kicked off 2006 with an FDI target of US$ 1 billion.

Noting the commendable progress made by the BOI he said that with the world today taking on Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) it was not possible to avoid it although Sri Lanka has achieved significantly in respect of FDIs with very few M&As.

This he said was because the WIR had emphasised on M&As as a central aspect of FDI with about 80% of FDIs being driven by M&As in an increasingly globalized world economy. “We don’t want to position Sri Lanka as a part of the M&As but it is noteworthy that only a few have ventured into this aspect of FDIs in Sri Lanka such as SriLankan Airlines our national carrier, Sri Lanka Telecom, Port, and several other government agencies went on FDIs,” he said.

“We don’t want to position Sri Lanka as a part of the M&As but it is noteworthy that only a few have ventured into this aspect of FDIs in Sri Lanka such as SriLankan Airlines our national carrier, Sri Lanka Telecom, Port, and several other government agencies went on FDIs,” he said. There is a need for ensure that the private sector would be more involved in obtaining FDIs, and Sri Lanka has highlighted the need to encourage them to collaborate and work together with these.

There was a requirement for increased FDI to boost the agricultural sector as it was “not measuring upto expectations”, the minister said.

As increased value addition obtained through FDI it was possible to take it up in the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Pakistan and India as well as the agreement with the EU grouping.

In terms of oil exploration projects undertaken by the government it was pointed out that for increased FDIs to come in, there was a need to ensure that the right infrastructure was in place with the right players as well. With most of the M&As reached globally it was found that most were in the petroleum sector and as such Sri Lanka had the potential to obtain sufficient FDI for the advancement of this sector, Bogollagama said. However, to do obtain these, there was a need for platforms, support services among many others basic requirements to forge ahead.

BOI Executive Director (Research) Dr. Nihal Samarappuli delivering the presentation highlighted that in terms of the priority areas required for improvement were noted to be: starting business, hiring and firing workers, registering property and paying taxes.

In terms of the way forward for Sri Lanka he noted that should we be able to achieve a close to US$1 billion mark as proposed by the government then it would be possible to gain in close upon neighbouring India in terms of generating FDIs in a global perspective. -Financial Times

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