Daily Archives: October 24, 2006

Ceylinco Life’s ‘Ran Daru’ art exhibition sets new record

Overwhelming 117,000 entries from all parts of the island elevates event to national status

More than 117,000 paintings sent in by children from all parts of Sri Lanka vied for honours in a record response to the third ‘Ran Daru’ art competition and exhibition organized by life insurer leader Ceylinco Life.

The event which concluded at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC) last week is one of the largest and most successful initiatives involving corporate sector interaction with the community. Intended to stimulate and support the development of artistic expression among the youth of the country the event is organised annually under the banner of Ceylinco Life’s ‘Ran Daru’ Child Protection Policy.

The competition was conducted in four age groups this year and culminated in the award of 12 cash scholarships worth nearly Rs 600,000 and 488 consolation prizes, providing a cumulative prize value of more than Rs 1.5 million to participants. Additionally, every one of the 117,000 participants will receive attractive certificates for their efforts.

Speaking at the presentation of awards, Ceylinco Life’s Chief Executive Director R. Renganathan said the company had come forward to provide a fitting showcase for the artistic talents of the children of Sri Lanka, because it believed that children are the greatest treasure of the country.

"The artistic abilities and the ideas and concepts represented at this exhibition are a tribute to the children of Sri Lanka," he said.

The eminent novelist, children’s artist and illustrator Sybil Wettasinghe who headed the panel of judges, said many of the paintings submitted by children for the ‘Ran Daru’ art competition demonstrated remarkable patience and skill. "Painting is like meditation, and the work of these children shows that they have the qualities to make good citizens," she said.

The exhibition comprised of 500 of the best paintings from the four age groups that participated in the competition, which was open to children from pre-school age to 18 from all districts of Sri Lanka. The panel of judges also included the well known artists S. H. Sarath and Mrs. Geetha Seneviratne. -Financial Times

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CIM confers an Honorary Fellowship on Vijith Kannangara

The Chartered Institute of Marketing conferred an Honorary Fellowship on Dr Vijith Kannangara at a Gala Black-tie dinner with the Institute’s Fellows and Chartered Marketers.

He is the founder Chairman of Q&E Advertising, Smart Media and Affno. Paul Gostick, Chairman, International Board of Trustees of CIM UK was the chief guest and Dr Hans Wijesuriya, CEO of Dialog Telecom was the guest of honour. Past Chairman of CIM Sri Lanka Region and senior marketers were among the distinguished gathering. Lasantha Wickremesooriya – past Chairman CIM Sri Lanka region and Member of CIM International Board of Trustees read the citation. Following are extracts:

‘The gentleman we are recognizing and decorating tonight appears as the personification of successfully developing a new facet in the marcom industry in Sri Lanka. Starting from scratch, way back in 1991, this truly memorable son of the soil, has built a successful marcom business in Sri Lanka, and arguably the most valuable local brands, in their respective categories. Commencing his pioneering role in transforming the form and content of listed company reports, he expanded his pioneering efforts to create the category of independent advertising agencies in Sri Lanka and subsequently established the interactive agency category at world class standards’.

‘He is no Brahmin, with his head in the clouds, but a man with his feet solidly planted on the good Sri Lankan earth, from which he has derived inspiration for some of the most innovative ideas, which have transformed the very nature of the marcom industry in this country. An industry, which was hitherto dominated and considered the forte of multinationals. Leading from the front, sans any expertise in marcom, but with totally self acquired experience, he was successful in bringing together a team of talented people and moulding them to break new ground’.

‘Dr Kannangara is a thought leader. Through his portfolio of enterprises, he was responsible for introducing many firsts to marketing in Sri Lanka. These include: Creating awareness amongst Sri Lanka’s Corporate community, about the whole subject of brands and branding in the late 90’s; providing a world class interactive agency solution to Sri Lankan organizations at a time when such services were highly sought after and difficult to obtain even in the most developed markets; Innovations in presenting Annual Reports from knowledge Management reporting, to triple bottom line reporting, human resource accounting and corporate governance ratings that have enabled Sri Lankan reports to be leaders by far in the entire South Asian Region’.

‘Dr Kannangara’s latest venture is BeeQu; once again a new category business, providing customized Business Intelligence solutions to customers world-wide’.

‘A close associate Dr. Uditha Liyanage, describes Dr Vijith Kannangara as a hybrid; a Scientist and an Artist. . He goes on to say that when the Scientist gets the better of the Artist in him, Vijith is a businessman. And when the Artist gets the better of the Scientist in him, Vijith is an ordinary creative person. But when the Scientist and the Artist in him come together, transcending each one, separately and individually, then Vijith Kannangara is at his best’.

‘For those who work with Vijith, he is a man who respects ideas of others, builds confidence, encourages, motivates and takes personal pride in the achievement of his team members’.

‘Ladies & Gentlemen, to-night, Dr. Vijith Kannangara brings honour to Sri Lanka, when he is elected as the only Sri Lankan to be granted an Honorary Fellowship, by the CIM – UK a decision made by the Board of Trustees, the highest governing body of the Institute’.

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FCCISL hails historic SLFP–UNP alliance

The Business for Peace Initiative (BPI), under the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL), yesterday hailed the successful Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two key political parties as an essential prerequisite for peace building and economic development in the war ravaged nation.

“This is a historic event as it is the first time since independence that the two major political parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) have come together in the interest, of peace and development,” FCCISL President Nawaz Rajabdeen said.

Mr. Rajabdeen is currently heading a study tour to South Africa, Northern Ireland and the UK with chamber heads from the North and East to study the South African and Irish peace models.

“This is indeed a historic moment for our country as we have finally come together to find a sustainable solution to the war. During our study tour we saw example to prove the effectiveness of the multi party system. We hope that this will provide a platform for all the ethnic communities to come together and become stakeholders in the peace building process,” he said.

“Sri Lanka has been ravaged by almost 2 decades of war due to ethnic strife and inequitable development that could have been solved at its inception if the correct policies were diligently implemented. However, partisan politics and the power play between the major parties had forced successive leaders to ignore unpopular yet critical reforms. They have merely taken refuge in popular politics with short term effects,” he added.The FCCISL wishes to congratulate President Mahinda Rajapakse Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasignhe and all other stakeholders concerned, who have come forward to put a full stop to petty party politics and who have taken a bold move in the interests of the nation.

Regional Chamber heads also hailed the move as a much awaited positive step to bring about a long lasting settlement to the conflict, while creating positive vibes among the international community and foreign investors.

“This MoU that was signed at a critical moment when the country has plunged into a spree of violence on the brink of fresh peace negotiations, it is vital for all the voices in the South to unite and provide a lasting solution based on a long term vision, that will not change from one regime to the next,” the Ceylon National Chamber of Industry’s President A.K. Ratnarajah said.

“Too many precious lives have been destroyed in this war. Irrespective of ethnicity, cast or creed these are the valuable human assets of the country that have been wasted. I fervently hope that this new union can put a stop to this massacre soon. Further, women have been the real suffering minority from this war due to displacement and the loss of family support. It is essential to take cohesive steps to bring normalcy to their lives,” Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Ramya Weerasekara said.

National Chamber of Exporter’s Sri Lanka Kulathunga Rajapakse said that “The MoU between the key parties will usher stability and peace that is essential for export development.”

Sri Lanka Chamber of Small Industry Aloy Jayawardena added that “the SME sector has been long suffering due to the lack of investments or government support as national wealth was ploughed into the war effort. We are positive that the MoU will be a critical step in brining a long term settlement to the conflict, which would create a conducive environment for SMEs.”

“The business community has been stifled by the conflict for over two decades. We hope that this new union among the key political parties will help strengthen the negotiations and thereby bring a lasting solution, Killinochchi Chamber of Commerce President M. Ignatius said,

Vauvuniya Chamber of Commerce President K.C. Svrnerrajah said that “civilian life and the business community have been badly affected by the conflict. We hope that the new MoU will lead to a solution that is supported by everyone so that we can finally have a lasting peace.”

“This bond should be cemented in the interest of our unborn generations. The Business for Peace Initiative (BPI) under the FCCISL welcomes this move in the interest of the business community and the rural sector. Peace is an essential prerequisite for overall economic development, equitable income distribution and SME development. Further, before we can succeed in talking peace between warring factions the government must go to the negotiating table with everyone speaking in one voice. FCCISL together with its regional chambers have been lobbying for such a union for a considerable time,” FCCISL Secretary General Samantha Abeywickrama added.

The two parties have agreed to work in consensus on six key issues, which includes economic and social development, nation building, electoral reforms and good governance.

The Business for Peace Initiative (BPI) of FCCISL is an apolitical, comprehensive national initiative to facilitate the ongoing peace process by proactively involving the private sector and the business community. The BPI was launched in March 2006 in order to bring about a cohesive, organised and sustained effort by the private sector to play an active role in the country’s peace building process.

FCCISL is the apex private sector representing body with over 50 member Chambers and Associations collectively representing over 12,500 companies across all sectors and geographical regions of Sri Lanka. FCCISL plays an important role in articulating maco economic policies in a pro-private sector approach and lobbies for creating and enabling business environment in the country..

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The prospects for power sharing agreements

  • The significance of the forthcoming talks in Geneva is that they offer the prospect of shift from a dead – end approach.

  • Both the government and LTTE appear resolved to be present at the talks in Geneva.

  • A devolution package that shares power between the centre and regions will do much to address the primary, or root cause of the ethnic conflict.

  • It is to be hoped that the much awaited government-UNP agreement will strengthen the ability of the government to develop such a power sharing solution.

By Jehan Perera

White flags and banners dotted different parts of the country last week at the funerals of more than two hundred service personnel killed as a result of the most recent military clashes and suicide bomb attacks. This was the worst week in terms of casualties for people living outside the north east since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002. With these military successes the LTTE dispelled the notion that it was greatly weakened in the military confrontation with the government. The two deadly suicide attacks that took place in Habarana and Galle, well outside the north east theatre of conflict, also dispelled the notion the LTTE had been projecting internationally in the past two months that it was the victim and not an aggressor.

The LTTE attack on a naval convoy that was transiting through Habarana proved costly in terms of life with nearly one hundred unarmed sailors being killed in the deadly suicide truck attack on their buses. On the other hand, the LTTE’s suicide boat attack on the Galle harbour was warded off with minimal loss of life. But once again the costs proved to be high, as the international media described the attack as one on a tourist centre, discouraging tourists from coming to Sri Lanka even as the peak of the tourist season approaches. The LTTE’s attacks on government forces in Habarana and Galle have sent a severe warning of costs that are to come as it expands the theatre of war.

Prior to these two suicide attacks, the government may have been hopeful about its ability to restrict the war to the north east. This would have minimized the cost of the war on the Sinhalese population who live predominantly outside the north east, and who form the bedrock of the government’s electoral base. At the last presidential election, President Mahinda Rajapaksa obtained relatively few votes from the north east and other areas where the minority communities live. But he won the election with overwhelming support from the Sinhalese ethnic majority.

Very thorough security measures in Colombo that have seen massive traffic jams and midnight searches appear to have safeguarded the capital city so far. But the high cost of failure and the difficulty of being on guard against suicide attack all over the country were evident last week. While President Rajapaksa continues to retain his personal popularity, there are signs that the people are beginning to question the wisdom of the government’s approach to dealing with the LTTE. This accounts for the strong support being given by civic and religious leaders to the government’s effort to get the cooperation of the opposition UNP in addressing national issues.

Vulnerability

The failure of the government’s military offensive in Muhamalai in the north and the LTTE’s suicide attacks outside of the north east have demonstrated the vulnerability of the government’s military approach to the LTTE. The territorial and political gains made by the government in its previous military contests with the LTTE have been offset to a considerable degree by its recent reversals. The net result has been that hundreds of lives of armed personnel and civilians have been irretrievably lost, but the military and political gains have been ephemeral. The significance of the forthcoming talks in Geneva is that they offer the prospect of shift from a dead end approach.

Both the government and LTTE appear resolved to be present at the talks in Geneva. Neither wishes to be seen internationally as the party that is reluctant to talk peace and reflects the realization that the conflict in the north east is ultimately about obtaining international legitimacy and keeping it. There is undoubtedly an awareness that tactics of bombardment and civilian displacement, political assassination and child recruitment, are to the detriment of the international image of the wrong doer. But the current military approach of the two sides seems to leave them with no alternative vision of getting ahead or of problem solving.

An example would be the governmental restrictions placed on international humanitarian organizations that seek to access the north east. The public appeal made by Medicines Sans Frontiers to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to permit them to serve the civilian population of the north east is an indication of the lack of responsiveness of the government machinery to humanitarian considerations due to its military approach. The German government’s recent decision to halt new assistance programmes to the government could be the precursor to more direct international sanctions.

The LTTE’s suicide attack on the naval convoy got themselves condemnation by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and several governments. Both sides have a considerable amount of bridge building work to do, not simply with one another, but also with the international community, more so the LTTE which is designated internationally as a terrorist organisation.

Clearly, the longer term interests of the government and LTTE lie in conforming to international law and humanitarian norms. The aid donating countries of the international community have said time and again that they are ready to provide large scale financial and humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka provided the two parties are able to take the peace process forward. What they can offer Sri Lanka far exceeds what the country can generate internally by itself at this time. The problem, however, is that both the government and LTTE appear to be primarily interested in obtaining international support or acquiescence to gain their military objectives. This clearly needs reconsideration.

Wise words
Last week Sri Lanka had the benefit of hosting three leading diplomats from three of the most influential countries in the world in relation to the Sri Lankan peace process. Jon Hanssen Bauer of Norway, Yasushi Akashi of Japan and Richard Boucher of the United States each came to Sri Lanka with a focus of assisting to find a way forward in relation to the ethnic conflict. While many in Sri Lanka would have been hoping that they came with an offer to solve the conflict to the advantage of the government, this was evidently not within their power or capacity. None of these powerful and influential countries has been able to solve the Middle East conflict or the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But what they can do is to give us assistance if we solve our conflict.

Interestingly the common question that all three diplomats asked was what Sri Lankans would do next to solve our problem. Their own suggestion, drawing from their experiences in other parts of the world, seemed to be that Sri Lanka should develop a devolution package between the centre and the regions as the basis for any progress towards a peaceful solution. Such an analysis makes logical sense. The LTTE was born in a context in which the main democratic Tamil political parties united on a platform of separation from Sri Lanka. This was due to their experience of discrimination and lack of responsiveness of successive Sri Lankan governments to Tamil grievances and aspirations.

A devolution package that shares power between the centre and regions will do much to address the primary, or root cause of the ethnic conflict. An honourable settlement with the LTTE will become more likely in the context of a power sharing agreement. It is to be hoped that the much awaited government-UNP agreement will strengthen the ability of the government to develop such a power sharing solution.

A draft of a common position on the ethnic conflict to be agreed on by the government and UNP stated that there would be power sharing between the centre and regions, with the centre having control of certain areas of governance, while other areas would be the concern of the regions.

Both President Rajapaksa and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe have been deservedly praised for their large hearted offer and acceptance of bipartisanship in six key areas of governance, including the ethnic conflict. So must their negotiating teams that did the spadework that comprises the areas of agreement.

The President appears keen not to alienate the nationalist Sinhalese parties even as he reaches out to the UNP for support to deal with the LTTE. If the President can achieve both of these objectives, he will have mobilized around him a Sinhalese consensus that can satisfy the demands of a just political solution that meets with Tamil and Muslim aspirations.

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