Daily Archives: October 26, 2006

The Next Generation of the Apparel Industry – Ready to Unleash

MAS Holdings recently invested in Sri Lanka’s greatest natural resource, its people.

Their ‘Ready to Unleash’ program guides students from the classroom to the boardroom, gearing up these young graduates with the necessary tools to begin their 6-month internships with MAS. September 13th was the second program conducted by MAS, the first involving 40 students in February.

Unleash Talent Inc CEO Rukmal de Silva said "The project gave us immense pleasure as we saw the future of the garment industry in its raw form, there is no doubt about the need for this kind of preparation. We need to shape them up. We need to guide them. We need to equip them with the right tools that will help them in transferring their academic knowledge to applicable skills for working life. As corporate leadership and strategy catalysts we at Unleash Talent Inc see absolute uniqueness in this endeavour of the MAS Group. This initiative based on long-term strategic approach and is thus creating a win-win-win situation: for MAS, the industry and the students. We are glad to be involved in this project again."

Rukmal and MAS Holdings Human Resource Managers designed the program to provide foundational business and life skills. Successful and high-level garment industry employees have to not only know how to sew and follow orders. They need to lead, communicate, work with others and manage their time. The program taught these skills, and the grooming, etiquette and positive thinking that forms the foundation of a good business.

Batch representative Chatumadura Liyanagama commented that “After the session we feel more comfortable and gained more guts, the session about personality and the dress to kill is very effective. The very relevant leadership program was also very important. Team work activities really gave us a lot of experience about working in teams. I feel it was a great opportunity before we begin our internship. I would like to thank MAS Holdings on behalf of my fellow members. We are looking forward to a good future after this program.”

With the right outfit and outlook, the 40 students begin their 6-month internships with the right face on their solid body of study. “This type of well formulated programme provides an excellent gateway to the entry of the competitive and challenging corporate world the students have to face in real life. We fully support this programme and we are very confident that it provides an ideal platform on which students can commence their professional career,” said Senior Lecturer, Dr. Nilanthi Heenkenda. As the Head of Department Dr. Sandun Fernando said, “MAS Holdings once again have shown their commitment to improve quality of graduates produce at the University of Moratuwa. We really appreciate their tireless effort in organizing this pre training induction programme in developing the quality of the graduate for the whole Apparel Industry of Sri Lanka, immaterial of their future working places.”

The objective of ‘Ready to Unleash’ is to prepare fresh graduates for the challenges they may face during their internships, and MAS is putting its money where its heart is. Beyond training, the company is now taking the 40 students under its wing for a 6-month internship where they will be taught the necessary skills of the apparel industry. Those who complete the program will emerge with more than a piece of paper; they will have 6 months of experience, vital contacts and the confidence to take on the world. As program participant Kasun Gamage said “All the programs that were conducted were really valuable for us as far as our internship is concerned. The leadership skills, self confidence, team work activities were the most interesting parts and I’m sure that those things would give us a real benefit in future.”

Beyond benefiting the 40 students, this type of attention to people builds the foundation of a strong company and country. The garment industry currently contributes to the livelihood of about 1.2 million people, but the livelihood of the next 1 million depends on the leadership and drive of these graduates. As MAS Group HR Director Deepthi de Silva says “MAS will continue to nurture the undergraduates who are imperative to the growth of the apparel industry in Sri Lanka. This is in the MAS corporate DNA and MAS believes this will be an eye opener to the other players in the industry. The ‘Ready to Unleash’ program will definitely make these interns ready to begin their journey in their respective career paths and augment their ability to contribute to the industry.”

On September 13th we saw a green group of students learning how to wear a tie and start a conversation. In 6 months we’ll see a batch of industry-hardened workers. In 5 years, we’ll see the future of the apparel industry in Sri Lanka.

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The MoU and the people’s expectations

The MoU should resolve identified issues through consensus

By K. Godage

“If we are let down again the people will make them pay” Citizen Percy Perera; this statement reflects the expectations of the people.

As someone who has written for years calling for an end to confrontational politics in this country and for the enthronement of a new political culture based on consensus and compromise I too would like to join my fellow countrymen to celebrate this historic breakthrough that has been made but though I am an optimist I have certain reservations which I wish to share with the readership of the newspaper.

In the first instance I do hope that the two parties have entered into this MoU with utmost sincerity. The President in his statement on the occasion of the signing stated that he had been warned against entering into any agreement with the UNP and went on to add that the UNP leader may himself have been warned by friends on his side. Such warnings have no doubt emanated from the lack of trust between the parties and the belief that the ‘other party’ may have come in with an ulterior motive. It has been mentioned in certain circles that the UNP leader seeks through this agreement to distance the JVP and the JHU from the SLFP and then pull the rug and force an election.

His position apparently is that they should not take portfolios for that would enable them to break-away at the appropriate time. There are also those who claim that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party seeks to bury the UNP through this exercise. This type of speculation does not help to build confidence and trust also, if there be even a grain of truth would detract from the commitment and the bona fides we expect. This may not be the best note to start on. It has also been mentioned that there is dissension within the UNP as its leader Ranil Wickemesinghe had taken it upon himself to draft the MoU whereas the negotiating team had earlier prepared a draft of the MoU. In the circumstances both sides should seriously engage in confidence building measures both within their parties and also between the parties. We do hope the leaders approach the challenge with a positive attitude.

The call from the UNP for a power-sharing Agreement would of course give structure to the process but could also abort the MoU and all that which has been agreed upon by the delegations. I wonder what form such an agreement would take and would the teams that negotiated the MoU who were committed to cooperation be requested to draft the agreement to share power or would the leader name another team more sympathetic to him and ensure that no agreement is reached? I hope not and that I am wrong. Read the rest of this entry

Create a slot for the UNP in peace talks

The SLFP-UNP marriage has happened and celebrations are still on.

Marriage is said to be a continuous process of sharing and caring. In the words of Louis K. Anspacher ‘Marriage is that relation between man and woman in which the independence is equal, the dependence mutual and the obligation reciprocal.’ The same is true of political marriages as well.

Now that the two main parties have come together, they have to live up the expectations of the people. The main reason given for their coming together is the resolution of the conflict. Their marriage couldn’t have come at a better time. Peace talks are scheduled to take place shortly in Geneva.

All peace processes in this country have been conducted to the exclusion of the main Opposition party. Successive governments have, in the final analysis, done exactly like the LTTE, which has shut other stakeholders out from talks. President J. R. Jayewardene engaged in peace making as if there were no Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He, who used to boast that the only thing he couldn’t do was to make a man a woman and vice versa, may have considered it infra dig to consult the Opposition, in making war or peace. President Ranasinghe Premadasa was no better. He thought he could play balls with the Tigers himself in the Keselwatte style, while keeping the other parties busy with his All Party Conference. There was no peace process during President Wijetunge’s brief term. He was no believer in talks. But he treated the Opposition with respect and created a democratic space for it to operate. President Chandrika Kumaratunga apparently mistook the UNP for the LTTE, going by the way she treated it. According to her critics, she was striving for the Nobel Peace Prize and therefore kept the peace process to herself. (Perhaps, that’s why she brought the Norwegians in.) Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who became the de facto President thanks to his Parliamentary majority, too, didn’t believe in accommodating all stakeholders in the peace process. He apparently wanted to use it as a stepping stone to the presidency. Under him, we had a Bajaj peace process—with only three parties to it, the UNF, the LTTE and Norway.

President Mahinda Rajapakse seems to have borrowed a leaf from the late President Premadasa’s book. He has sought to involve the Opposition and other stake holders in the peace process via an All Party Conference (APC). Although the APC is salutary in that it provides a forum for divergent viewpoints, the stakeholders need direct representation in talks if they are to be really involved in peace making, especially the UNP, whose support is essential for the implementation of a solution to be found. No stakeholder could be expected to endorse a fait accompli by way of a solution. As much as the SLFP resisted the 13th Amendment for reasons that were purely political, in the late 1980s, the UNP too will be compelled to oppose any solution which the government may try to ramp down its throat. It will be a mistake for the government to consider the UNP’s offer of co-operation a carte blanche. What befell President Kumaratunga’s draft Constitution, which envisaged regional councils, in Parliament in 2000, is also a case in point.

There is no reason why the government shouldn’t seek the UNP’s direct involvement in trying to evolve a negotiated settlement, having solicited its support for that purpose. Similarly, the UNP cannot turn down an invitation to play an active role in the peace process to the extent of being represented in the government delegation at talks. For, it is the UNP that initiated the stalled peace process which the government is struggling to kick-start at present.

Hands off Virakesari!

The burning of thousands of copies of the Tamil language newspaper Virakesari by a group of armed men in the East must be condemned by one and all unreservedly. It is a severe blow to the freedom of the press. The Eastern Tigers led by Karuna Amman stand accused of that dastardly act of terrorism.

A newspaper cannot please everybody. And the Virakesari must be having its share of critics or enemies because of its policies. But no one has a right to suppress its freedom of expression.

If a newspaper violates the rights of anyone, the law provides for remedial action.

Since the incident is reported to have occurred in a government held area, the government must order an immediate probe and bring the culprits to book forthwith.

Similarly, the media and the self-appointed guardians of press freedom must be wary of condemning such acts of terrorism selectively. When the LTTE banned the Tamil language paper, Thinamurasu, most of them chose to remain silent. Silence is the medium in which evil flourishes. Hence the need for condemning terrorism, irrespective of who the perpetrators are.

The Eastern Tigers, who claim to be different from their Wanni counterparts, owe an explanation to the public as regards the serious allegations against them.

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De-merger: Give Karuna the Eastern Council

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Mao Ze Dong, arguably the greatest military theorist of the 20th century and one of its finest philosophers, enjoined his followers to "turn bad into good!" The timing of the Supreme Court judgement was, as Dr Sarath Amunugama among others is reported to have said in Cabinet, not a good thing. But now that it has been rendered, and is in some senses irreversible – it is never a healthy thing for the executive or legislature to display scant regard for a Supreme Court decision – one has to make the best of it, and if possible turn it to good use. Just such a possibility has opened up with the reported comment of Karuna’s TMVP welcoming the decision of the Supreme Court.

"De-merger gives East a chance to decide its future says Karuna

The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP), the political arm of the Karuna faction, says the de-merging of the North East gives the chance for the people of the East to decide their own future and not be "political orphans" anymore.

In a statement emailed to the Daily Mirror the TMVP said the rights and aspirations of the Eastern people were rejected under the guise of war and now that they have been given the chance to decide the fate of their own future, the de-merger should be welcomed.

‘Because of the war a certain section was at an advantage in the areas of political, security, education, employment and residence, creating unfairness to the eastern people. But now a full stop has been placed to that and the eastern people can elect their own representatives to address their problems. This is a victory they have got,’ the TMVP statement said.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided to de-merge the North East, the TMVP says the country should respect the wishes of the Eastern people by accepting the decision which will in turn help the future of the country." ( Daily Mirror Oct 23, 2006)

While it is important not to let down the non-LTTE Tamil moderates, it is also important to note that they are not all of one mind, and that of them, those who militarily challenge the LTTE, those who are the objective allies or quasi allies of the Sri Lankan armed forces, those who have the military potential to defeat the Tigers, are the most important. Choices must sometimes be made, and if so, the priority must be accorded the Karuna faction.

It seems that the Karuna group sees an opportunity to liberate the Tamil people of the East from the North, in the Supreme Court decision. If a separate provincial council is set up for the east and an election is held, the TMVP stands an excellent chance of being elected and thereby wielding real power, authority and influence. Endowed with some degree of electoral legitimacy, it can act as a strong partner and ally of the Sri Lankan state, can be put forward as a stakeholder in the conflict, a new partner in the peace process and introduced to the outside world.

A Karuna dominated Eastern provincial council would permit the present bipolar balance to be transformed into a multipolar one with a new power centre arising in the east, countervailing the Tiger dominated north and what one of my ex-militant Tamil comrades who was recently in Havana and New York calls "the arrogance of the Jaffna Tamils who think they are the Israelis of South Asia`85the Tigers are the armed expression of this arrogance". An eastern council would permit the long standing zero-sum game to be transformed into a non-zero sum one.

Elections to an Eastern council would have one positive consequence: either the LTTE would have to commit its fighters to disrupting the election, thereby exposing them to Sri Lankan army, STF and K faction firepower, or it would have to conserve its cadres, thereby allowing the eastern council to be elected and established.

A Karuna–dominated Eastern council would achieve two positive results:

  1. It would enable Karuna to strengthen himself and expand his base, which in turn would mean that we could hand over many security functions to the Eastern council (the law and order function is devolved and there is provision to raise a police force, hence the earlier North east Provincial Council’s CVF militia) draw down our forces from the East and commit them to defeating the Tigers in the North.

  2. With the patronage he is able to extend through the Council, Karuna would be able to raise an army in the East which can work in parallel with the Sri Lankan armed forces in any offensive in the North and the Wanni.

A Karuna dominated council can decide at a subsequent stage, i.e. after the defeat of the LTTE, whether it wishes to opt for institutional linkage with the Northern council in the form of an apex body (Sirisena Cooray’s favourite formula).

Sinhala chauvinists may resent giving Karuna control of the Eastern council, but it is only such an arrangement that can contain Tamil chauvinism in the North – or Northern Tamil expansionism – by changing the terms of the present conflict from ‘Sinhala vs. Tamil’ to ‘Eastern Tamil autonomy and integration vs. Northern Tamil separatism/expansionism’. There are two variants of Tamil separatism: that of Prabhakaran and Perumal (Velupillai and Vardharaja)! Karuna knows that either one of those trajectories will be under the hegemony, or will result in the hegemony, of the wealthier, internationally and regionally (Chennai, New Delhi) connected Jaffna Tamils. Therefore he will resist the secessionist temptation. On balance, this makes Karuna a safe strategic Tamil ally for the Sri Lankan state.

Sources of De-merger

The de-merger of the North and East was only partially a consequence of JVP’s recent legal intervention.

Had the Tamil parties accepted the December 19th 1986 proposal of P Chidambaram, the Tamil people would have obtained a sightly smaller but merged North-east, minus the Ampara district. However, given the usual combination of arrogance and myopia, the Tamil side rejected it, only to wind up today, with almost nothing.

The de-merger is sourced in a lack of legitimacy. That illegitimacy derived from a radioactive combination: the ‘shotgun wedding’ character of that merger by an administration (that of JR Jayewardene) that had lost legitimacy through the holding of a fraudulent referendum instead of a parliamentary election, coerced by the military intervention (the airdrop) by a powerful neighbour which was an ancient foe and had just prior to the merger, prevented the Sri Lankan armed forces from defeating the Tigers after Vadamaarachchi!

JR Jayewardene, co-author of the Accord, promised to campaign for a ‘no’ vote at the referendum while Vijaya Kumaratunga, the most outspoken supporter of the Accord and devolution, maintained a longstanding opposition to the merger (evidenced by the printed proceedings of the Political Parties Conference of mid-1986). So too did his party the SLMP, even after his death.

The de-merger is also ‘materially’ sourced, in the fact of the uneven development of the North east, and the resultant domination of the East by the North, especially Jaffna. This is no Sinhala propaganda creation: my attention was first drawn to the sociological potential for a North/East schism by a path breaking and prophetic research essay by Brian Pfaffenberger in the radical leftwing Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, almost two decades ago!

When Dutugemunu defeated Elara, he didn’t run the place with a Sinhala Buddhist jackboot. He appointed a Tamil Yuvaraja to run it, with a large degree of autonomy according to its own customs. In any case ancient Lanka had a high degree of regional autonomy in that it was demarcated into three zones: Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti ratas.

Today, in the 21st century, it is necessary to invert the sequence in order to obtain the same result. A Tamil yuvaraja cannot be appointed after the defeat of Prabhakaran. He has to be appointed before that defeat, so as to render that defeat possible.

Prabhakaran’s Project

While Prabhakaran’s defeat is not inevitable, the defeat of his project is. Meaning, he may continue to damage us and destroy our future prospects, but he cannot establish Tamil Eelam, nor can it be established by anybody else. He cannot triumph and we cannot be defeated, existentially. This is not because we are a thrice blessed isle, but because of the nature of his cause, the character of today’s world and the dynamics of contemporary history. A cutting edge study has resulted in a new book entitled ‘No More States: Globalization, National Self Determination and Terrorism’. It is edited by distinguished scholars Richard Rosecrance and Arthur A. Stein. Rosecrance is a research professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and senior fellow in the Belfer Centre for science and International Affairs at the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Arthur Stein is professor of political science at the University of California, LA, and a former member of the Policy Planning Council of the US State Department. Francis Fukuyama says that their volume "deals with one of the most important issues in global politics", namely "the question of state fragmentation and state formation".

Bringing together 15 distinguished contributors, the volume studies the factors that lead to the rise of new nation states, and examine the Middle East, Asia North America, Europe and Russia, "where pressures for new states are intense". Drawing attention to globalisation/integration/dependency, the nuclear issue, and "the disadvantages of terrorism as a tactic", the authors opine that the phase of proliferation of nation states is over. "`85The book concludes that discontented national movements will have to find ways to exist within current geopolitical boundaries." (Foreign Affairs, Sept-Oct 2006).

This means that Tamil Eelam is a futile fantasy and Sri Lanka, though in dire need of internal reform and domestic change, is here to stay as a state in its present boundaries.

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