By Amrit Muttukumaru –
The million dollar question is why have Rotarians and Lions (i) not taken on Mangala Samaraweera, Finance and Media Minister head-on and challenged him to name the Presidents he alleged with “personal knowledge” are Sri Lanka’s top dealers in illicit drugs? (ii) not filed a defamation case against him for his failure to withdraw his allegations in full? Is the reluctance due to fear it may open a Pandora’s box?
It is unbecoming for leaders of Rotary and Lions to behave like our politicians in the hope that the limited attention span we are known for will blow this too away.
Let’s face it – Samaraweera’s strident allegation claiming “personal knowledge” that Sri Lanka’s top dealers in illicit drugs are not those languishing in jail but some of those holding high posts in social service organizations such as some Presidents of Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and Buddhist organizations is unprecedented and damning.
More damning are Rotarians and Lions apparently seeking umbrage under Samaraweera’s dubious apology in the press:
“Inadvertently, I also mentioned Rotarians and Lions Clubs, which I deeply regret.”
Readers can LISTEN to his words in the link given below and decide for themselves whether there is any likelihood of any “inadvertence”? (3:27 onwards)
This reluctance is a severe LET DOWN of the PUBLIC who give donations and their general membership. As to why the general membership themselves are apparently not insisting on this is possibly a reflection of the malaise in the country vis-à-vis supine voters and the political leadership.
It is curious as to why after stridently claiming “personal knowledge” Samaraweera has singled out “Rotarians and Lions Clubs” for an apology while effectively confirming his same allegation against ‘Buddhist organisations’. It must be emphasized that Samaraweera has on his own volition unilaterally softened his stance on Rotary and Lions.
It would seem strong bonds of ‘friendship’ have influenced Samaraweera to selectively soften his reference to Rotary and Lions. This is the man who made the allegations with “personal knowledge”. Apparently he has no friends in ‘Buddhist organisations’ although a Buddhist monk who is Founder/Director General of a large charitable NGO was until very recently District Governor of Rotary Sri Lanka.
It must be acknowledged that Rotary and Lions over the years have undertaken commendable social service projects – in some instances not without controversy.
Even the so-called ‘apology’ under which Rotarians and Lions are apparently seeking umbrage is wishful thinking. Samaraweera has not let them off the hook when he asserts:
“There may be some individuals in society that join various organisations for such reasons.“
The bottom line is that continued silence and a state of denial by Rotarians and Lions is very damaging to these organisations as it will cement negative perceptions in the public psyche.
Rotary and Lions owe it to the youth of the country who are members of their fraternity through Rotary’s ‘Rotaract’/ school-based ‘Interact’ clubs and ‘Leo’ clubs of Lions.
Both Rotary and Lions which solicit and receive public funding from local and overseas sources claim to be ethical, transparent and accountable.