16 May, 2022

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Why Are Rotary & Lions Not At Occupy Galle Face?

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

Although delayed it is good that ‘Advocates’ of Occupy Galle Face (OGF) have issued “a call to action to the private sector to intensify the pressure for the Rajapaksa regime to step down” despite the corporate component of our private sector being part of the problem. It will call their bluff on their commitment to GENUINE corporate social responsibility.

It is hoped that sooner than later a credible and charismatic leader will emerge from among the professionals at OGF to take the movement forward with vigor and focus.

The top headline news item ‘OGF calls for private sector action’ (‘Daily FT’ 18 April 2022) refers to “specific actions sought from the private sector includes CEOs or Chairpersons of respective entities issuing a statement of commitment to stand with the people and align and contribute to stand with core objectives of resistance at OGF”.

It goes on to state “Where applicable, the private sector is asked to include commitment to help with LOGISTICS at the Galle Face with clear branding, committing to be APOLITICAL henceforth, and disassociate the company from any collectives that are refusing to take a stance.“ (emphasis mine)

To no surprise we are still to hear from the private sector!

The purpose of this note is to give further strength and support to the impressive protest movement at Galle Face and elsewhere.

In this context why have the Rotary and Lions movements in Sri Lanka also comprising of corporate leaders and professionals not taken a stance? I have no knowledge about the Lions movement which I understand is not too different from Rotary of which I have some understanding as a former Rotarian and past President of a Rotary Club in this country.

The Rotary Movement consistent with the protesters at OGF is APOLITICAL. Rotary which is said to place ‘Service above Self’ is committed to community service, conflict resolution and peace building through a network of clubs spread throughout the country. Its core values are enshrined in its   ‘Four-Way Test’ (1) Is it the TRUTH? (2) Is it FAIR to all concerned? (3) Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? (4) Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Rotary which relies on DONATIONS from the PUBLIC for ostensibly ‘Doing Good in the World’ has access to ample resources both in terms of money and manpower which is voluntary. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone has committed up to $450 million in support of Rotary’s global efforts to eradicate polio. Sri Lanka’s success on polio eradication is largely due to delivery by our impressive public health network. In the aftermath of the Tsunami Rotary in Sri Lanka also received millions of USD. The Rotary Foundation has a couple of billions of USD for ‘Doing Good in the World’.

The membership of Rotary in Sri Lanka also consists of leading businessmen from top corporates and professionals from disciplines such as medicine, IT, HR, law, media and management. Rotary is also strong among young adults through its network of Rotaract clubs.

Under the circumstances, is not OGF an IDEAL opportunity for Rotary which is an ‘APOLITICAL’ entity to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and showcase their claimed ‘Service above Self’?

Apart from demonstrating SOLIDARITY with the protesters and assisting in STRATEGIZING on the future trajectory for the country, should not Rotary also run soup kitchens, emergency medical services, crèches and resting places particularly for the elderly?

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Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    AM,
    First one needs a clear vision as to the behind the scene actors of the Galle Face protests?

  • 3
    0

    The protests of millions in all parts of the country is too serious for those Gentleman who constitute the Rotary club and the Lions club..
    Gentleman at Large………………

  • 11
    0

    For once, I totally agree with Mr.AM.
    These high-falutin’ “social service” clubs do perform some good service, but sadly, much of their time is spent on throwing bashes at 5 star venues. I personally know of one “installation” of a club president where participants were required to book into a hotel for two days at a rate of 75000 per day.
    Probably some charity is actually done, but outfits like Caritas do much more with less ostentation.
    Is it any surprise that the private sector doesn’t want to stick its neck out? Our “private sector ” is mostly a set of monopolistic oligarchs feeding off government concessions. Very few of these “captains of industry” would survive given real competition. They have their feet on both sides and are always winners.

    • 11
      0

      OC, most of these organizations conveniently have a preamble stating ” we are nonpolitical….”, I have observed sporadic but very limited social activities,otherwise it’s more of a social networking who’s who club. Though reluctant, I too was once talked into attending installation of president, in a 5 * venue, as a guest, where I found myself the only person, not satisfying their dress code. It was more embarrassing to watch those attendees, than feel inadequate about my attire. Anyway had a decent meal and left,telling myself never again.

      • 5
        0

        Chiv,
        No genuinely charitable person would join these outfits, at least in SL. It may be better in other countries. The “social service” is camouflage mostly for dressing up and partying.

    • 7
      0

      To: The Protest Movement

      1) ‘Daily FT’ the country’s only stand-alone business newspaper with its top headline ‘OGF calls for private sector action’ published on 18 April 2022 was the catalyst for my article.

      2) ‘Daily FT’ is noted for FAWNING over the corporate component of the private sector demonstrated by UNCRITICALLY publishing their hand-outs. I wonder whether its reluctance to publish my article is due to my observations:

      a) “Although delayed it is good that ‘Advocates’ of Occupy Galle Face (OGF) have issued “a call to action to the private sector to intensify the pressure for the Rajapaksa regime to step down” despite the corporate component of our private sector being part of the problem. It will call their bluff on their commitment to GENUINE corporate social responsibility.”

      b) “The membership of Rotary in Sri Lanka also consists of leading businessmen from top corporates and professionals from disciplines such as medicine, IT, HR, law, media and management. Rotary is also strong among young adults through its network of Rotaract clubs.”

      3) The day after I sent my article to ‘Daily FT’, it carried the top headline ‘MAS Holdings breaks corporate sector silence by backing people’s call for change’ on 21 April 2022. True to form it merely PARROTED the ‘sitting on the fence’ statement of MAS Holdings. ‘Daily FT’ has NEVER commented on MAS Holdings and other conglomerates DISCOURAGING the formation of Trade Unions to address employee grievances.

      4) I urge all those clamoring for SYSTEMIC CHANGE in the manner we are governed to insist that MEDIA REGULATION is brought under a truly independent ‘CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL’. It’s not for nothing that the media is considered the ‘Fourth Estate’ of governance.

      5) Would not have successive administrations including the Rajapaksas who have taken MALADMINISTRATION to a new high been more CIRCUMSPECT if only the businessmen controlled media had been more FORTHRIGHT in their reporting?

      6) By far the dominant player in the print media scene of this country is Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL). Its owner is its Chairman, Ranjit Wijewardene. He is the driving force behind the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) under which falls the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) with its farcical ‘self-regulation’.

      Continued Below

      7) For want of space I will give just one example of the FARCICAL nature of the ‘SELF-REGULATION’ practiced by the PCCSL. The Editor of ‘Sunday Times’ (WNL publication) Sinha Ratnatunga is also Deputy Chairman of PCCSL. Anyone having a complaint against the ‘Sunday Times’ has to complain to Ratnatunga about Ratnatunga! IMPUNITY is such that they are not even embarrassed by this horrific ‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’.

      8) Since its inception in 2003, the SLPI and PCCSL have had only two chairmen – Ranjit Wijewardene 2003-2008 and Kumar Nadesan 2008 to date. Nadesan is a senior Rotarian.

      9) WNL goes the extra mile to give ‘LIFE SUPPORT’ to its Chairman’s laid-back son Ruwan Wijewardene (UNP Deputy Leader) and nephew Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP Leader).

      10) The appointment of Ruwan as Minister of Mass Media by his first cousin Ranil Wickremesinghe (then PM) did not draw even a whimper of a protest from either the state or other sections of the private media although Ruwan had access to information from COMPETING media.

      11) Is it any surprise that media outlets, all politicians and even the Cardinal IGNORE Ruwan’s share of responsibility for the Easter Sunday carnage when he functioned as State Minister of Defence during the ENTIRE PERIOD of the Yahapalana government?

      12) I reiterate – all those clamoring for SYSTEMIC CHANGE in the manner we are governed must insist that MEDIA REGULATION is brought under a truly independent ‘CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL’.

      Amrit Muttukumaru

  • 6
    0

    I wouldn’t want Lions and Rotarians should com into the protests as organisations.
    .
    Many may disagree with me, but I regard those social clubs as cleverly camouflaged ways in which groups advance their business interests. Why don’t the individuals in those organisations have the backbones to come forward as individuals?

  • 1
    0

    Lions Club and Rotary Club can provide meals for Elders’ Homes and Orphanages. They also distribute free spectacles to people afflicted with short sight and long sight. But political protests are a little too controversial for them!

  • 2
    0

    In my school day I was briefly a Leo ……… I wasn’t cut out for that kinda thang …….. we organised a Christmas dance ……… some pot was smoked ……. some good hooch was consumed ……… got to dance with Lion’s and Lioness’s pretty daughters ……. It’s great if ye are into that kinda club-culture …………

    It was a little bit too shoosh boosh, hoity toity for my wild ways ………..

    Perhaps I could fish out my old membership and join the protest.

  • 1
    0

    “Its core values are enshrined in its ‘Four-Way Test’ (1) Is it the TRUTH? (2) Is it FAIR to all concerned? (3) Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? (4) Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”
    Truth is becoming an increasingly rate commodity.
    Nothing can be FAIR or BENEFICIAL foe ‘ALL CONCERNED’ in a society badly divided by race, religion, caste and most importantly class.
    There will always be GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS among members regardless of the issue..

    • 0
      0

      Truth is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

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