By 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?