Financial Times

Controversy plagues Chillies again


A ‘communication error’ led to a controversy which erupted in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s Chillies Awards 2009 which prompted Bates Sri Lanka to withdraw from the competition altogether. An issue involving an invitation to Sonal Dabral, the Chairman of Bates India and Regional Executive Creative Director of Bates’ network, to be a foreign judge only to be withdrawn led to Bates pulling out this year.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Renton De Alwis told The Sunday Times FT this week that the issue has been put to rest after a formal complaint was filed by Bates and handed over to the two advertising associations to carry out an investigation in a transparent manner after the Trustees had called for a report on the matter. A formal apology was issued to Mr. Dabral and an apology was also issued to Bates CEO Nimal Gunawardena although Mr. De Alwis said, it was not accepted.

A letter addressed to Mr. De Alwis from Mr. Gunawardena, stated that the Sri Lanka Advertising Awards Committee had invited Mr. Dabral and subsequently decided to withdraw the invitation after he graciously and promptly responded to the Committee’s request.

Mr. Gunewardena stated that ‘while appreciating the prompt action taken by you to follow due process and request a report before making final decisions when the matter could have been resolved, preserving the reputation of the Sri Lanka Advertising Awards and respecting the eminent invitee judge, I am thoroughly disappointed to note that the Committee, without responding to your request for a report or any intimation to me, went ahead adding insult to injury by sending him a most implausible excuse of scrapping him and the Chairman of the Jury position due to the prevailing economic environment. The response that I now have from the Trustees is to inform me that the whole problem had arisen due to a communication error.’

Mr. Gunewardena added that ‘the inability to arrive at an appropriate remedy in consultation with the Trustees, though I had myself spoken with the Chairman of the Judges Committee and suggested a way forward, and the attitude of carrying on regardless does not convey a sense of professionalism nor transparency or provide a sense of confidence in how The Chillies is being run this year. I am sure none of the Trustees would have condoned or tolerated such behaviour towards an eminent person from their own networks. You will therefore understand the decision of our agency team to put principles before glory and forego the opportunity to enter the contest this year, given the bad behaviour towards an eminent personage of our network and the loss of confidence.’)

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