Business Times

End of conflict, curbs on media

Developments in 2009

Many of our readers like to express a view on issues that confront their lives at work or ar home, or with the family. With this in mind, the Business Times last month launched what we titled the ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK’ column aimed at providing a cross-section of readers an opportunity to exercise their views on various issues of national importance.

The first column on November 29 dealt with views on what people thought should be the role of the International Monetary Fund in Sri Lanka. It drew some interesting comments in the specified 50-100 word response.

This week in the second column in this series, we asked readers representing a cross-section of society like business, politics, students, academia, economists, professionals, housewives, etc, as to what were the most positive and negative developments in 2009.

The respondents mainly referred to the end of the conflict and an opportunity to grow as the biggest positive development while on the negative side, one respondent said the reversal of the privatisation of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corp would have a ‘chilling’ impact on any future foreign investment in the country.

The next ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK COLUMN’ will appear on January 24, 2010. While a topic is yet to be decided, readers who like to contribute to this column are encouraged to email a request to the Business Editor at or call – 2479339.

Returning SLIC to the state negative

The most positive event was the ending of the war. We are also one step closer to a stable low-cost uninterrupted electricity supply for the country. While I am not very enthusiastic about coal power plants, Sri Lanka needed at least one or two coal plants to provide a stable base-load.
Now we have a stable base to start adding wind and solar small scale plants to the national grid. The most negative development was the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation going back to government hands.
This will have a chilling effect on investing in Sri Lanka, due to uncertainty on future investments.
Colombo scientist/researcher

CJ's retirement positive
The retirement of Sarath N. Silva and the split of ultra nationalism after winning of the war are the two most positive developments in 2009. Mr Silva has been the decisive person on power for almost a decade who has ruined the integrity of the judicial organ of the state. Few of his extremely bold decisions, that came towards end of his career, will not tell the story.

With the present government rallying round the nationalist forces, one wondered whether there will be any room for moderate and liberal political thinking in the country for generations. The split among the ultra nationalist camp has created a democratic space, which is a very positive development. Winning the war by itself is not the post positive development because the way the war was handled exposed the country for international war crimes while perpetuating the ethnic ill-will for another generation.
Uncomparable impunity has emerged in the country, which suggests that political leaders are not subject to the rule of law. This extends to family members of important people, cronies of political power as well as just the ordinary who can influence powerful - such as Buddhist clergy. It is noteworthy that not a single abduction, killing or harassment of journalists was ever investigated successfully.
J.C. Weliamuna, constitutional lawyer

State terror, repression of the media
The end of hostilities in the protracted war with the LTTE was not only the most positive development for the year 2009 but also the most crucial event since 1983. It brought to a bitter end the militancy that at one stage had much legitimacy to win the aspirations of the majority of Tamil citizens of our land and end discrimination of the those people.

It was eventually a triumph over an intransigent, violent and ruthless rebel group that had terrorized a whole country and also fought a conventional war. It released the people under the clutches of the LTTE and brought much hope to all sections of the population of an era of peace, equal opportunity, prosperity and harmony.

State terror and in particular the repression of free media that climaxed with the now forgotten abduction and assault of Keith Noyar and the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, was the most negative development.
Deva Rodrigo,
Accounting Professional

Too many elections, costly to business

The end of the war was most certainly the best positive development for the country which has provided the platform for economic development and creation of social equality for all Sri Lankans around the country across all communities.

The global recession was the most negative development leading to lot of economic issues locally. In some sectors we have already seen the revenue line been negatively impacted while some other sectors have felt the initial shock, the real impact is yet to be experienced.

Foreign remittances, export of traditional and non-traditional produce, tourism will continue to face the consequences for a longer period than most of us initially anticipated. The consumption levels took a toll across many local industries directly affecting the bottom-line that forced the investors to take a 'wait and see approach' with somewhat serious long term implications.

Another issue we have is too many local elections. Provincial council elections that were held right throughout the year at regular intervals were a major impediment to growth across almost all sectors. While the cost was a huge burden on the economy, given the tough economic environment both locally and globally, the productivity was hampered beyond expected limits that reduced the competitiveness for local businesses that are competing with the rest of the countries.
Kishu Gomes,CEO

2009 when the mighty fell …
This year was a reminder that even the mighty fall. We are forever surprised when a venerable establishment collapses. It is as if we expect some companies to live forever. But in business, as in life, what is born must eventually die. No business is exempt from the inevitable decline and collapse.
Toyota, not too long ago the model for manufacturing excellence, is said to be “locked in a spiral of decline.” This is according to the current Toyota boss, the grandson of the firm’s founder.
The fact is that calamity is wedded to businesses. The readiness for a calamitous end to a firm is only prudent.

However, the moral readiness for calamity in business, like the readiness for death in life, is an affirmation of courage, and is not the setting of one’s house in order for a funeral.
Business professional

Fonseka, transformational
leader Sri Lanka needs

In my opionion the biggest developments of 2009 are the defeat of the LTTE, and the entry of Sarath Fonseka as a presidential candidate. the LTTE defeat was brought about because of the ego and greed of Velupillai Prabakharan. There was a time he could have had the North and East to himself as a federal ruler. But his greed for a sovereign state proved to be his undoing.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, though a good wartime leader, does not have what it takes to be a real leader.

This may be said of all the post independence Sri Lankan leaders leaving the country to languish behind its Asian compatriots. For the first time Sri Lankan voters have a chance to vote for a person who is not a politician to lead our country. Sarath Fonseka has said some stupid things in the past, but he may be the transformational leader who can take Sri Lanka forward.

Khizer Amanulla, CEO - Data One
Non Profit
Need to define development agenda

The war as we knew ended. The task of dealing with the impact is on us with vigour. There are many subtle impacts of a 32- year legacy which need to be sensitively and intelligently understood. One crucial aspect is defining, directing and taking responsibility for our recovery and development agenda.
The second aspect is the 'disasters' faced by those poor and vulnerable. For them every moment awake is one of anxiety and uncertainty. It includes those classified as earning a $1 or less a day. There are many in this category. On both counts, we must endeavor to win.
Jeevan Thiagarajah,
a CEO in the non profit sector.
Probable chance of resurgence in terrorism

The collective political and military leadership brought an end to terrorism, ushering in peace. According to security experts, the military defeat of terrorism will be followed by resurgence (in terrorism). There is a 50% probability of a resurgence in five years or a 95% probability for its resurgence in 10 years.
The continued absence of sustainable development policies preceded mismanagement of the economy, contributing to escalating cost of living and increased unemployment which are fertile grounds for terrorism and crime. Innovative policies and measures must be introduced for poverty reduction. Promote the doctrine self reliance! Whilst being jubilant of our victory over terrorism, let’s not forget the contributory factors of three, post independence armed struggles.
Upul Arunajith –
Commodity Specialist, Canada

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