Serapina, the more-fun loving person in the triumvirate, came dancing into the garden singing ‘Singali None’ to join Kussi Amma Sera and Mabel Rasthiyadu under the Margosa tree. “Mokakda me kellata vela thiyenne (What has happened to this girl)?” asked Mabel Rasthiyadu. “Aluth sinduwak, Akka … aluth sinduwak (New song, sister … new song),” Serapina [...]

Business Times



Serapina, the more-fun loving person in the triumvirate, came dancing into the garden singing ‘Singali None’ to join Kussi Amma Sera and Mabel Rasthiyadu under the Margosa tree.

“Mokakda me kellata vela thiyenne (What has happened to this girl)?” asked Mabel Rasthiyadu.

“Aluth sinduwak, Akka … aluth sinduwak (New song, sister … new song),” Serapina said, continuing to sing the infectious tune, with some Portuguese lyrics, which has become a hit on social media.

“Singali None (lady)” is a soundtrack from an yet-to-be released film ‘Vijayaba Kollaya’ set during the Portuguese invasion of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). Listen to it..…this catchy song can be heard on
The first verse of the song, which has a likable chorus, goes like this: “It was the Portuguese (Parangi) who brought baila to Lanka//It was the Portuguese who brought violin and Cvaquinho (a type of small, four-stringed guitar resembling a ukulele, popular in Brazil and Portugal) to Lanka//The Portuguese dance while eating bread and drinking wine//None (lady) if there were no women the Portuguese would commit suicide.”

“Me lamayata, Internet pissuwa (This girl’s craze is always the Internet),” said Kussi Amma Sera, laughing.

I smiled being a music buff myself and thoroughly enjoying the song. As they continued their conversation on ‘Singali None’ and other catchy bailas, the phone rang.

It was my jolly-mood economist friend, Sammiya (short for Samson) on the line. “Hello friend, how are you?” he asked.

“Fine … fine, we haven’t spoken to each other for a long time,” I said, adding: “Discussing an economic issue?”

“No … no, I have been planning to ask you about this craze for awards. Sri Lanka and the whole world have gone crazy over people showering themselves with awards and in some cases these are dubious ones and mislead the public,” he said.

“Absolutely, we have all gone crazy,” I said in reply.

As we continued talking I recalled how, many years ago when the distribution of awards began taking root in our system, an unknown Panchikawatte spare parts company won an award for ‘The best company in the region’ presented by an unknown Spanish entity.

That was the start of the awards craze by various organisations. Some years back, there was more amusement. A local company, in the doldrums and awaiting closure or sale, was awarded ‘Best employer in the region’ for its record-breaking HR work, by an Indian-based organization!
Mind you … this was a company that had told its employees to find other jobs! Shows to what depths companies will plummet to get an award from dubious organisations doling out these accolades, doing it for a fee and as a money-making venture.

Don’t get me wrong. There are good awards, bad awards and ugly awards (the earlier named awardee comes under this category).

There are many local and international organisations that are reputed and have credibility in their awards events like for instance the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, several other local trade chambers and the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing among others. These organisations have strict eligibility criteria followed by rigorous judging and credible selections. In some instances, the judging is coupled with unannounced field visits in the case of outstation factories or companies that have applied for an award, to ascertain whether the applicants were honest in their entry details.

Internationally too, there are reputed awards schemes with strict criteria. Along with them, unfortunately, are the dubious ones – often by organisations which give awards based on a fee.

For instance, another potential awardee spoke of how a UK-based organisation called his company and said they had won an award and that it would cost so many UK pounds to get the certification. “We had not even applied for this award,” he said.

In another instance, judges of a reputed awards scheme spoke of how a company had listed what they called a “commendable CSR” effort of putting up a school building in a village and applied for an award. When the judges visited the school building, it was abandoned and filled with weeds, as it did not have adequate teachers. Apparently, the school and the village had requested the fulfillment of a different urgent need which had been turned down by the sponsor, who instead put up a school building because it looked a better CSR project to be listed on an annual report.

In another ridiculous awards scheme, a company which is third-best in that industry won the ‘Most Popular Brand’ award because the first two refused to apply as it was based on an admission fee. Such awards tend to mislead the public.

It’s not only in Sri Lanka but the world over where people, corporates and civil society have gone crazy over awards. It’s a huge industry in itself with the awards event being a gala lunch or dinner banquet, to which costly tickets have to be purchased. In the case of an international award, airfares and hotel accommodation and other costs have to be borne by the awardee.

Ideally, awards should be through a process of selection by your peers, instead of applying and making a case for yourself and buying your way – admission fee, entry fee and tickets for the grand ceremony! However, often that is not possible and hence the case of calling for applications and judges making a selection.

As we continued our conversation, I told Sammiya that it was good that he had raised this point. “Recently I was told by a reputed local company that an Indian-based organisation had approached the company and offered awards for ‘Best Manufacturer’, ‘Best Brands’ and ‘CSR Leadership’ but there were conditions attached,” I said.

“Like what (conditions)?” asked Sammiya.

“For each of these awards, there was a US$850 entry fee to get the certification and other costs like banquet tickets, etc,” I said, adding that this company only takes part, if ever, in events that are organised by credible, authoritative and authentic awards schemes.

The problems with awards schemes are that very soon – when the whole awards industry is exposed as a big scam to hoodwink the public – even the reputed awards would be bundled with the bad and the ugly ones and get unfortunate exposure.

In many ways dubious awards schemes devalue the reputed ones which have to rise above industry norms and ensure their reputation and credibility remains intact.

At the end of the day, it’s the public that decides and in such an instance the ‘reputed’ awards industry has to raise the bar to ensure its authenticity.

This time, as I was winding up my column, Kussi Amma Sera had asked Serapina to bring in my usual second cup of tea. “Mahattaya kohomada?” she asked while continuing to hum “Singali None”. I smiled in response not wanting to tell her that maybe she should apply for a ‘Best Dancer’s’ award!

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