By Quintus Perera
Exactly a month after the Easter Sunday bombing, a 300-strong group of private sector businessmen representing nine business chambers in the country gathered in Colombo on Tuesday to make a solemn, unified, pledge for the unity of Sri Lanka.
Several of the bombs killing more than 250 at three hotels and churches went off at 8.45 am on April 21 and the business community met at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel (one of the affected hotels) at 10 am on Tuesday, to reflect on the crisis and make a pledge towards recovery.
On the sidelines of the ‘Pledge’, Ms. Ramya Weerakoon, President, National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka, with a very heavy heart, told some media representatives present that the government has so far done absolutely nothing in the recovery process of the economy. “The government is not doing anything at all. Not done anything. Nothing has happened,” she lamented.
The 300-strong business community pledged in three languages - Sinhala, Tamil and English: “We members of the business community, hereby pledge – to work towards building a united Sri Lanka in which our people can live and work together in unity, in peace and in harmony, irrespective of difference in religion and ethnicity: To acknowledge the diversity within us and treat each other with respect at work and in the community: We will, together, forge a true Sri Lankan identity and thereby restore Sri Lanka as a peaceful nation.” The pledge in three languages, read out by the 300 business representatives echoed across the Atrium of the hotel, spreading to its front office and reception areas.
Dhara Wijayatilake, CEO of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, explained the initiative and said that a group of nine chambers met to discuss the present situation in the country. They decided that much has to be done to reunite a temporarily fragmented Sri Lanka.
The group decided that they will ask the business community to take a pledge that they will work towards the goal of uniting the people of Sri Lanka and that they will thereby inspire everyone in this country to do the same.
Ms. Weerakoon said that the blow to the exporters was unimaginable and seemed to be impossible to salvage. The impact would be felt later in the last quarter of the year, she said, adding: “Because this is the time of the buying spree of the foreign buyers, what we are worried of is the future”.
She said that their buyers have cancelled all their trips and even though some may be willing to visit, their countries have imposed a travel ban and compelled them to cancel the trips to Sri Lanka.
She urged the government not to sleep on this sad issue but have a firm and committed strategy to bring back foreign buyers. She said on her part she sent a ‘message’ through the Foreign Secretary to all the Sri Lankan missions abroad. She insisted that there should be a very strong promotional campaign through Sri Lankan missions abroad to give the message to the business companies who are importing from Sri Lanka – the assurance of safety and trust.
She cautioned that if the country doesn’t act wisely and promptly some of these buyers would be compelled to seek other destinations for these products. - ENDS -
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