Sri Lanka First opens its own secretariat
Sri Lanka First, now known officially as the Business Initiative for Peace (BIPED), has established its own secretariat at No32B Sir Mohamed Macan Markar Mawatha, Colombo 3 since January 18.

The organization said in a statement that it began as a coming together of volunteer business leaders who gave off their time, money and resources to create a voice for business in Sri Lanka’s volatile peace process.

An educational visit to engage with the South African business leaders involved with the peace process in their country and the subsequent conference held in Sri Lanka started to gather momentum. Plans were a foot to set up a Business Trust fund to help war affected micro enterprises in the conflict areas to commence their economic recovery.

This idea was inspired by the South African Business Trust Fund set up by the National Business Initiative. But with the tsunami much of these initiatives were put on hold as the priorities of business shifted to helping tsunami recovery, it said.

The BIPED has now drawn up a plan of action to get business engaged in playing a much more proactive role in the current situation. “With the current deteriorating peace process the role of business is going to be important. A group of our members have sought a meeting with the Secretary to the President to see how we can assist the process,” said Neela Marikkar, its chairperson.

They are also in dialogue with other civil society groups to see how they can work together to further the cause of peace in the country. Kiru Jayatilaka, former Director of the Tea Board who takes over as the Director of the BIPED Secretariat, says “We are planning to keep not only our members engaged but broaden our network of members this year. We hope to work closely with the regional chambers initiative namely the Business for Peace Alliance and the business chambers. What is important is for business at this crucial time is to come together and strengthen our hand to prevent war breaking out.”

Sharad Amalean, Treasurer, said that, “contrary to the misconception of a few individuals all our programmes are funded directly by ourselves and business including the running of the secretariat. We will always maintain our independence, but we will be open to partnering organizations on specific projects that are in line with our vision.”

The main office bearers are Chairperson Neela Marikkar, Vice Chairperson, Dickie Juriensz, K. Ravindran, Treasurer, Sharad Amalean and Secretary - Kiru Jayatilaka.

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