"Success for business depends on peace", said chief guest Jayampathy Bandaranayake addressing the annual sessions of the Business for Peace Alliance (BPA) recently. `
Quality of life has to be improved but envisaged personal improvement cannot become realistic unless peace is re-established and the daily work routine normalized, he stressed.
The 6th annual sessions of this organization heralded change in office bearers. Chairman-elect Suresh de Mel in his acceptance address said: "We have now a Board of Directors that represent all provinces in Sri Lanka and their Regional Chambers of Commerce". The secretariat of the BPA comprise a dynamic group of persons of professional standing who understood its mandate and acted in concert with its needs".
Quite within context of its direction the BPA adhered to its work philosophy functioning within ambiance of varied partners not least that such partnership consolidated their resolve to work in a climate of unification. Well within that focus, he said, they adopted a ‘bottom–up’ approach to regional empowerment based on three pillars that sustained perspective of the BPA - Conflict transformation, Regional empowerment, and Corporate Social responsibility.
He quoted one-time US President Abraham Lincoln who was elected to office in 1864, "The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend". That was conflict transformation at its best. The BPA correlating to President Abraham Lincoln’s vision to transform the present climate of conflict to national unity, endeavoured to pilot that cause in tangible applications within their functions. Pilot reconciliation committees in Chambers of Commerce in Galle, Kegalle, and Kalutara have had significant yet positive responses among communities they worked with, De Mel noted.
He said the BPA works with its members to share socio- economic strengths and develop confidence in their capacities to gain knowledge and skills to further accentuate their business interests.
Secretary General of BPA, Ms. Manique Mendis introduced the new committee. Within editorial content of the annual report of this organization, she said the BPA has demonstrated its ability to find its own resources, financially, as well as leadership capacities and technical skills. Achieving greater recognition and integration in regional perspectives was within overall economic development for peace building initiatives.
Her statement in the annual report referred to in content the BPA’s resolve which included sustained leadership capabilities, mobilizing conflict – sensitive regional business leadership.
Ms. Mendis said the BPA’s communications outreach activities are playing an increasingly pivotal role in movement-building.
"One of the most successful projects is the ‘Learn and lead’ scholarship program for high school students from areas affected by poverty and the conflict", she said. This was geared to nurture young leaders from regions providing them quality education and facilities in line with leading schools in cities.
Jayampathy Bandaranayake said the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was 169 years in existence and its long history was now within context of 19 business councils spread throughout the country. The need for equity was such that presently approximately 15% of the population lived on less than one dollar a day per capita, and taking that point further, he said 40% are now in the below two dollar per day category. Their income levels are that low, he pointed out.
He said about 200 million Indian nationals are quite prepared to visit Sri Lanka but those possibilities are not vigorously pursued.