NCE organizers ‘helpless’ as PB plunges into marathon 90-minute speech

Exporters say ‘he was trying to teach us how to export’

By Suresh Perera

In a one-and-a-half–hour marathon speech, a top bureaucrat bulldozed his way through the time allotments to spell out government policy and proffer a glut of advice to the cream of Sri Lanka’s community of exporters at a prestigious export-oriented awards ceremony on Friday night.

Treasury Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara apparently had plenty of time on his hands to over-shoot the 45-minute time slot allocated for his address to the 21st NCE Export Awards 2013 at the Colombo Hilton to impress upon the key industry players the fundamentals of the trade and related issues.

He was the chief guest at this annual event organized by the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE).

It was more a lecture on what to do and what not to do, some exporters opined. "We have been in the game for decades and reached the apex without such unsolicited ramblings of senior government officials".

He was trying to teach us how to export, they laughed. "We wouldn’t have been receiving all these top national awards if we didn’t know how to do our job".

After his unexpected, long-drawn harangue, Jayasundara left without presenting awards to the winners, a task expected of a chief guest at an awards ceremony, they asserted.

It was all praise and glory for the powers-that-be with a solid assurance that the country would witness the fruits of the ongoing gigantic development initiative within the next five years, they said. "We have heard such overtly confident assurances ad nauseum".

"It came as a surprise to find senior government officials taking over from politicians generally castigated for their lengthy monologues, which, at the end of the day, boils down to nothing", the exporters pointed out.

At the end of the day, the Treasury Secretary used the awards ceremony as a platform to heap praise on his political boss, they claimed. "It was all misplaced as the occasion had a different tone, style and meaning".

Last year’s chief guest, External Affairs Minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris spoke for just 15 minutes and on a previous occasion, Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa wound up his address in 10 minutes, they recalled.

Asked for comment, an official, who asked not to be identified, conceded that the senior official’s marathon speech derailed the whole process and curtailed time for interaction.

"Exporters complained, but we were helpless", he explained. "He wanted 45 minutes, but batted on for a full one-and-a-half hours.

He referred to some notes, but it was an impromptu speech, which made little impact as it was too lengthy to be appreciated, the official said. "It is not fair for participants, many of them top company chairmen and CEOs, to blame us as it was not within our authority to ask him to wind up".

Asked whether some exporters had left in disgust, he replied, "I am not aware, but won’t be surprised if it was so as exporters have busy schedules".

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