How times change! Sri Lanka’s big business houses, that hitherto took a moral high apolitical ground, are now speaking for change. Even those alleged to be cronies of the current regime are now joining the Go-Home-Gota chorus along with ordinary citizens protesting against the government on the streets.
Having read the writing on the wall, Sri Lankan corporate and business houses are now issuing statements expressing concern over the ongoing economic crisis. Some are even airing a point-of-view on the state of the country’s economy while few others have even expressed solidarity with mass protests across the island nation.
A few have ventured as far as calling for social, political, economic stability as a financial meltdown precipitates a political crisis and social unrest.
John Keells Holdings (JKH), one of the largest and most visible conglomerates with a finger in almost every businesses pie – from hospitality to logistics to real estate to foods was the first to come out with a statement of concern, calling for immediate measures to be arrest the downslide.
JKH’s statement alluded to good governance and change to avoid unrest, advising all parties to come together.
“We urge all key parties to reach consensus, within the construct of the constitution of the country and due process being followed, in respecting the will of the people,” a statement from JKH read.
Over the past two decades, the company has acquired interests across the country – even in the southernmost port city of Hambantota, the Rajapaksa’s backyard.
Corruption figured in the statement of another big business entity, the Hemas Holdings. In a statement shared over social media, Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, the group’s CEO, said her company supported staff to non-violently express themselves and even called on the government to set the country on a “path free of corruption and ethnic divisions.”
“Hemas continues to support the public in its demand for systemic change. We call upon our nation’s leaders to hear the cry of our people and come together to immediately undertake the necessary political and economic reforms and set our country on the right path, based on the principles of good governance, free of corruption and ethnic divisions,” Sri Lanka’s top woman business executive said in a statement appearing on her Twitter handle.
The statement ended by saying, “We will play our part in advocating for this change while supporting the rights of our staff to freely express themselves in a nonviolent manner.”
Hemas does business in surgical equipment, health care, personal care, transports and also strategic investments.
Some, like Softlogic Holdings, have decided to play it safe. The company, dealing in financial services, information technology, healthcare and commodities, is going soft on the Rajapaksas, saying that the crisis is a result of policy irregularities spanning over 70 years.
“The problem in the country today is the product of successive policy irregularities spanning a period of 70 years. In an ideal society, all sections of society should benefit from a benign policy regime which are essentially long term and hard to find. But we are optimistic that the right people have been put in the right positions to discuss these processing matters with the international funding agencies and bi-lateral partners, which is the need of the hour,” the conglomerate said in a statement on Friday.
Finding solutions to the crisis is going to be hard no matter what government is in charge, the statement said.
“It is the need of the hour, to put the country first rather than to find political self-interest interfering with the emergence of a tractable solution,”
Not to be left behind, hospitality giant Jetwing too released a statement on the effect the crisis has had on the economy.
“We stand with everyone who wishes to engage in peaceful protest and support the right to freedom of expression,” the company said.
Telecom biggie Dialog Axiata too supported calls for change and for good governance and transparency.
“We believe that with bold and responsible action today, our resilient nation will emerge stronger than ever before.
“We call on those who have the power and opportunity to solve the prevailing crisis, to act selflessly towards the achievement of this greater good – a progressive and stable future for Sri Lanka and its people,” it said.
Image: Wikimedia commons, AntanO