19 February 2019
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Comparison of the two Business Forums by MR & MS


mr ms 31Nimal Gunawardhana, CEO of Bates Strategic Alliance about the Government & Opposition's Business forums;

Here's a little piece I wrote this morning. For all my business friends who did not attend - whether by choice, default, lack of interest, invitation or space, or for any other reason - the Business Community meeting of Consensus Opposition Candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena and Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, here's my take on both - this event and MR's Momentum, - which I attended purely as a business invitee.


MR's Momentum Show, dubbed as Asia's largest synchronised meeting had lots of style and spend, from a lavish breakfast, 'hi-tech' linking of 4 venues, fancy printed material and pretty good event organization from the invitee databases to venue arrangements done by a professional agency. Some of you may have been impressed with all this, and some of you were selected to testify in favour of the 'stability and continuity' of the MR regime.

But style is where it all ended, as my marks for substance and format are low and even negative. Two family members, MR & GR, were the main speakers for the Government, and the Keynote Speaker Dian Gomes, smartly refrained from going to market, but rather highlighted the 'people factor' and laid on the table many questions which were not answered by anyone including the panel moderated by the FT Editor Nisthar Cassim.

GR used much of his speech on seeking to share his LTTE paranoia replete with a full propaganda showcase of LTTE photos. Which sounded like a self-preservation strategy. So, did he kick an own goal in the process? I thought so. The only thing that struck me about MR's brief speech, was his promise to eradicate corruption in his third term! Everyone clapped on hearing this self-destruction strategy! Nisthar's panel discussion was dominated by the the government panelists GR, LW & NC, while my friends Hiran, Kishu and Ranjit waited for their turn. Many people had left the Grand by the time they got to go to market as reported in the press.

By contrast, the MS & RW show titled "Boosting Growth in a Stable Policy Environment' had little style but all the substance that a business meeting should. In contrast to MR's Momentum, where no audience questions were solicited, the initial speeches were followed by questions from the audience. These were well fielded by both MS & RW, which gave clarity that theirs would be a policy-based governance and good economics making for good business, which is what my business friends should value, unless any of them prefer crony capitalism.

MS should have stuck to his Sinhala speech only, but it seemed that someone had foisted a badly written English one for him to deliver. RW did a vintage RW impromptu talk (so said the Moderator Ranjit Fernando, as this was my first time listening to him speak.) Media training is unfortunately lacking among most public speakers including our politicians - and this is a point I make as a PR professional (endorsed by my son's take-out doing a course at the Kennedy School).

So, what are my business friends thinking at this stage? Are they yes, but-ting..., hedging their bets, expecting more of the same which probably worked for them so far, or has it really? Or are they willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Common Candidate's promise of good governance, a policy-based approach, and a level playing field for big and small businesses, and focus on local industry development, rather than the import economy we've had so far?

Either way, with all that has happened and is continuing to happen, crossovers, desperate tactics, and most importantly the rise of the citizen's voice and open dissent, free speech and exposures as seen in the social media (being emulated cautiously by the previously self-censored mainstream media), life will never be the same. Expect a change for the better or a drastic clampdown depending on who takes power. Take your pick.

Let's Unite - Boosting Growth in a Stable Policy Environment.


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