Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce celebrates 25th anniversary

Wednesday, 20 February 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

HDCC past presidents 


Awarding past president



The Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) celebrated 25 years of exemplary service to the business community and youth in the District. Established on 9 August 1993, HCCC is the first district Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka and one of the few legendary institutions in the country to hold such an unbroken record. The primary objective of this pioneering exercise was to promote and develop the economic advancement of the district through good business practices and progressive entrepreneurship.  

HDCC began as an agency in 1990 under a government initiative that encouraged young new entrepreneurs to collaborate with existing businesses. In 1993, with technical and financial assistance from USAID, HDCC was formally incorporated, and since then has worked in co-operation with the national level chambers, the Government of Sri Lanka and many INGOs, as well as with multi-lateral and bi-lateral donor agencies and their projects.

David Mackinnon, Canadian High Commissioner of Sri Lanka
Bandula Harischandra, Hambantota district secretary
Azmi Thassim, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
WUSC Sri Lanka Country Director Doug Graham
D.W. Anura Upul, President, Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce

Also around this time, the Hambantota Integrated Rural Development Project (HIRDP) was launched, under the patronage of the Ministry of Plan Implementation and funded by NORAD setup; as well as the Hambantota Entrepreneur Service Centre (HESC) – a one stop shop for the entrepreneurs of the district. At the end of the nineties, HIRDP setup in 1979 with a 20-year lifespan was nearing the end of its tenure and looking for somebody to takeover HESC. They didn’t have to look far. There couldn’t have been a more natural choice than the HDCC to undertake the “adoption” of HESC. It was then the Government of Norway through the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo stepped in for an agreement and MOU with HDCC to continuation of HESC activities. .

Over the last ten years RNE has, under a number of agreements, provided a significant proportion of the funding that HDDC has needed in order to serve the business community, and also to support it in its work to enhance the overall economic status of the Hambantota District. Aiming to enhance the capacity of HDCC to fulfil its primary mission, RNE and HDCC have worked together on other major projects in the district and region, most notably on tsunami relief and in the provision of access to financial services for the region’s SME communities.

HDCC facilitates the business community with information, technology, exposure and lobbying banks for access to funds as well as organising workshops and training programs to improve the capacity of the business people and their staff members.

Recognising that one of the major causes of the violence in the South of Sri Lanka in the late 1980s was youth unemployment, HDCC determined that it must implement programs designed to address this crucial issue.  The Career Service Centre (CSC) commenced delivering careers services as a part of HDCC in 1996 with initial support from the World University Service of Canada (WUSC).  

HDCC decided to address the problem of youth unemployment by assisting young people to consider entrepreneurship as a real alternative to seeking employment, and to give them the skills and finance to make a success of starting and developing their own businesses.  Hambantota Youth Business Program was established with the Support of The Prince’s Trust and the Prince of Wales’ International Business Leaders Forum in the UK. HDCC has worked with Voluntary Service Overseas or more than twenty years, during which time a number of volunteers have worked to enhance the capacity of the HDCC staff.

In early 2005 the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) and its service delivery company, Manchester Solutions (MS), and HDCC entered into an Memorandum Of Understanding , to work together to promote long-term economic re-development in the Hambantota District, supporting the organisational development and success of HDCC, and developing mutual links between the two Chambers and their members.

The HDCC was awarded a grant from the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Initiatives (S/GWI) through USAID to implement its Promoting Entrepreneurship and Empowering Women in Hambantota District project. Through this initiative Hambantota District Women Entrepreneurs forum was formed and it serves as a networking platform and creates a voice for businesswomen. 

In addition, the Chamber is also involved in collaborative partnerships with local bodies too to facilitate the business community. Playing a catalytic role in the development of the business sector it initiates action to identify future trends, focuses on key issues, and assists in the development of strategic plans to meet new challenges and opportunities. 

The tsunami 2004 drastically affected the Hambantota District. HDCC was active in all of the relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts.  HDCC members and staff worked alongside other organisations in the days following the disaster, helping meet the needs of their community despite the shock and grief of their own personal losses. Many international organisations, NGOs, philanthropists, groups, and concerned individuals from around the world funnelled their contributions and programs through HDCC as an effective conduit for relief and support.  HDCC publishes Dolosdahas Rata, which was introduced in 1999, a unique local news service bringing valuable business information to members of the Chamber as well as news about the community, economy and culture of the Hambantota district to national readers. Dolosdahas Rata is the first regional newspaper of its kind in the Southern Province.

‘Deep South’ is the creative theme of the HDCC’s tourism development initiative which seeks to promote the Hambantota District as a prime tourist destination. 

A key strength of HDCC is its ability to form and develop partnerships. None of the work would have been possible without the network of partners with whom HDCC has established relationships during the course of its existence. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, FCCISL, ICC, NCCSL, BPA, Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), Australian Volunteer Service, Youth Business international (YBI), Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Manchester Solutions, The Loomba Foundation,  International Youth Foundation (IYF), The Asia Foundation, International Alert, The British Council,  ILO, UNDP, USAID, GIZ , The World University of Canada (WUSC),the World Bank, The Royal Norwegian Embassy –NORAD, University of Ruhuna, University of Agder, the  Hambantota  District Secretariat, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and many more have all supported, guided and influenced the work of HDCC. 

A significant element of HDCC’s success is the commitment of its past presidents, board members and other office bearers and committee members who give their time and energy voluntarily for the development of the organisation.

To recognise and encourage enterprises, the HDCC holds the Best Entrepreneur Awards ceremony in the Hambantota District and Southern province. HDCC also supports and facilitates the participation of the district’s businessmen, women and youth at national and international competitions. Exhibitions are another initiative to support the regional entrepreneur community.  2001 HDCC organised the first Investment Forum to bridge the gap between demand and supply of information on the development process.

Twenty-five years on HDCC can proudly look back on two decades of progress and achievements. HDCC celebrated its 25th anniversary ceremony on the 31 January at the Sri Lanka Singapore Conference Hall in Siribopura, Hambantota. The Chief Guest of this occasion was Canadian High Commissioner of Sri Lanka David Mackinnon and the Guest of Honour Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Azmi Thassim, also an HDCC past president.

In this occasion HDCC felicitate of past presidents, committee members and long-standing members and staff of the Chamber in recognition of their contribution towards its development. A Special Award was presented to the HDCC founder president Azmi Thassim. 

This prestigious event involved key representatives from public, private, NGO, INGO, donor agency, embassy sectors and HDCC past president, Director Board and committee members and a large number of HDCC members and local business people. Of special note were the Consul General of India Prem Kumar Nair, Hambantota District Secretary, Bandula Harishchandra, Additional District Secretary Suneth Lochana, Hambantota Municipal Council Mayor Eraj Ravidra Fernando, World University Service of Canada Sri Lanka Country Director Doug Graham, Team Leader Iroshan Halgamuwa, and You Lead Director Crishan Perera.

Special speeches made by Hambantota District Secretary Bandula Harishchandra and Azmi Thassim.  The World University Service of Canada donated a vehicle for the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce on this occasion for a 25-year succession of partnership. 

In its quarter century of operation the HDCC has made significant achievements towards realising its vision for the business community and environment of the Hambantota district. With the involvement and encouragement of its members and partners,  HDCC looks to the future with renewed commitment – towards becoming a self-sustainable, increasingly professional organisation that takes up social responsibility and youth and community development; a pioneer District Chamber contributing towards regional growth through economic development that empowers the local business community and brings about prosperity in the future.