Peace a paradigm change for business and people: Dian Gomes

Thursday, 18 December 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Uditha Jayasinghe MAS Holdings Group Director Dian Gomes yesterday emphasised that peace has brought about a paradigm change for business and people and this benefit must be protected and harnessed further. Speaking at the Cinnamon Grand’s segment of the Momentum Forum, Gomes encouraged other business leaders and professionals not to have short memories Gomes made a powerful case for the involvement of the private sector in developing the north to bring “true reconciliation” to Sri Lanka. “We are facing a challenge in retaining talent. There is so much opportunity here now. The Government leaves us alone to do what we are good at so the private sector needs to take the lead. For this we need a stable economy and consistent policies,” he insisted. Calling on the private sector to put their “shoulders to the wheel,” Gomes recounted the effort made by his company to build a cancer hospital in Jaffna. “The pulse of the people is very different. This should not be a vote just for yourself but for your children.” Admitting the private sector needs to address significant productivity issues and other bottlenecks Gomes emphasised there were points the business community did not wholeheartedly agree with in terms of Government policy. Yet the space should be created for engagement rather than change, he stressed. “The question you need to ask is how we can bring our children back. This Government seems to be doing good things. We must put pressure (on them) for accountability and for a better Sri Lanka.” Gomes recalled that as a Colombo born person educated in the West, it took him many years to understand the needs of rural Sri Lankan people and urged his compatriots to do the same. He advocated that they invest in their employees, sometimes even forgoing profits, to develop the country. “After the war we went to the north, we could have our pick of anywhere in the south. We could have gone to Bangladesh or Indonesia but we chose to go north. For the people. We have about 1,600 employees there now but, for me, the great reward is taking sports to the north. We will have achieved true reconciliation when we send a former child soldier to the Olympics – that is my dream,” he said. Gomes also gave his personal experiences of working in Pannala during the 1990s and his attempts to help families who had members fighting the war in the north. He delivered emotionally charged anecdotes about journeys to the border villages and first hand experiences of people living in the now defunct “border villages”. “We have to face this people challenge. When we lost GSP plus I cursed because that was 8% of my business gone. But I told my employees, ‘We will not give in. We will find ways to recover from this and move forward,’ and that is exactly what we did.” The full speech will be published in the Daily FT tomorrow.