By Sunethra Jayaratne Nugawela
The Association of Secretaries & Administrative Professionals in Asia Pacific (ASA) held its 24th Congress at the Gateway Hotel Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, recently, with over 300 national and international delegates, under the theme of Administrative Dynamics – The WOW factor. ASA is comprised of secretarial and administrative professionals associations from Philippines, Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Republic of Taiwan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Bangladesh, and Papua New Guinea.
ASA was founded in 1974 by Verginia P. Elbinias of the Philippines Association of Secretaries who is now serving as the Founding President. Lilian Coloma and Alvina Chung are the officials from Philippines and Brunei who perform the ASA Secretariat and ASA Treasury. ASA Congress is held bi-annually in a member country by rotation. Accordingly the PNG Association of Administrative Professionals hosted the 24th ASA Congress in PNG. Mea Isaac was the ASA President and the association presented a wow congress in the land of unexpected, for four nights, five days.
In a dialogue with ASA President, who recently secured a parliamentary seat of Motu Koitabu, she expressed her views that with the ever changing technological era, and the diverse cultures and values in the Asia Pacific region it is totally amazing and awesome to bring together like-minded colleagues and professionals to network, being innovative, setting standards of exemplary administrative excellence to reach greater heights. The program commenced with a welcome reception to ASA Council Presidents, Honorary Presidents, Council Presidents, co-ordinators and the CP meeting on the following day.
Inauguration was a colourful, eye catching event with participants in their national costumes from the region. The speakers, Governor West New Britain Sasindran Mughuwel, Beatrice Geua Mahuru, Linda Kapani, Linda Tule and Hycinth Arya spoke on Effective Use of IT in administration, Leadership and Management, What next, Women in micro banking, cultural barriers and bridging the gap. An active participation on the sport day despite age differences was notable and the city tour to the Parliament House and to Aquatic Centre was a part of the program. The funds raised by the ASA Bazar by selling items from participated countries was donated to the Hohola Cheire Home. The highest income was generated by the Women Secretaries Association of Thailand in this process.
Another unique feature was the ASA Project Award which was won by India. The award criteria was based on the professional development and humanity services rendered by member country. ASA congress came to a conclusion with a gala dinner and traditional performance from respective countries as well as from the host country. The famous bamboo dance and colourful dances kept the crowd entertained. The event concluded by singing the ASA song. India claimed the highest delegation of 44 and Sri Lanka was the second highest with 18 participants. The 25th ASA congress will be hosted by the Sri Lanka Association of Secretaries & Administrative Professionals in Sri Lanka during 2020 and next in line is the Women Secretaries Association of Thailand.
The writer who was recently appointed advisor to WSAT had the privilege of joining Sukanya Nimanahamenda Life President and Napaporn Apiwong – Coordinator of Women Secretaries Association of Thailand in their mission of empowering women, by donating sewing machines from Bangkok Soroptimis International to the centre of women in need. The centre extended a warm welcome with a delicious traditional lunch. The post tour taken by us on personal basis was a great opportunity to mingle with coastal community and other villagers.
The visits to villages named Hanuabada, Beta, Boers, Sogeri Plateau, Kokeda Track, Craft Market and stay at Konebada resort was a great experience. The tour was coordinated by Sarah Garap who is a community development officer in PNG. Though timely working is rare in this country, this lady was an exception to the rule who was punctual always.
PNG claims over eight million culturally diverse, customary communities who are supposed to use over 800 dialects. Those whom we met were very friendly and caring. It is known to have most of the people still live in strong traditional social groups based on farming as well as on the coast. Their social lives combine traditional religion with modern practices, including primary education. In the evenings, the children had time to play in groups. Tuition classes were not at all visible. They were contented with the school education.
The significance in PNG is chewing and living on sales of betel nuts. The kids follow their families. It is of the belief that there are many uncontacted groups of people, undiscovered species of plants and animals in the interior. The trees were full of flowers and fruits, in fact soil rich land was ideal for nature lovers. PNG culture seems less stressful in comparison to the developed nations. They were happy with the earnings and live for the day. Many were god-fearing.
During the post stay, I had the good fortune of meeting Hony. Consul for Sri Lanka Prof. Nava Bandara, who is a renowned senior lecturer in accountancy in the University of Papua New Guinea. He counts over 16 long years’ service in this country. A pride of Sri Lanka, as he is a well-known figure in PNG, who keeps Sri Lanka’s flag fly high in another land thorough his professionalism, education and humanitarian acts.
The article is purely based on self-experience, field visits, and my understandings on self-learning and networking.
(The writer is Executive Director – Academy for Administrative Professionals; Hony. Life Member/Past President – Association of Secretaries & Administrative Professionals in Asia Pacific.)