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18th August 2018

Speech by the Outgoing Chairman of Sri Lanka Shippers Council - Mr. Chrisso de Mel

Mr.Chrisso de Mel Hon chief guest, Mr. Mangala Yapa (Chairman Board of Investment), Newly elected Chairman, Mr. Suren Abeysekera and vice Chairmen, Mr. Russel Jurianz and Mr. Imalka Kumarapeli, Past Chairmen, Our Honorary Member, Committee members, members, Invitees, Ladies and gentlemen.

It is with much pleasure that I welcome you today, to this post business session of the 49th AGM of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council. As you know this council has been in existence, now for 53 years. As much as I have enjoyed leading this council for the past two years as Chairman and in the past five years as an office bearer, it is my pleasure, to now make way for a new team, led by Suren Abeysekera, to take this council forward.

The journey during the past five years has not been an easy task, And I must confess, that if not for the wisdom from God, I would not have been able, to complete my task. To Suren and his vice Chairmen, I wish that you will be able to unleash, your best, to take this council to greater heights. I assure, that you will have my fullest support, either in the form of Counsel or intervention towards any challenges and matters in the future.

Being at the helm, and holding a position, as its Chairman, of one of the most prestigious councils in an Island, which has proved to the world of its true potential and has been recognised as the best hub for shipping and logistics in south east Asia, I will fail in my duties, if I do not identify, highlight and share with you, a few facts that need to be addressed sooner rather than later if we are to take our rightful position in the world map by assertively working towards getting our act together.

First and foremost, we must all identify and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. Whilst we try to capitalise on our strengths we need to zero in on our weaknesses.

Today, we are attempting to rapidly move forward, in a very desperate manner, to achieve the desired goals, which we are more than capable of achieving. But which seem daunting due to the handicaps we have, the obstacles we face and the impediments we see, which seem enormous.

We all agree, that we need to leap frog, even if not to stay ahead, but at least to be on par, with competition. The solution is a very simple exercise, but now it is made to look so convoluted, thanks to the confusion and complications created by all stake holders. I believe we all would fall in to one of the following categories as stake holders.

  • Politicians both in government and opposition.
  • The Public sector, the State-owned enterprise.
  • The Private sector including the SME's.
  • The General public, citizens of this country.

The fact is that we all need to reshape our thinking if we are to usher in a new era. If we are to see the dawn of a new beginning, we need to get back to basics, and uphold the truth, respect and value for humanity and nature. Today we are prisoners and hostages of a broken-down system where we do not have respect for human life and livelihood, So will we have any respect to nature? We only have a remnant of people who are trying to move against all odds with the hope of a better tomorrow.

I believe you only need one individual, who need not be from a particular political party, to lead this country and take Sri Lanka to the place of a “promised land”, but that person needs to be one who loves the country and loves its people. A person who is not desperately seeking power, wealth or fame in order to puff his ego or self-esteem, but a person with the true spirit of servant leadership who is in pain for his people with genuine love, who's heart beat is tuned to the voice of the people's cries echoing the reality from the ground and who is willing to labour and invest on sweat to stop the tears of poverty. Whose honest leadership will not have to be articulated with words but be seen through action. Whose honour will shine in the world stage as a light to the path, where other world leaders will want to follow. Who will be truly proud to hoist the national flag with hands, that are clean.

This I believe is the need of the hour, As Sri Lanka positions itself to appoint the right people to be governing this beautiful nation. The lessons learned in the recent past with a comedy of errors is not funny, but truly sad.

Poor governance, and the selfish and irresponsible political leadership both in the government and the opposition, with the exception of a few helpless souls caught in between the crossfire have led to the demise and deterioration of law and order. The lack of discipline, focus, and commitment has made everyone both in the private and public sector, drift away from our tracks where implementation and adoption of policy has become almost non-existent. It is clear that Stake holder engagement, discussion and unbiased agreement within all stake holders, in putting the country forward, has not been a reality. People opting to work in silo's has costed much and wasted valuable time and energy and at the same time has not had the same weight and result if it was consolidated and channelled in one force.

The industry of shipping and logistics in Sri Lanka does not lack the expertise to compete with the rest of the world be it in the form of knowledge or natural resources. What we lack is the support and the boost to existing businesses that have faithfully contributed to the GDP overtime and new entities that cannot even lift its head with the prevalent bureaucracy and corruption within the system.

We cannot afford to drag our feet on urgent matters such as the renewing of archaic laws and regulations that are still in place, when competing with modern business, transacted through international Trade.

I do not wish to repeat the lines that have been repeatedly echoed several times in regard to Trade facilitation, Ease of doing business and free and fair trade through a single window. But I must insist that we must have the right, honest and competent people in place at the boarder agencies and enforcement authorities, in charge who are willing to hold themselves accountable, Free from the grip or favour of any politician.

Continuously assessing the industry needs and promptly reforming the processors and having the necessary laws in place is prudent rather than to react after the horse has bolted. In my opinion, the adhoc and Inconsistent changes made to policy is the biggest obstacle that will not attract long term investment.

Finally, Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you all, to be focussed and stay committed to fearlessly play your role as individuals in the market place, in the most responsible manner, upholding great values without favour, influence or prejudice. As we invigorate are efforts aiming at common goals I ‘m sure we will be able achieve much that will not only benefit and reward all of us and our businesses but also help us sustain humanity who have been created to be the custodians of this planet we live in.

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