Rotarians, their families and Rotaractors of Sri Lanka, RI District 3220, took out a procession in Colombo recently in the crisis-ridden island nation to demand good and corruption free governance from the country’s politicians. Addressing a press conference, in which past RI president K R Ravindran participated, the Rotarians also called upon the state, private and public sectors to be accountable and transparent. They shared details of what Rotary has done to alleviate the suffering of the people during the present crisis.
The conference was addressed by Ravindran, DG Aruni Malalasekera, Dr Rohantha Athukorala (district advisor-Public Image), DG-elect Pubudu De Zoysa, and other leaders. After the press conference, the Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors began their solidarity walk. “We have a stake in Sri Lanka, we have spent billions of rupees in service projects to improve the lives of our people,” Ravindran told the reporters.
He said that laws have to be brought in where those engaged in corruption, be they parliamentarians, corporate leaders or ordinary citizens, would be sentenced to life imprisonment and their assets confiscated. Spelling out the essence of the Rotary 4-Way Test, he said, “We Rotarians want good governance in the country. We are looking for governance where the government is dishing out truth, is fair to all concerned, will promote goodwill amongst communities, which is ethical and beneficial to all. We want governments which can give us freedom of expression, freedom from want, freedom to pray to whatever god we wish and freedom from fear.”
Responding to queries that Rotary is an apolitical organisation and that the Rotarians walking in solidarity could be seen as going against the principles of Rotary, N R Gajendran, chairman-College of Governors, said Rotary’s philosophy is peace, goodwill and world understanding. “Can you have peace if you don’t have food, medicine or diesel or petrol to travel? This country is our home, this is our life and livelihood. We are standing up for the humanitarian aspect of this crisis. This is not politics. We are standing up for our rights and showing solidarity.”
Dr Athukorala expressed concern that poverty levels would rise due to the current crisis. Quoting from recent research, he said it showed that 5.8 million people in Sri Lanka are almost close to poverty levels, and it was the duty of Rotarians to stand up and do something about such humanitarian crises.
Rotary to the rescue
DGE Pubudu gave details of how Rotary was helping out the distressed people across the island nation. “We have been able to procure medicines needed through our international Rotary network. We get the urgently required list of medicines from the government and are able to procure them through Rotary clubs overseas.” Dr Athukorala said that Rotary was planning to give jobs to 2,000 recent graduates and also bring in 500 scholarships from overseas worth ₹2 billion. “We are working closely with the government on programmes to facilitate the development of soft skills in the youth so that we can prevent brain drain,” he said.
“We are losing hope for future”
The 9,000-odd Rotaractors of the island nation of Sri Lanka are closely observing the development in their country and many of them took an active role in the solidarity march. Talking about the contribution of Rotaract to the country, DRR Akila Wijetunga said, “Rotaract always makes an effort to better the lives of others and give them hope. But at this point, we are losing hope for our own future. This is the time for us to stand up and raise our voices seeking justice for our future. This is why we thought we would join this walk for solidarity with Rotary.”