By Dimithri Wijesinghe
A direct response to the subsequent economic crisis Sri Lanka has suffered following the Easter Sunday attacks, Positive Sri Lanka is an initiative taken up by a collective of like-minded private citizens, calling on any and all businesses to participate in generating positive momentum in the economy.
The campaign is the brainchild of Lovi CEO Asanka De Mel and J Walter Thompson Sri Lanka (JWT) CEO Alyna Haji Omar and its business objective is to generate revenue of Rs. 90 billion inside the country over a short period of two months in a bid to jumpstart the economy once again.
Alyna said: “We are such a resilient nation, such a resilient people. There are all of the fundamentals in place for us to move forward right now. The order of the day is a jump start, so the question was what can we do immediately to help things forward,” and with proactive participation across the board, it is not an impossible thing.
While the business aspect and Positive Sri Lanka’s benefits have been widely discussed, we must also take note to celebrate the project in its entirety.
It is also a movement adopted to “fight the negativity” that has been rampant since the attacks. Despite the rising tensions and spreading of lies, there’s not been a direct response to extinguish those misconceptions as Alyna so accurately put: “What we’ve found is there hasn’t been a shepherding of the nation,” she said, also adding: “Just one afternoon has left us doubting neighbours, doubting friends, and feeling scared; and the entire narrative was about who was at fault and who knew, what they knew, swords, sterilisation, halal…truly, this was the conversation surrounding it. What we need now is a positive approach.”
We spoke to Positive Sri Lanka Project Lead Malsha Fonseka and she said: “This initial negative response has spiralled and it has kept us doubting, feeling scared, and staying put at home. What we must allow now is a national healing process.” Positive Sri Lanka is already acting as a beacon of hope, with many of Sri Lanka’s iconic brands having already pledged allegiance.
Notably, direct market competitors and industry juggernauts Unilever and HEMAS have come together to support one cause under one blanket movement where they will now work together to rebuild Sri Lanka’s economy.
De Mel explained: “The Positive Sri Lanka campaign is leveraging the voice and the power of the business community to take charge of Sri Lanka’s narrative.” If this doesn’t inspire the rest of the country to fall in line, we are truly a lost cause; however, there needn’t be much worry as nearly 200 businesses have come on board the movement, and it continues to grow.
Another objective of this campaign is to create a fund which will be managed through Trail Sri Lanka, a well-respected charity partner, to help the victims and their families through the long recovery process. Whilst Trail has come on board to help raise and manage funds, the Red Cross has agreed to distribute funds to the affected. This would be in the form of short-term donations for immediate medical needs or budget permitting planned long-term care for people with permanent consequences.
Speaking about this, Malsha also said: “The victims need lifetime support, not just a short-term donation. It doesn’t amount to much in the long run, but it’s a start. We are hopeful we can springboard off of this to a more tangible and sustainable way to help those who suffer.”
She added: “Change starts with you and me, and this movement is especially important to showcase to the world that Sri Lanka is bouncing back.” This is essential for the future of our economy, for the world to see that we have not rescinded into our war-torn shells once again.
While political turmoil, racial hatred, and various other agendas have fuelled a false narrative which has then carried said negative image to the global stage, it is imperative that we take charge of this narrative and write a different story to turn it around.
Positive Sri Lanka speaks of solidarity. A nation once united began to crumble, exposing the fragile intricacies that had held it together; however, while it is certainly tragic, we have been presented with an opportunity to strengthen our ties from the bottom up – a way to make absolutely certain, if ever our unity is threatened again, we will not weaver.
The initiative is generating an overwhelming response from the local business community as leading brands step forward to do their bit to restore the economy.