A response to DM exposé on Tea Promotion Officer

1 August 2020 12:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • He received high praise from all governments
  • Most experienced Ceylon Tea Promotion  Officer now working at Tea Board
  • His ability to speak,  read and write in both Sinhala and English should also be valued

With reference to the Daily Mirror Expose article and Page 1 news item, both headlined,  ‘Tea promoting officer in hot water!’ dated July 31, the Assistant Director of the Sri  Lanka Tea Board Dhanushka Karunaratne has sent the following response:   
“Honestly, I have known and worked with Hasitha de Alwis since 2013, from the day that I joined the Sri Lanka Tea  Board. He is the most experienced Ceylon Tea Promotion  Officer currently working at the Sri Lanka Tea Board and had also  received high praise from all the governments which were in power during his  entire career. The main secret behind this was that he never looked for political favour from the powers that be but depended on personal merit.   
Unfortunately today, most ‘‘Government Promotional  Officers’’ give first priority to the use of jargon like, ‘‘paper work /  documentation’’ and ‘‘government procurement’’. 
They finally finish-off  too many paper files during their career and most importantly they rarely if at all take time to promote the country’s best products. I do not mean that jargon is not important especially in  avoiding bribery and corruption. However, jargons should not be  an excuse to attend to promotional work for the sake of promoting  the country’s best products as well as the overall image of the country. 

“Honestly, I have known and worked with Hasitha de Alwis since 2013, from the day that I joined the Sri Lanka Tea  Board. He is the most experienced Ceylon Tea Promotion  Officer currently working at the Sri Lanka Tea Board and had also  received high praise from all the governments which were in power during his  entire career. The main secret behind this was that he never looked for political favour from the powers that be but depended on personal merit.   
Unfortunately today, most ‘‘Government Promotional  Officers’’ give first priority to the use of jargon like, ‘‘paper work /  documentation’’ and ‘‘government procurement’’. They finally finish-off  too many paper files during their career and most importantly they rarely if at all take time to promote the country’s best products. I do not mean that jargon is not important especially in  avoiding bribery and corruption. However, jargons should not be  an excuse to attend to promotional work for the sake of promoting  the country’s best products as well as the overall image of the country.  In addition, in a situation where people criticise politicians even for  every rupee they spend, no one knows that the country spends nearly  Rs.15 million a year together with a free vehicle permit to maintain a single diplomat.   
Against this background, I have personally observed the work done by Mr.  de Alwis, a well-known ‘‘Government Promotion Officer’’ cum diplomat,  giving first priority to promotion-related work while fulfilling the required Government AR & FR rules. Mr. de Alwis AR & FR never compromised his promotion to that of collecting dollars while doing  nothing. In addition, he always listened to the needs of all stakeholders  in the Ceylon Tea industry and acted accordingly while ignoring the  ‘‘Typical Bureaucratic attitude’’ of ‘‘Today’s Typical Government  Officers’’. Further, his knowledge on Tea markets is excellent, always  up-to-date and analytical with a 360-degree approach to the relevant  matter. Thus, it is natural to see all Ministers / Chairmen appointed by any Government obtaining his advice on Ceylon Tea Promotional  matters.   
Not only job-related knowledge, but his ability to speak,  read and write in both Sinhala and English should also be valued as a national resource. Since nearly 95% of Ceylon Tea markets are in  foreign countries, the Sri Lanka Tea Board having officers with a good  command of English at least to properly present Ceylon Teas to an  International audience also play an important role. I have personally  observed how Mr. de Alwis handled all my Media conferences that I  organized when I was the Ceylon Tea Promotion Officer of the Sri Lanka  Embassy in Beijing China. He always coupled his job-related knowledge  with his language skills. Hence, prominent Chinese especially Chinese  online media reported what Mr. de Alwis highlighted as Top Stories.  This article shows Daily Mirror has done some good  investigation. Whilst valuing the Daily Mirror’s interest in the Sri  Lanka Tea Board, I would like to highlight this article as ‘‘One-sided’’. Yes, Mr. de Alwis was instrumental in opening Tea  Bureaus in Japan and Poland. In addition, he was also instrumental in  guiding the Ceylon Tea Bureau headed by myself attached to the Sri Lanka  Embassy in Beijing China. The Ceylon Tea Bureau in Beijing China is the  most recent Ceylon Tea Promotional expansion that the Tea Board did  during the past seven years.   
In this background, I was also lucky enough not only to  head the move as the first Ceylon Tea Promotion Officer sent on  Diplomatic terms to China; but also to be guided by an experienced  officer like Mr. de Alwis, together with Sri Lanka’s then Ambassador Dr. Karunasena Kodithuwakku who is also an excellent  Diplomat, an economist, an educationalist and a gentleman politician.  Therefore, it is natural to see Mr. Jayampathy Molligoda, the present  Chairman of the Tea Board, another well experienced and a well  knowledgeable ‘‘Ceylon Tea Man’’ allowing Mr. de Alwis to continue even  with a difficulty in paying him. Having trust on the Tea Board, Mr. de  Alwis has also now worked nearly several months without even a proper  remuneration.   
However unfortunately, this article does not highlight any  of the above. It talks only about an ‘‘internet scam’’ that has happened  in the Ceylon Tea Bureau in Dubai, United Arab Emirates when Mr. de  Alwis was heading the Unit as the relevant Ceylon Tea Promotional  Officer. Yes, an inquiry was done within the Tea Board, the loss incured by the  Tea Board was some Rs.450,000 (nearly a half a million).  Though internet scams can happen to any individual and Mr. de Alwis was in no way involved in the scam and it was finally decided by the  Tea Board to recover the money from this ‘‘Old man’s EPF’’ since this happened  just after his retirement.   
Therefore, the Rs.450,000 was deducted from his own EPF  when he was retiring from the Tea Board as his ‘‘retirement party’’  while giving a wrong example to young officers like us for organizing  international promotional work through emails with a high risk of  internet scams. On the other hand, Mr. de Alwis has finally paid the Rs.450,000 from his EPF. Against this background, it can be concluded  that Mr. de Alwis has already paid back the Rs.450,000 to the Tea Board even though he was not involved in the scam. Therefore, even when the matter is now sorted out, I do not know why some people are making a huge fuss about this? The people who make these baseless allegations may be doing so due to personal agendas instead of spending their valuable time in discussing what should be the next best  market for Ceylon Tea after Japan, Poland and China based on  National interest. I strongly believe the Daily Mirror a well-known English  newspaper that I also read will think positively about my request.   


The writer is the Assistant Director of the Sri Lanka Tea  Board, a former Ceylon Tea Promotion Officer, 3rd Secretary of the Sri  Lanka Embassy in Beijing China and the Chairman of Tea Board JSS  (Employee’s Union).   


 

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