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Tuesday, 3 April 2012






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Commitment as a key to national success

Text of speech of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at the seventh annual conference of MBA alumni association of the University of Colombo titled 'Beyond traditional boundaries' as chief guest

"As much as commitment
and motivation are important,
consistency of focus is another
critical success factor in any
enterprise. It is essential that
the focus on getting things done
is kept from the start of the
endeavour until it is completed.
We must not be satisfied with
midpoint victories and lose focus
on the final result. The final
objective is the most important
one to achieve. The lack of
consistent focus towards the
end goal is a fairly serious
problem in society today"

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

I thank the MBA Alumni Association of the University of Colombo for having invited me to be the Chief Guest at this Management Conference. The theme chosen for this yearís conference, 'Beyond Traditional Boundaries' is a very appropriate one. Sri Lanka is now one of the most peaceful and stable nations in the Asian region. All of us are stakeholders in this countryís future, and we have an opportunity to build on the foundation of peace to take Sri Lanka to the next level.

To contribute effectively to this national cause, we need to move beyond our usual comfort zones. We must look afresh at our strengths and our opportunities. We must realise that there is great potential in this country for future growth. Sri Lanka is an attractive destination for foreign investment. Tourist arrivals are constantly increasing, and our domestic industries, service sector and agriculture sector have the scope to grow much further. No matter whether we are individual entrepreneurs, corporate executives, professionals or public officials, we must make the most of these opportunities at this critical time. We must go beyond traditional boundaries and commit to achieving our shared destiny as a nation.

Public sector

Commitment is one of the most crucial success factors in any undertaking. A serious issue Sri Lanka faces today is that the level of commitment at various levels is not as great as it should be. This leads to inefficiency and under-performance in various institutions, enterprises and projects, both in the public sector as well as the private sector. Often, the central problem is inadequate commitment at key leadership levels. It is only when leaders are fully committed to achieving success that their subordinates will follow suit. Without commitment of the leadership, the desired results can never be achieved.

The Humanitarian Operation that liberated Sri Lanka from LTTE terrorism provides a good example of committed leadership leading to success. The President, myself as the Defence Secretary, the Commanders and the key senior officers of the Armed Services were all fully committed to eradicating terrorism from Sri Lanka. The actions and words of each of these individuals constantly underscored their commitment. This was critical to long-term success.

Grave challenges

When the LTTE developed its air capability and carried out air raids over Colombo, there was a great deal of agitation and panic amongst the general public. The response of the leadership was critical. Because of the Presidentís immense commitment, he went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that this problem was being tackled properly. He made sure that immediate action was taken. When the radar system to detect the LTTE aircraft was installed at the Katunayaka air base, he himself inspected the system during its first rehearsal. This demonstration of personal commitment at the very highest level was an invaluable and inspiring lesson to everyone involved in the war effort.

During the last stages of the war, when certain Western governments with vested interests tried to intervene and halt the progress of the military, the firm resolve and commitment of the leadership was very clear to see. The President, as Commander in Chief was the only person who could call and end to the war. He held firm in the face of immense pressure. The French Foreign Minister and the British Foreign Secretary even came to Sri Lanka to try and influence him to change his mind. Despite this last minute interference, the President did not waver. As a result of his firm resolve and unswerving commitment, the Western pressure was resisted and the final objective was achieved.

Commitment to a cause comes through motivation. Motivation is what enables people to stay focused on their tasks despite the setbacks, obstacles and difficulties that arise from time to time. It is the duty of people in leadership positions to motivate their subordinates so that they work with proper commitment to achieve the tasks entrusted to them. To motivate others successfully, however, the leaders themselves must be fully motivated.

During the entire war effort, all of us in leadership positions were highly motivated because we knew beyond doubt that eradicating terrorism was the only way to create a better future for the people of Sri Lanka. There was never any doubt about the grave challenges we would face along the way, nor was there any doubt about the threats there would be to our lives. The President was targeted many times by the LTTE during this time. As Defence Secretary, I was targeted. The Service Commanders and other senior military leaders were targeted, sometimes successfully. However, despite these threats, we persisted because we knew that what we were doing was correct, and would ultimately benefit all Sri Lankans.

Leaders and managers should understand that clearly communicating the importance of the task at hand to subordinates is the best way to motivate them. People will be motivated to achieve any objective if they are confident that it is in the best interests of the institution or enterprise they work for, the project they are on, or to the betterment of the people and the nation. Communicating the value of the task at hand is therefore critically important.

Foreign investments

During the Humanitarian Operation, ensuring the commitment of all the service personnel was one of the great responsibilities of the leadership. Making sure that they understood the value of achieving the end objective was critical. The soldiers knew the hardships they would face, the sacrifices they would have to make, and the danger they would constantly be in at the war front. They saw some of their colleagues dying, and others becoming disabled for life. Despite this, because they understood the great importance of defeating terrorism, they were motivated despite all the hardships and risks they would have to face.

Another example of how people can be motivated for a cause is the urban regeneration work currently being done throughout Sri Lanka.

To be continued


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