Centenary celebrations: Co-op Movement’s role commendable

Centenary celebrations:

Co-op Movement’s role commendable

Co-op City

Johnston Fernando

Sunil Sirisena

The Cooperative Movement plays a major role in developed and
developing countries, said Cooperatives and Internal Trade Ministry
Secretary, Sunil Sirisena.

The Sri Lanka Cooperative Movement celebrates its centenary and the
International Cooperative Day on July 2.

The Sunday Observer interviewed Cooperatives and Internal Trade
Ministry Secretary Sunil Sirisena in this regard. Excerpts of the
interview:

Q: The centenary celebrations of the Cooperative Movement in Sri
Lanka and International Cooperative Day will be launched on June 28.
Could you explain this?

A: The Cooperative Movement in Sri Lanka began in 1906 at Teldeniya
Kandy. It was legalized in 1911. The five-day celebrations will be
organised by a committee comprising representatives from the Cooperative
Ministry, Cooperative Development Department Provincial Cooperative
Development Ministries and Departments, National Cooperative Development
Institute, National and Provincial Cooperative Employees Commissions and
National Cooperative Board.

The final day celebrations will be held under the patronage of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Welegedera Stadium Kurunegala.

“The theme of the celebrations is ‘youth – The Future
Entrepreneurship”. Celebrations include exhibitions, sports, and musical
shows, launch of 11 books on cooperative movement and building of 100
houses for the needy members in the Cooperative Movement.

There are eight million benefitted by the Cooperative Movement. A
membership drive will be launched to enroll 300,000 new members in the
Cooperative Movement, since new blood is needed to ensure the progress
of the Movement.

Q: The Cooperative law was enacted in 1911. During the past 100 years
the Cooperative Movement participated actively in the development of the
country specially in providing essential food items to the country. What
are your views?

A: The Cooperative sector is also as important as the public and
private sectors. The Cooperative Movement in UK, USA, Malaysia, India
and European countries plays a major role in agriculture, industries,
fisheries and trading sectors.

Q: Is it correct to say that the Cooperative Societies handle only
the distribution and sale of essential food items?


Milk collection centres

A: Certainly not. In Sri Lanka the Cooperative Societies are actively
engaged in agriculture, industries, fisheries, trading and other
important sectors of the economy.

The best tea of the Island was produced by the Kotapola Cooperative
Society. The fisheries sector in the North and the East was mainly
handled by the Cooperatives. Even at present the Cooperative Societies
are largely involved in agricultural, and fishery development activities
in the North and the East.

The poultry and the dairy industry in the North Western Province were
developed and managed by the Cooperative Sector.

Q: How do you view the retail marketing of the Cooperative Sector?

A: The great service rendered by the Cooperative Societies in Sri
Lanka on retail marketing such as the supply of essential food items at
reasonable prices is commendable during difficult times.

It was the Cooperative Movement that came forward to help the
government to meet exigencies in supplying essential food items.

Even today the “Coop City” outlets numbering more than 7,000 play an
important role in providing essential food items at reasonable prices.

Q: Don’t you think that the private sector alone can handle all
trading activities in the country.

A: A fair competition is essential among the private, public and the
Cooperative sectors to benefit the people specially in a country like
Sri Lanka where the majority belongs to the low income level.

The government cannot allow the private sector to monopolize the
trading sector.

The government bears a greater responsibility to provide essential
food items at reasonable prices to the masses. During the Christmas and
the new year festive seasons the Cooperative and the Sathosa marketing
networks had an impact on market prices.

Q: What is the present position of the proposed survey to select the
best Cooperative Society?

A: One of the main items of the final day celebrations is to honour
the best cooperative society and the cooperative workers.

They will be awarded gold and silver medals. Government provided
adequate assistance to develop the cooperative sector.

Over Rs. 2,000 million was invested to make the cooperative societies
viable. Outstanding loans were also written off. The Cooperative Sector
is in good shape today compared to its past.

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