Colombo Club makes history, elects it first lady chair

COLOMBO – Colombo Club, the exclusive domain for gentlemen for close to 125 years made a historic stride on its path towards gender neutrality with the election of Anushya Coomaraswamy as its first ever female chairperson recently.

The Club, inaugurated more than 150 years ago by the British for English and Scottish gentlemen resident in Sri Lanka to meet, relax and recuperate, remained the exclusive habitat for gentlemen for close to a 125 years, with ladies precluded from even becoming members.

The rule was relaxed somewhat in the past 25 years, with the first lady member granted admittance in 1995. Several other ladies gained admission in the ensuing years.

However, history was made at the last Annual General Meeting of the Club, when   Anushya Coomaraswamy was elected to the Chair.

In proposing Anushya’s name to take over the Chair, Immediate Past Chairman Kumar Jayasuriya said “the Colombo Club is now poised to create history. In our 150 plus-year history, members of the fairer sex were not admitted to membership in the first 125 years of our existence. This injustice was corrected in 1995. We have thereafter steadily progressed on the path of gender neutrality and within a matter of 25 years have reached the pinnacle of that endeavour, which is the election of our first Chairperson,” deeming it a great privilege to be associated with the historical event by proposing from the Chair Anushya Coomaraswamy’s as the Chairperson of the Colombo Club for the ensuing year.  She had been nominated to the office unanimously by the General Committee of the Club.

Jayasuriya also noted that Anushya has served on the Committee since 2006 and has held the offices of Honorary Treasurer, Honorary Secretary and Vice Chairperson respectively over the last six years and is eminently suited to hold this office. “I am sure that the fortunes of the Colombo Club are in very safe hands,” he said.

Anushya Coomaraswamy is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka and of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants of the UK.  She has been the Group Finance Director of John Keells Holdings PLC – at the time the first woman to be appointed to the Board of a blue chip company in Sri Lanka.  Thereafter she joined the Ministry of Finance as an Advisor, primarily on Fiscal Policy for a short period, during which time she also served as the Chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission and as a member of the Public Enterprise Reforms Commission.

She currently serves as an Independent Non- Executive Director on the Board of Printcare PLC.

Having served on the Boards of Transparency International (Sri Lanka) and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, she is currently on the Boards of the Law and Society Trust and the Women and Media Collective.

In accepting the position, Anushya said that “In a world where women are still to be fully recognized and given their rightful place, the Colombo Club has been progressive and that must be acknowledged, appreciated and commended. And for me personally I thank you for your confidence.’

The premises of the Club recently refurbished, Anushya said she looks to maintain the high standards set by her immediate predecessors Nigel Austin and Kumar Jayasuriya to involve greater participation of its membership while providing a service to members that is of the highest standard.  She said she would also look to promote increased participation of women, who still seem to perceive the Club as being an institution that is predominantly for gentlemen!

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