The Chartered Institute of Management
Accountants (CIMA) is undemocratic and its global appeal is under
threat, warned suspended CIMA Sri Lanka branch president Gowri
Shanker Somasunderam.

This month, some members of the suspended
council have been granted Supreme Court permission to petition the
Sri Lankan government to reform governance and control structures
of foreign education branches in the South Asian nation.

Somasunderam was suspended as part of the
branch’s divisional council by CIMA in December. She told The
the nation’s management accounting profession had
been humiliated, insulted and undermined, grinding membership
activities and development to a halt.

She described the conflict as one of
“education versus the profession”, in which the council had the
“unanimous” support of CIMA Sri Lanka’s 4,000 voting members.

“When an elected body is not allowed to
function and they put in their own people, where is the democracy?
We are going back to colonial days,” Somasunderam said.

“Member-related activities have stopped and
there is no deliberation. It is the CIMA Sri Lanka branch staff
handling the CIMA profession – people who are not members. The
members have to get up and say the profession is ours, we are the
stakeholders, we own the profession. We carry the label of CIMA on
our forehead, not the staff and not [CIMA chief executive] Charles

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She added: “This is exactly what they are
trying to do, isolating the members. It’s not only here in Sri
Lanka – this is going to be the death of the CIMA profession

Impact questionable

CIMA maintains that member activities
have not been impacted and proof of this can be found under the
‘events’ section of the CIMA Sri Lanka website. The UK-based
institute said it has received numerous e-mails of support from Sri
Lanka. The institute added that arrangements are being considered
to restore an elected divisional representative body in due course
and some members of the previous council will be among those

The petition in Sri Lanka’s highest court is
an attempt to allow local branches of foreign education
institutions, such as CIMA Sri Lanka, greater control and oversight
of local member activities.

Petitioners are asking the Minister of
Vocational and Technical Training and the Minister of Higher
Education to restrict the influence foreign institutions have over
local branches. Petitioners include Somasunderam, suspended CIMA
Sri Lanka divisional council deputy-president Viren Wijesinghe and
three other suspended council members.

“The accounting profession has a national
interest in Sri Lanka and if it is being humiliated and insulted
that means the state has not regulated this area properly,”
Somasunderam said.

“I hope the state can help us in streamlining
these foreign educational bodies utilising members’ time. The state
has helped us develop the management accounting profession and,
after doing that, members have been just cast aside. This is like
the death of the profession. The profession is member related;
education is just a qualification.”

CIMA director of professional standards Robin
Vaughan told The Accountant the institute will robustly
defend itself if drawn into a legal battle.

“In as far as the application relates to CIMA
we strongly reject its claims and we will energetically defend
ourselves and the rights of our members,” he said. “Our commitment
to the wider Sri Lanka economy remains wholehearted and we will
continue to ensure CIMA gives full support to its members, its
11,000 students, employers, tuition providers and other key
stakeholders in Sri Lanka. Our levels of service, including
examination arrangements for our students, remain unaffected.”

The CIMA Sri Lanka divisional council was
suspended in December following a dispute between some council
members and the CIMA executive office. CIMA said this decision was
taken collectively by the CIMA council, the institute’s principal
governing body.

CIMA said the suspension followed
recommendations of an independent consultant on the activities of a
“vocal minority” of the divisional council. CIMA said the
consultant found a failure to adhere to CIMA’s strategic goals and
respect its long-established governance structures.