Sydney, 19 April, 2018 (The IST news network)
Young Westpac official, Ramachandran Gunasekaran, 41, died of a massive heart attack on March 30, 2018. He is survived by his wife and a five-months old baby. This was a sad news for the community. Many visited the family in Wentworthville and offered condolences and support to the bereaved family.
Since nobody knew whether the family needed funds, Community members asked a close family friend, Mr Francis, to figure out if the family of late Ramachandran Gunasekaran needed financial support. Sewa Australia volunteers too came on board. A WhatsApp Group was created. The IST has the copies of all messages in the WhatsApp group. One member posted, that “we need to establish whether the family needed financial assistance before initiating fund collections.” Francis was requested to figure out and advise the group. It was also mentioned by others that it would be better if the funds collecting platform has DGR certification. Only Sewa Australia has such certification.
This is where petty politics started. Mr.John Kennedy of the United Indian Associations (UIA) circulated a Flyer, apparently without any discussion with the group, using the name of UIA, and asking the community to donate money. There was no input from the WhatsApp group members. The UIA President also used Sewa Australia’s Logo, without the approval of Sewa Australia. Since Sewa Australia was not happy with this, they asked Mr Kennedy to remove their logo from UIA fund collection flyer.
It must be mentioned here that UIA, reportedly, does not have DGR certificate from ATO or even charity fund collection certificate from NSW Government. UIA flyer indicated that they were also collecting $8000 for the transportation of the mortal remains to Tamil Nadu, India for cremation. It is well known that the Govt of India bears all expenses for the transportation of mortal remains of an Indian citizen, if the family of the deceased genuinely needs this assistance. The funds were collected by UIA without establishing if the family needed funds or not. Social media including WhatsApp were used to spread the word for funds collection.
Now, Mr. Francis, who is very close to the family, has posted a comment in the WhatsApp group with his appeal that all funds collected should be returned to the donors as the family does not need monetary help. He was critical of many aspects of this funds collection including use of late Ramachandran Gunasekaran picture in UIA fund raising appeal.
Message from Mr. Francis
Apologies for the time I have taken to come back to this group.
First of all, I would like thank everyone for your support and information provided at a crucial time when we weren’t sure about what to do. To update you all Ramachandran’s funeral was held at Chennai on Sunday last week and his family is there as well.
I have got messages from many of you about fund raising and again would like to thank you for your effort.
Unfortunately I didn’t expect the social media to be used for fund raising campaigns. However what has happened cannot be reversed. Since the family is not in any need of financial support, I request you to refund those contributions where possible as a first option.
Please contact me through text if you still have some contributions left that cannot be refunded, we can discuss legal ways to hand it over to Rama’s family or use it for other causes. Please ensure the contributions are from verifiable sources and there are clean records for collection. Also I would assume any contributions to the family would not hit social media or any other media to protect their privacy.
Though UIA has published a list of donors but no news of refunds has come out. So, the IST sent out an e mail to UIA president, Mr. John Kennedy, with an enquiry if he had refunded the money to the donors or how much money was collected. He was given time till 16 April 2018 but he failed to respond. Since then, several people also have appealed that the funds be refunded.
The IST queries to Mr Kennedy were:
1. How much money was raised?
2. Does UIA have a charity certificate from NSW Govt?
3. Since money assistance is not needed, are you/UIA returning the collected money? If yes, how, and if no, why not?
4. I have seen Sewa Australia posts too. Why did you use their logo in your flyer without their permission?
The absence of a response from UIA gives rise to speculations that perhaps the funds have not been returned to the donors.
It is always good to see the community coming around to help the needy person, but it is also true that we should focus our energies on genuine needs. To avoid creating donation fatigue, Charity fund collection should be done only when it is absolutely necessary. Charity fund collection should be done under the platform, which has credibility and acceptability in the community. Charity fund raising must never be allowed to be a tool for the promotion of any association or person. What UIA did was inappropriate, unnecessary and wasteful. Their activity has not been helpful for the community because there is a serious concern now about fund collection activities without proper investigation.