Marching in circles for 57 years
Notwithstanding a total let-down by the Light Infantry's baby elephant mascot Kandula who dropped off his regalia right in front of his Commander-in-Chief, the Independence Day parade on Friday went off without a hitch. It was that one moment each year, when the people of this one, mult-ethnic, multi-religious, unitary nation are expected to feel proud to be Sri Lankans.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga, addressed the citizenry. She referred to the spirit of humanity that we thought the materialistic world had long abandoned. And then, she called upon the people of Sri Lanka to unite. Bravo. As a forerunner to her address to the nation, however, what did the President do? She went on state television and, in remarks riddled with innuendos, she made biting statements about the Opposition. She accused unnamed persons -- but it was clear who she was referring to -- of asking foreign nations not to give funds for tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka -- nothing less than treacherous conduct.

In that same interview that preceded her national day address calling for unity, she defended her acts, and slammed those who criticised her. In what would be justifiably seen as an orchestrated move, the state media also took sniper shots at the Opposition attracting a statement from the usually reserved Deputy Leader of the main Opposition party urging the President herself to lay-off, rather than risk losing the co-operation that has been offered by the Opposition.

The publication of this statement unfortunately coincided with the national day celebrations themselves. If anyone did urge foreign donors not to give aid to Sri Lanka's tsunami victims, or more pointedly -- if anyone did link the tsunami aid to the peace process -- that was conduct unbecoming of any leader. And yet, not just in the face of a vigorous contradiction, but in the spirit of national unity, and if that indeed was the true intention of the President, should she have said what she did in the pre-Independence day interviews? One could only suggest that wiser counsel ought to have prevailed.

The independent media, by and large, as well as professional bodies, civil society groups have clamoured for this very unity, the President referred to during her February 4 address. Only to see herself ruin this unity. Often in word, sometimes in deed. This is not to say that others are blameless, but there is always a greater responsibility cast on the Executive President to rally round the forces, and band the people together. That the President must show stateswomanship, or statesmanship as the case may be, and rise to greater heights.

Calls for unity must be genuine and sincere. They must also be seen to be genuine and sincere. Such calls when laced with contempt, or are made just to suit the occasion such as a national day address, are merely empty words, meaningless and worth nothing.

It is now 57 long years since we regained our Independence, and over the years we have successfully slid from a model emerging nation-state in the 1950s, to a down-in-the-dumps nation at the turn of the century. From being comparable to the rising South Korea at the time, far ahead of nations like Malaysia and Singapore, on par with a nation like Thailand, we have only a sad story to recount.

No one suggests a Utopian State where all work towards a common goal with patriotic zeal, marching to a single drum and so on. Those are unrealistic expectations in the noise and chaos of a democracy. And yet, there is always an underlining common denominator. Where nation comes first, not political party or one's self.

There is also a need to modernise governance. A need for the Chief Executive to deliver the goods to the shareholders of this nation, the people, if this nation is to progress. A classic living example is in the implementation of the 100-metre ban on reconstruction in the tsunami-affected coastal areas. The government seems to be adamant in pushing ahead with this ban. Well intentioned may be, but there is total confusion on the rationale behind it.

Some say that they are only implementing the provisions of the Coast Conservation Act of 1981 which stipulate this ban. Implementation of laws is a good thing, if there is a rationale to it. The UNP in opposition seems to be exploiting the resistance to the implementation of this exercise forgetting the fact that it was a UNP government that introduced the well-meaning law to protect this island's coastal belt from exploitation.

The Opposition UNP has submitted a 15-year development plan for Sri Lanka. They say that whatever government is in office, a common programme must be set in motion for the future development of Sri Lanka. Simply because it has been proposed by the UNP, the government will oppose it. After 57 years, we are still marching in different directions, to different drums and bugles, and it seems, sometimes in circles, while the rest of the world marches forward.

No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2326247, 2328889, 2433272-3. Fax: 2423922, 2423258
Editor - editor@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
News - stnews@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Features - features@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Financial Times- ft@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Subs Desk - subdesk@sundaytimes.wnl.lk,
Funday Times - funtimes@wijeya.lk

No. 48, Parkway Building, Park Street, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka
Tel: 0115330330, 0115330808, 0115330808. Fax: 2314864
Email: adve@lankabellnet.com


No. 47, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2435454, 2448322, 0114714252. Fax: 2459725

Back to Top  Back to Index  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to