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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2326247, 2328889, 2433272-3. Fax: 2423922, 2423258
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