Most of Sri Lanka’s people would probably agree with President Maithripala Sirisena’s vision and goal of ushering in a national Government with national policies on key issues when the new Parliament meets on September 1st .
As the country prepares for general elections on August 17 with nominations received from July 6th to 17th, we hope the two main parties - the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) - will also work towards this vision to build a new Sri Lanka with lasting peace and sustainable development. Over the week-end Dr. Harsha de Silva, the Minister of State for Economic Affairs and Plan Implementation outlined what he described as a “Socialist market economy” with houses for all, opportunities to earn a livelihood, proper health care and education.
Earlier also former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga when elected in 1994, had promised to give a human face to the market economy. But it did not work mainly because the trans-national corporations which are the main weapons of the neo-colonial economic powers are able to easily conquer small Third World countries.
That political war of economic neo-colonialism is still being waged with raging force. That is one of the main reasons why President Sirisena is working for a national Government. We hope the two main parties and others representing the minority communities would also support this principle so that we could build a strong Sri Lanka based on multi-religious and multi-ethnic unity in diversity.
Most important and most urgently required are national policies in vital areas such as education and healthcare. Former President Kumaratunga, addressing felicitation meetings to mark her 70th birthday on Monday said her Government from 1994 to 2005 had given top priority to education but unfortunately education had failed the test of quality and character during the past nine years. Ms. Kumaratunga who played a key role in President Sirisena’s election victory on January 8 said she hoped the new Government would give priority to a sustainable national education policy which would produce young men and women not only with high qualifications but more so with high qualities of integrity and honesty with a spirit of sacrificial service to the country. In 1956 the medium of education was changed largely for party political reasons. When the then Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike realized the mistake and tried to rectify it, the reactionary forces killed him. When his daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga emerged with the dream of trying to do what her father had failed or was not allowed to do, she also was blocked.
Now, President Sirisena, touching the dimensions of statesmanship, is trying again and we hope the new Government will begin by doubling the budgetary allocation for education. In recent years the country spent billions of rupees on building modern international airports where planes don’t come and ports where ships don’t come. In contrast, the authorities say they do not have enough money to build toilets or provide other basic facilities for thousands of schools.
Along with new facilities including information and communication technology with Wi-Fi zones, the purpose and attitude towards education also need to change. Passing examinations is good, but we need excellence whereby we mould young men and women who have learnt not only to fly like birds or swim like fish, but more so to walk like human beings with care and concern for others and a desire to protect Mother Nature or creation which is being crucified.
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