If real progress is to be achieved and sustained in any country, the government in office must sincerely serve the people instead of the other way around. If the rulers with their cronies and stooges are enriching themselves with impunity by plundering the wealth and resources of the people, then what we see is the abuse of power by a tyrannical cult instead of a vibrant democracy where the rule of law prevails with good governance, accountability, transparency, an independent judiciary and an independent police service along with other safeguards such as checks and balances.
That is why legendary leaders like George Washington proclaimed that democracy was for all and could not be centred on one person, however popular, he or she may be. That is why it takes a lot of campaigning – sometimes even under-cover, unethical or deceptive methods – to come to power. But there is profound and lasting value in giving up power as South Africa’s godfather and elder statesman did in 1999. Today, as Mr. Mandela – revered by the people as Madiba – battles against death as he courageously battled in life for freedom, equality and justice. Today, millions of people all over the world are praying for him.
These were some of the themes expressed eloquently and emotionally by the United States President Barak Obama when he made what was widely described as one of his best orations, at the Cape Town University where he addressed hundreds of young people, black, coloured and white youth from different social classes. The visionary observations of the first Afro-American President of the US have valuable lessons for Sri Lankan leaders who need to ask their conscience whether they are really servants of the people or whether they are abusing, misleading and dominating the people for their own personal gain and glory. If the answer fits more into the second category, then there is an urgent need for repentance, a change of attitude and restitution before such hypocritical leaders and sanctimonious humbugs drag the whole country into the hellfires of self-destruction. President Obama, in the historic Cape Town speech, referred to great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, Mahathma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who came forward to serve the people and not to be served, to give to the country and not to grab. That is why they live forever spiritually and in the hearts and minds of people while self-centred, self-seeking and power-hungry leaders are in the garbage dumps of history. That is true for the past, the present and the future. If such leaders sow with the wind – as we see to a large extent in Sri Lanka today – they will reap the whirlwind. They need to ask their conscience whether they want to be in the pages of history as an Adolph Hitler or a Nelson Mandela.
" If such leaders sow with the wind – as we see to a large extent in Sri Lanka today – they will reap the whirlwind "
President Obama, in his great speech also called on the youth – the future leaders of the world – to think wisely, act justly, be loving, merciful and humble. He told them to dare to dream the impossible dream, climb every mountain, search every sea and follow every rainbow until they build the world on the solid foundations of justice, equality and freedom for all. To remain silent or neutral in a crisis of clear injustice would amount to condoning or supporting the oppressor. Sri Lanka’s youth also need to have such a vision and act on it individually and collectively, so that they could rise high above and beyond their self-interests so they could make a difference and thereby make history.
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