In this era where we see a criminalisation of politics and the politicisation of crime with thuggary and hooliganism including widespread sexual abuse of children being rampant Sri Lanka desperately and urgently needs a statesman for our times—someone of the calibre of Mahatma Gandhi whose 144th birth anniversary was celebrated yesterday.
As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became one of the major political and spiritual leaders of his time and played a key role in toppling the mighty British empire which had been described by its leaders as the empire on which the sun would never set. Satyagraha remains one of the most powerful philosophies in freedom struggles throughout the world today.
In 1922, Mahatma Gandhi was jailed for conspiracy. In 1930, he led a historic 320 kilo metre march to the sea by some 200 million people to collect salt in symbolic defiance of the monopoly of the British colonial regime. Indeed he was the salt of the earth, with selfless, sincere and sacrificial principles that gave flavour to the human race.
Even after he was killed in 1948 by a Hindu extremist soon after India regained its independence Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence and his belief in simple living making his own clothes, eating a vegetarian diet, and performing fasts for self-purification as well as a means of protest -- have been a beacon of hope for oppressed and marginalised people throughout the world.
Mahatma Gandhi sought no personal gain or glory. He could have obtained the highest post and even become the Prime Minister with power and privileges, but he rejected this though Premier Jawaharlal Nehru and other Indian political stalwarts of those early years of independence often went to him for guidance and direction before taking an important decision and he freely gave it without expecting anything in return.
Many decades ago when people did not even dream of modern technology such as commercial flights to space, ipads, search engines, facebook and twitter, Mahatma Gandhi warned that people might learn to fly like birds and swim like fish but it would be of little use and even a disaster if they forgot how to walk like human beings. This is what has happened to the modern world today mainly through the globalised capitalist market economic system which in sophisticated or subtle ways promote selfishness, greed, deception and hypocrisy as we see in society and mainly in party politics today.
In Sri Lanka today, we have seen a gradual degradation of democracy with its checks and balances and instead we have a system of cheques and imbalances. Absolute power appears to have corrupted absolutely and some of the arrogant remarks and decisions made in recent times may be a sign that the corruption has reached the mind also. With little or no accountability, good governance or transparency, with media freedom being suppressed as is the independence of the judiciary, the casino tables are ready for ruling party political leaders and their stooges or sycophants to make or plunder hundreds of millions of rupees from the country’s resources while millions of families are struggling for survival. Sri Lanka urgently needs to revive Mahatma Gandhi’s policy to “Be Lankan and buy Lankan”. Just as he led the “Quit India” movement against the British colonialists, we need a leader who could tell the agents of economic neocolonialism here to “Quit Lanka”.
If people who value democracy, human rights, social justice and related virtues do not come together and produce a statesman like Mahatma Gandhi, it may not be a miracle but a sunset for Sri Lanka.
Gandhi ji is like the famous yeast extract (M.....e) - you either hate him or love him. Even now in India it is a 50/50 split. He did a lot of good but made enemies with haters & lovers both. “Be Lankan and buy Lankan” will not work in a globalised world. Like in business you work according to your strengths not ideology! Then you will reap your benefits.
Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.