- Religion, race and language continue to play a major role in the civil and political arenas especially when elections come around
- The racial riots of the mid-fifties, youth insurgencies of the seventies, ethnic devastation of the mid-eighties, thirty-year war are but lessons we have learned with much pain, sadness and regret
- We can boast about the great tanks and irrigation systems during the era of our ancient kings, the valiant lives of our ancient heroes and freedom fighters
The multi-party system is a healthy structure in a workable democracy. A parliamentary opposition is meant for contributing their constructive critique to whatever may be seen as adversely affecting the government
The six decades or more of politics that we have witnessed in the post-independent Ceylon renamed Sri Lanka, the land of Taprobane, leave much to be desired in the minds of genuinely patriotic citizens who can weigh facts and figures wisely, with prejudice to none.
One would have expected post-independent Sri Lanka, freed from the yoke of political colonial rule and offered a bevy of golden opportunities whereby to launch on her own path of prosperity and peace, to make gallant strides like her Asian neighbours Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and Korea. These latter countries and nations who were once in the dumps of economic decadence following the two world wars, have by now brilliantly set foot on the paths of economic recovery and political stability. Despite the fact that some economists would dub Asia as a continent of poverty, there are still in this promising part of the East, economic giants that are holding good sway in international relations and trade. What has become of the pearl of Indies so blessed with natural resources, competitive skill and talent? The frustrating thought breeds agonizing questions that aches every right-thinking person’s mind!
Sri Lanka as it is today is indeed and unquestionably multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and dotted with a plethora of political ideologies, not to mention the new political parties that rise on the horizon practically daily
It is only in a mature civil society that democracy can bring in its manifold blessings. A thorough analysis and an objective critique of the last sixty years of civil governance in our beloved motherland would reveal that a profound and unbiased intelligent insight into the economic infrastructures and political movements in this country had left much shallow layers of planning and solidarity. On the one hand, in a working democracy rulers do need a healthy opposition as an agent of discernment of the major national decisions that affect the country and its citizens as a whole, particularly on controversial issues. On the other hand, opposition views and criticism that ignite raw disagreement inspired by a very low-key national sentiment, perpetually confrontational in approach and gutted with ill-willed non-compliance, can be hazardous for the onward prosperous journey of a nation.
Today we do not find culturally, religiously and ethnically monolithic societies anywhere in the world. There may be majorities by reason of ethnicity, culture, language and religion. But, the fact is that despite this majority factor, society is very complex in its multi-culturality, religiosity and ethnicity. The modern-day social phenomenon of the migration of peoples for whatever reasons is another social factor to be reckoned with as a point that complicates this complexity.
This being the case, problems of different cultural stances, ethnic identities and political ideologies are bound to emerge. The challenge is to reconcile these differences and forge ahead with a wide vision in mind and large-hearted commitment to a common purpose. A nation that feels threatened with its diversity will lack the backbone and the nerve to go forward. If unity and reconciliation are pursued, the path forward would be made easy.
Sri Lanka as it is today is indeed and unquestionably multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and dotted with a plethora of political ideologies, not to mention the new political parties that rise on the horizon practically daily. The political history of Sri Lanka has seen incredibly revolutionary changes during the past sixty years. Generally, the trends have been in favour of democracy.
Religions, religious leaders and religious sites should not be exploited for political purposes. Politicians should be found busy governing the country in all its secular spheres instead of spot-lighting themselves in religious observances which are unnecessary and financially unproductive
We have seen very often how radical Marxist ideology had failed the people and how fundamental and leftist socialistic trends do not seem to appeal to our masses. In addition the interplay between religion and politics has been quite noteworthy. Religion, race and language continue to play a major role in the civil and political arenas especially when elections come around. There have been moments and situations of lamentable failure where minority rights had to be justifiably defended and fostered as against the unilateral and uncompromising demands and claims of the majority, religion-wise and language-wise. This unfortunate situation has led to terrible disasters and tragedies in the history of this beautiful land which claims to have in the eyes of the world a chequered history, a noble civilization and a charming culture. The racial riots of the mid-fifties followed by youth insurgencies of the seventies and the ethnic devastation of the mid-eighties, not to mention a thirty-year war that consumed this country simply laying it waste in many ways are but the lessons we have learned with much pain, sadness and regret.
At the same time, while we can boast about the great tanks and irrigation systems during the era of our ancient kings, the valiant lives of our ancient heroes and freedom fighters, the independence we have won without any armed struggle or shedding of blood against the last colonial power, the contemporary period has shown our inability to solve many of our problems that have laid siege to our progress and prosperity. Embroiled in the intricacies of an inter-national economy that had created the so-called 20th-century tragedy that is the third-world, like many a country we have got enmeshed in the claws of the twin-headed hydra, the international institutions such as the international monetary fund (IMF) and the World-Bank (WB) with the latest being the EU hegemony.
However grand an economic and social vision may be as presented by the current governing authority, unless the most essential services for the people run smoothly, common man would be driven into restlessness and anger. The hospitals with its care for the poor and the middle-class, the transport services with its facilities for travel and social mobility and most of all a practical system of education and vocational formation of the youth should be the upper-most important concern of the government. These are the daily needs of the common man. Mega- projects like airports, harbours and roads must bring in the revenue that will help us redeem our debts and give us a surplus that will ensure a good reserve. It is for these things that political parties must hammer out their manifestos stamped with genuineness and practicality leaving the freedom to the voters to choose what they perceive is the best pledge. During the campaign false promises should not be given which can only dupe the people into a wrong choice that will spell disaster to the country at large, both in the political sphere and in the socio-economic plane. It is not just to keep masses ignorant of the crude realities that beset us.
Right now the country faces a three-fold serious situation: 1) a decadent economy to be resurrected dealing also with any dishonest laundering of the nation’s wealth 2) war-crime allegations to be squarely met in all truth and honesty with proper investigations done into questionable incidents during the 30-year war helping us thereby to win the good name that had been tarnished on the world stage; and finally, the still difficult issue of national reconciliation that will ease ethnic tensions and promote a common national Sri Lankan identity where the fundamental human rights of both the majority and the minority communities are well-safeguarded. It is here that a major responsibility and duty lie in the hands of the political parties and their leadership to spearhead moves and movements that will usher in not only peaceful co-existence but also a practical way to live out a national life-style of pro-existence. The spiritual values that are drawn from the great religious traditions in our blessed country well championed by religious leadership coming into the process of national integration will augur extremely well as a crucial and much-needed socio-cultural factor that will rally the country round in a healthy way.
Religions, religious leaders and religious sites should not be exploited for political purposes. Politicians should be found busy governing the country in all its secular spheres instead of spot-lighting themselves in religious observances which are unnecessary and financially unproductive.
The multi-party system is a healthy structure in a workable democracy. A parliamentary opposition is meant for contributing their constructive critique to whatever may be seen as adversely affecting in the government. It is through moral persuasion through debate and not to be expressed in wild language, violent outbursts, uncourteous gestures or organized rallies that constantly disrupt the life of ordinary citizens who wish to go about their daily chores in tranquility.
The trade unions are justified in the voicing of their opposition and condemnations provided they are reasonable in their protests and are meant to champion social justice connected with burning issues at hand. It is time for the Sri Lankans to learn from other nations which have risen from dust and ashes to reach loftier levels of polity and economy, plodding the paths of true patriotism and genuine commitment to common national interests devoid of partisan and sectarian agendas. They can learn from modern nations which despite ethnic and language differences have learnt to celebrate diversity while living and working as one country.
In these countries there is social harmony and economic exuberance. Sri Lanka first, our good name first, our common identity first and the like, should be the slogans that should guide our course of action and strategies. Divisiveness, suspicion and ill-will have to be abandoned. Mistakes have to be humbly acknowledged and repented, wrongs undone and good-will promoted. The human and natural resources that we are blessed with have to be invested in the work of development and social cohesion. While history will be the final judge of our deeds, a good and enlightened social conscience disciplining us on the right path will prove to be our sure reward. With these endowments enriching and motivating our nation, all its citizens can unite to lead the land we all love, Sri Lanka, the island of serendipity.