s elders, we are always keen on promoting our children’s well-being, providing them space to grow up to be good, law abiding, and responsible citizens and contribute to the welfare of the nation whose pride is in our children.
At the turn of the millennium, the Sri Lankan Government signed a treaty at the UNICEF undertaking to take the necessary steps to provide education to children compulsorily until they were 14 years of age. It has been revealed that in keeping with the Millennium Goals, Sri Lanka has miserably failed. It must be placed on record that long before UNICEF laid down such requirements, we Sri Lankans had drawn our own rules for compulsory education and had enforced such requirements effectively since the 1940s thanks to the late C.W.W. Kannangara, the father of free education in Sri Lanka. Our achievements had been far superior to even countries such as Australia – because it was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who revolutionized free education there in 1972. It is a pity our country has been dragged from riches to rags by our leaders.
Our future generations, no doubt, will hold us responsible. Our actions and policies had eventually carried this country to disaster. We have a moral obligation towards our future generations. Scientists have proved that we would run out of our resources including water. If we continue in this fashion, sustaining the increasing population will not be possible. We should also remember that the polar ice caps and glaciers are also melting and the sea levels appear to be rising. Continuing to act irresponsibly and disregarding the duties -- a moral responsibility to slow down these dangers, would be a crime against humanity. We should act now for the sake of our future generations.
"We therefore need educated leaders who are truthful, committed, dedicated, honest, disciplined and most importantly virtuous, to take the country forward"
For the past several decades, only those in the corridors of power benefited and they worked for their own personal gain. The ordinary people have been preoccupied with the struggle for survival. Since independence the country had been mostly under the claws of emergency laws. The majority of our politicians in the past have been selfish, repressive, corrupt and undemocratic. Steps are now being taken to improve the living conditions of the masses because they have had to carry the baggage too long since independence due to political incompetence. They now deserve a break.
I am aware the older generation grew up in a society where there was loving kindness, humanity, patience, giving, sharing and compassion to all living beings. Lord Buddha asked us to practise good virtues (such as inner peace), etc. It may be useful to mention that the Buddha had categorized people into four different types:
One who adopts a way of life that contributes, neither to the benefit of oneself nor to the welfare of others; that does not contribute to one’s own benefit but contributes to the benefit of others; that which contributes to one’s own benefit but not to the benefit of others and that which contributes to one’s own benefit and the benefit of others.
Accordingly, the fourth category (the rarest species) is the most desirable group of people that should be found in larger numbers in any society. In the Kalama Sutta Lord Buddha has preached that greed, hatred and delusion in people to the detriment of others - causing misery, destroying life, stealing, indulging in unlawful sensual pleasures and the uttering of lies.
We therefore need educated leaders who are truthful, committed, dedicated, honest, disciplined and most importantly virtuous, to take the country forward. The virtuous leaders are people with high ethical standards who possess character with trust, honesty and integrity. They could make good things happen. They are the play makers. Is it that we did not have good virtuous leaders in our country?
A careful analysis of a majority of our post-colonial leaders shows that they were mired in the pursuit of selfish personal goals at the expense of broader national needs or interests. In my view politics is the art or science concerned with the winning and holding control over the government. The winner guides the policies and the distribution of resources of the government. In other words, politics in Sri Lanka is the struggle for power and wealth – the use of the depleted resources of the country.
My desire is to show the reader that in developed countries, without even a touch of Buddhism, the majority of leaders sought the common good. They respect laws and practise moral values and do not resort to violence or self-centred, mean and prohibitive behaviour, causing untold misery to
The politicians in those countries never interfered with the duties of the Police. The law too applies to everybody equally and justice is delivered in court rooms expeditiously. Law’s delays are not found, which is one of the root causes for the increasing rate of crimes in Sri Lanka. If so, not only rulers -- parliamentarians, judicial officers and the police are also responsible for plunging the country down a precipice. Should we not set up a separate Select Committee in Parliament to recommend ways and means to improve the parliamentarians/parliament Secretariat, judiciary and the police? This is a must.
Sri Lanka today therefore is at a critical stage. The country faces a severe crisis economically, socially, culturally and politically. It has caused immense problems to the country due to endemic corruption and stupendous wastage of public funds due to bad governance. There have been instances of growth in criminal violence (which is a pointer in regard to state failure) and flawed institutions, a common feature in failed states.
Political leaders since the 1970s gave priority to their own personal benefit instead of the well-being of the country and its people. Countrymen should be proud that the educated and politically mature voters used their vote as the ultimate weapon to change governments again and again. It is time for the President and the Prime Minister now to devise more meaningful methods to hold parliamentarians responsible even more effectively unlike in the past.
We must remember JAPAN and GERMANY had been reduced to ruins after World War II. But they rose from the ashes to unimaginable heights within a few decades. Why can’t we? Our motherland fortunately has not been reduced to rubble after a devastating war. We have the necessary resources to uplift the country if there is a genuine effort. Sri Lanka is therefore not necessarily poor, we should say it is a “less economically developed’’ (LED) country by choice and design. We should speedily move out of poverty and achieve the status of a “developing” or an “industrializing” country.
I must say the country was re-born after January 8. Our culture, economy, and sustainable development and growth need to be given a kick-start for the future. If so, should we follow the Chinese path? According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Phillip Alston (Australian), over 2.2 billion people are estimated by the UN to be either near or living in ‘multidimensional’ poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. “This is not an accident,” he said and added “It is the result of a series of deliberate and conscious decisions by key actors who have chosen to prioritize other goals.”
China’s critics are not happy about the way they handle “public opinion”. The government has been very hard and had taken steps to imprison their dissidents. They had been able to handle most of the big problems in quick speed and similar issues could have been taken up decades ago if it was done in a democracy. It is also heartening that in a period of two years China has extended pension coverage to 240 million extra rural dwellers, when in fact it exceeds far beyond the total number of the public pension system in America. The Chinese are prepared, they gladly accept and approve to put up with their system because it delivers sustainable economic growth and development. A survey had shown that 85% Chinese are “very satisfied” with their country’s progress when compared with the 31% of Americans.
Wang Jisi of Beijing University has observed that “many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and chaos”. Plato’s prediction – “live from day to day indulging in the pleasure of the moment” has proved prescient. Our rulers too have not only plundered and borrowed internationally to fill their own pockets and to give crumbs to the voters to benefit short -term having neglected long-term. Should not we too follow the Chinese path if we love our children?