Most Sri Lankans raised their nationals flags yesterday (February 4) not only because it was Independence Day, but as a measure or move to boost morals that have taken a beating from the present pandemic.
This is the time to stand as one and throw all weight behind the nation’s move to rise above uncertainty and ill health. Sri Lankans in general have fared well during catastrophic challenges. Even during the present pandemic the death total has remained low compared to other countries fighting COVID-19. This is because people agreed to sacrifice freedom and remain indoors when the regime opted for a lockdown.
The Independence Day celebrations for a second consecutive year were organised by the new regime, headed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which assumed power just over a year ago. Unlike in the past, when we didn’t have internet, children joined their parents and adults and gathered in front of the television to watch the parades and listen to the speech made by the head of state. It was a prescription and no one dared to describe the word independence any differently. Celebrating or following the Independence Day activities were simple.
But today the script is a bit different. That’s because people have been empowered to express their ideas via social media and other private channels on the World Wide Web. The generation which didn’t witness a civil war wants to move ahead and will be in a position to read and observe comments made about Sri Lanka by the outside world.
The space for communication is massive at present and the country’s administrators must take note that they need to do their part well to ensure that there is room for independent living, free speech and express ideas. Practising human rights ensures that ‘people’s independence’ will not be threatened.
Independence is a word with a wide range of meanings. It covers many areas hence a lawmaker might be in a spot of bother if a citizen uses this word to hit back at being controlled or subdued.
The Cambridge dictionary defines this word in the following manner: ‘The ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people’.
Lawmakers, if they do anything right, it is to ensure that people or voters depend. This can be seen when we visit a cadjan hut in a village where amidst the poverty we also see the picture of their favourite politician adorning one of the walls in the house. Can these people live without being helped?
When reminiscing the colonial times the elder generation which educated us often affirmed that the Sinhalese and the Tamils together campaigned to obtain independence from the British. But within years after freedom from the English these two races were divided by the lawmakers for self gain. For several years in the recent past there was even a debate about whether the national anthem should be sung in both Sinhala and Tamil. Some say it is a right of the minorities while others say it would help a section of the society establish their identity. While the debate goes on we have forgotten that we are still divided and the division stands out like a bandaged thumb!
The best thing that happened during the past 73 years is the ending of the civil war and both the Sinhalese and the Tamils will vouch for that despite their differences.
Like with any country our independence day celebrations also featured military vehicles, weapons and parades by the armed forces. The morning hours yesterday were a mixture of pride and disturbed feelings; the latter because our rulers are getting set to battle the powers that claim to stand behind ‘human rights’ at 46th session of the (UNHRC). A gala celebration on one day of the year should not make a nation like ours be blind to the future global challenges that are mounting. Lets think about the latter too while we allow the idea of freedom to remain in our minds.