Fighting to be the best

Fighting to be the best

Fighting to be the best

Written by Staff Writer

26 Oct, 2015 | 5:01 pm

We in Sri Lanka are a resilient lot. First we fought off mainland European invaders. We gave the islander Europeans a bit of a game before the Kandyans finally capitulated and caved in.

Then we had that utterly worthless specimen of a human being whose unfortunate parents named him Velupillai. Aiyya however came a cropper to the wiley Rajapaksas until we in Sri Lanka now enjoy a modicum of peace. Even if it’s a wee relative. Then again, everything in life is relative. Many are the times when liberal minded men and women say, ‘the people deserve the legislators they have’. Quite so. But amidst this, there is a profound sentiment amongst the people of this island, that they will fight for the best. At times this has an enormous cost. Many are those that have unwittingly given their lives in the quest for the best. Richard De Soyza, Lasantha Wickremetunge and even Prageeth Ekneligoda although some would deem his actions traitorous in the extreme, paid the ultimate price.

The conscience of this nation has from time to time been aroused. At such times the people have exercised their mandate almost as one: we saw how utterly futile the voting public viewed Mrs Bandaranaike’s policies and in a clear and crisp vote voted in JR Jayawardene. He took accumulation of power to a completely new stratosphere. So much so that we continue to live within that legacy of an Executive President who has almost untrammelled powers – albeit now clipped by the 19th Amndment.

JR whilst pursuing the accumulation of power both for himself and therefore by implication for the United National Party also launched an economic programme that was marked for its pro-capitalist stance with its attendant laissez faire policies. Sri Lanka prospered and there was widespread infra-structure development. The tourism industry in particular blossomed. Hikkaduwa was awash with foreigners keen to explore a largely unexplored and little written-about island in the sun. The Japanese loved the heritage, the Germans worshipped its beaches. Sri Lanka was all set for the turbocharged next level.

After several years of living in the shadow of JR even when he was Prime Minister, Ranasinghe Premadasa achieved what was considered a huge plus for the ‘common man’ of Lanka – he became Preseident. Dynamism marked his watch as President. His flirting with the LTTE in his quest to rid the island off its near-invasion by the Indians under the guise of a peacekeeping force, showed extraordinarily naïve shallowness in his thinking on that score. It had fatal consequences as it turned out with Premadasa suffering at the hands of a human bomb. A victim of the terror outfit who were armed by no less a person than President Premadasa. Amidst this almost side-show of a near civil war, the quest for the best was engaged in by the country’s commercial elite. The values these corporates have achieved, including those businesses established within the spectre of a civil war, is remarkable. Leaving to wonder as to what it may have been without the war. Lost opportunities cost the nation far more than the LTTE war ever did is what the final tally reveals.

Corruption became almost endemic but the people refused to accept it as part of their life. Instead the people have voted out successive governments including the United National Party when the tolerance levels were breached. Corruption however is so addictive that it continues to raise its ugly head within weeks of any newly elected administration took office. The fight for a just, equitable and responsible society in Sri Lanka has been championed in the main by the privately held media. Men who created those media businesses must have been shocked beyond redemption when they were confronted by the brutality of successive governments in the face of ‘intrusive’ media interest. Nevertheless, even in the face of beatings, kidnappings, torture, murder, attempted murder, claymore bombings and even
permanent disappearances, the quest to be the best has been a sine qua non. Some have had to risk other business affairs to continue with their media interests whilst yet others took the diplomatic and thus safer route by never straying too far from the comfort zone on non-investigative reporting. They did a Switzerland so to speak – they kept neutral – while the concerns of the citizenry whizzed past their ears. There was a whole lot of ducking and diving going on.

The tourist blurbs and magazines speak of Sri Lanka’s charming and ever smiling population. However when it comes to democracy and democratic principles, the people of Sri Lanka like their democracy tempered with a just and equitable lifestyle. No matter their ethnicity – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim. The Sri Lankan love affair with peace is unlikely to ever run out of steam.No one quite understands the Sri Lankan resolve to be the best. The one million new voters at the last polls, were clearly in no mood to tolerate the excesses, the wastage and the lawlessness. Mahinda got his marching orders but the same voters have now become disillusioned with the promised change and accuse all legislators of belonging to one single fraternity devoid of the ordinary man. That is the risk that Ranil Wickremesinghe has to cope with. That the lofty promises he made and used to capture the imagination of the new voters, will boomerang on him if he cannot buckle up and get down to real business soon. Real soon.

Author : Faraz Shauketaly

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