Written by Lahiru Fernando
18 Oct, 2017 | 8:23 pm
It is a common sight in Sri Lanka to see politicians travel in vehicular convoys, making people move out of the way so the convoy can pass through with no hassle.
The world around the convoy comes to a standstill, until the parade leaves them behind. But that is only when they don’t travel in helicopters….
Meanwhile, in complete contrast, the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently visited the country’s Royal Palace to meet the King…. on a bicycle.
Even when Mr. Rutte takes a vehicle – he carries his own baggage to the vehicle, if any. Speaking of his vehicle, he drives a second-hand car.Dutch PM Mark Rutte always did fancy the bike over any other mode of transport. He even gifted a bicycle to Indian Prime Minister when Narendra Modi visited the Netherlands.
Mark Rutte has a modest life and a lifestyle.
He has no fancy house to live in. Just an apartment which he bought in 1992 after getting his degree on history.
Mr. Rutte visits a secondary school in a poor district of The Hague every week for one hour to teach.
Netherlands, ranked amongst the wealthiest countries in the world, is said to have more bicycles than people. Their population? – 17 million.
Mark Rutte is not alone in his humble lifestyle as a world leader. There are many more; President of Malawi Joyce Banda, Warren Buffett to name a few.
And then there is the former President of Uruguay.
In Sri Lanka and in almost every other country, the President is called “Mr. President” or “His Excellency”. But the people of Uruguay called their former President “Pepe”.
Mujica stepped down as the President of Uruguay after five years. He stepped down, while having a 60% approval rating.
Even during his term in office as President, he never occupied the Presidential Palace. He lived in his wife’s farm, 20 minutes away from the capital city of Montevideo and he drove his beloved, old, beat-up 1987 Volkswagen Beetle at all times when travelling.
He had just two personnel as security and refused to be driven around in limousines.
“He lives in a, literally, a three-room country shack with a corrugated iron roof,” said Journalist Uki Goñi when he visited Mujica to profile him for The Guardian newspaper.
In 2005, about 39% of the Uruguay populace lived below the poverty line.
Under the leadership of Pepe Mujica, that number was brought down to under a mere 11%. Mujica’s government has also managed to reduce extreme poverty from 5% to only 0.5%.
That is a big feat for a small country with a population of just 3.4 million people.
“If you spend your life trying to collect debts from the past that nobody’s willing to pay, you’ll lose your life.
Life is too valuable to sacrifice it for political ends.”
There is so much the Sri Lankan politicians can learn from leaders like this. Every Sri Lankan hopes, and desperately waits for that golden day where we would get such leaders.
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