|Let our sense
of pride fuel rebuilding effort
It is now nearly a
month since the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) was officially declared over. We, as a nation, have had
many celebrations to mark the event - the inauguration of a
special session of Parliament, a public rally and a military
parade to name a few.
We do not, for a moment, grudge all those responsible their
moment of glory. This, after all, is by far Sri Lanka’s greatest
achievement since it attained independence from Britain 61 years
ago. It is, in a sense, a second Declaration of Independence,
where the country has been freed from the curse of terrorism.
The fact that, we achieved this feat on our own steam,
without the express support of other nations, and despite the
active obstacles placed across our path by many interested
parties and countries, makes our accomplishment all the more
special; it is a moment to be cherished, and that is why, we
have been in celebration mode for so long.
But a greater task lies ahead. There are many challenges
ahead of us. Liberating the country from the clutches of terror
will, obviously, allow us to confront these challenges afresh,
and put at our disposal, more financial resources to deal with
them. It is not an opportunity that comes our way ever so often;
it is a chance of a lifetime.
We are certain, the top leadership of the Government is only
too aware of this. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the
victory rally in Kotte a few weeks ago, didn’t mince his words
about this. He recalled how previous governments would say that
they were unable to deliver on all the promises they made,
because of the war. His own government, he said, can no longer
trot out that excuse.
In a stirring address to the nation, at the military parade a
week ago, the President pledged that, if, as a country, we could
adopt the same attitudes that led to our victory against
terrorism, we could overcome our economic challenges too, and
emerge as one of the most developed nations in the world.
Nevertheless, there are certain pre-requisites for that to
become a reality. Our military victories were achieved because
our Armed Forces had an iron clad code of discipline. In all the
allegations levelled against the Sri Lankan authorities for
prosecuting the war against the LTTE, there were none accusing
the Armed Forces of indiscipline or indecency.
Does the rest of our country - from our politicians to the
poor man on the street - possess such discipline? Our Public
Sector, for instance, is notorious for its inefficiency and
corruption. This culture will not disappear overnight, just
because we have overcome the LTTE and won the war.
Last week’s landmark judgment annulling the sale of the Sri
Lanka Insurance Corporation is just one instance, where the
cancer of indiscipline had spread to the higher echelons of
power. The collapse of the Golden Key Credit Card company is yet
another example of how indiscipline and corruption has
encroached on the Private Sector as well. This should give us
much food for thought.
Then, if we are to prosper as a nation, we need to have
political stability too. Achieving that political stability,
while maintaining democratic norms and freedoms, is a huge
challenge. Very often, popular governments get carried away with
their own success and begin to believe they can get away with
anything - and this, eventually, brings about their downfall.
The present government, now riding a wave of immense popularity,
we hope, will not succumb to such temptations.
One of the tasks that need to be accorded priority status, in
any effort at nation building, is the complete resolution of the
ethnic issues that have plagued the country for the past several
decades. These issues have been lingering for even longer than
terrorism. This is the best time, when there is an overwhelming
sense of national reconciliation in the air, to deal with them.
The President, obviously, recognises this. That is why he
stated at the military parade, that he would prefer to fashion a
‘homespun’ solution to our ethnic issues, instead of depending
on ‘carbon copies’ of any other ‘model’ that interested parties
would want imposed on us. The 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord for
instance, tells us that such attempts are doomed to failure.
We must also not forget that, while we engage earnestly in
our celebrations in the south of the country, there are hundreds
of thousands of our brethren in camps for internally displaced
persons, with only the bare minimum facilities for existence at
their disposal. Their lives have been rudely disrupted because
of the war, and they are waiting for the day, when they will be
able to resume life with a semblance of normalcy. Re-settling
and rehabilitating them must be considered an urgent need of the
In addressing all these tasks, there will, no doubt, be many
challenges to overcome. The international lobby that moved
against the Sri Lankan State is still actively pursuing their
warped agenda. The LTTE, though decimated locally, still has
remnants of its tentacles in other countries. These are other
issues that need handling with care.
But for all this, there is a tangible sense of expectation
within the country. Having overcome the biggest threat posed to
the nation, the average citizen experiences a sense of hope,
that Sri Lanka will make it to peace and prosperity. Such
aspirations are only natural to a country that despaired for 30
years. But, it is time, each and every citizen realises this and
gets on with the job at hand - that of rebuilding this land.