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 day.

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.