|Saturday, 5 January 2002|
Peravadanak stimulates discussions by the voting public on wider issues
PERAVADANAK by Milinda Moragoda
Published by Vijitha Yapa in October 2001
Reviewed by Rohan H. Wickramasinghe
It is not often that one has the occasion to read a book which has the potential to contribute significantly to an improvement in the fortunes of a nation. This book is one such.
This land of ours is one which has been thrice blessed by nature with most of one's needs and, indeed, most of what one could wish for.
This has contributed to our undoing. When we were handed independence we found ourselves with an abundance of plenty which seemingly would last forever and with which we could be profligate.
This notion that the good times would last forever was prevalent at the time of the handing of the opportunity for the first time in this country's history to determine for ourselves who should lead and govern us. Over the years, we, the voters, have often slipped up and chosen representatives based on criteria of sentimentality, charisma, feudalism, the politics of envy, race (in every which way) etc without consideration of a candidate's ability or sincerity.
After all, what would it matter? The good times would last whatever we did and (till recently) we could obtain generous "Aid" from foreign sources to tide us over difficult periods. This led in natural progression to a "dependency mentality"; this will come up again later in this review.
This book will, hopefully, stimulate discussions by the voting public of wider issues than have hitherto dominated recent elections. The author has wide experience both in Sri Lanka and abroad and this has helped him to experience the realities of the world in the 21st century and the challenges this country is facing.
Milinda Moragoda is a Sri Lankan of the post-independence generation whose relatives have had notable success in diplomatic, legal and business activities as well as in the international civil service. A grandfather, N.U. Jayawardene, worked his way up from relatively humble origins in Hambantota to become Governor of the Central Bank of Ceylon.
Although born into affluent circumstances, he himself is a tireless and innovative worker and has launched himself into a career in the rough and tumble of politics with the goal of dedicating his knowledge and efforts to raising the living standards of the people of this country.
Details of his career following his education in Sri Lanka, Europe and the United States are given in the book and will not be recounted here except to note that his experience has been truly wide-ranging.
This slim book of around 144 pages is a collection comprised of writings in the popular press, speeches made in Parliament and transcripts of two interviews culled from his widely respected weekly television programme "In Black and White".
The section of the book containing contributions to the newspapers includes selections from Divaina, Divaina (Sunday Edition), Lakbima, Lankadipa, Ravaya and Virakesari.
In these wide-ranging contributions, the author includes discussions of problems of local and global interest and views and proposals of his own on certain topics. In a first reading of the book, this reviewer marked some forty items in the pages devoted to contributions to the press for discussions with others at leisure. These included:
a) Inasmuch as Hong Kong advanced economically through being a gateway to Mainland China and Dubai is presently positioning herself to become a gateway to India, Sri Lanka could, also, gear herself to the latter objective.
This would require a planned programme with defined targets. A landlink to India in the neighbourhood of Talaimannar would help; but, for this, peace in the North would be a > pre-requisite,
b) Employment and promotions in the public sector should be merit-based and linked to a programme to increase wages for these employees. At the same time , a programme should be activated against corruption in the public sector,
c) Our most valuable asset are our human resources. However, they are under-utilised. The author notes that huge numbers of holders of educational qualifications are unemployed. The "social contract" has been broken.
Those who were given to understand that, if they studied diligently and passed their examinations, they could expect a secure and satisfying life, have been unable to find appropriate (or, in many cases, any) employment over extended periods of time.
These individuals have a grievance against society and must somehow be given opportunities for gainful employment. (Reviewer's comment: School leavers also observe the contemporary scene and may become disinclined to believe anymore in the value of a higher education.
Some of them may even take to criminal activities which afford possibilities of "instant gratification".) One tool which could be used in this regard is providing more wide-spread availability of opportunities to learn English.
It was noted that in Europe children over the age of ten years have usually learnt more than one language without the loss of national identity,
d) Being elected to Parliament is not a job opportunity or a permit to wield power.
Parliamentarians should give broad attention to matters affecting citizens. (For example, all parliamentarians of whatever political persuasion should give their attention and help to bring an end to the present conflict in the North. If it goes on for much longer, there will be no future for you and I and the country and future generations.)
In the matter of the election process, law-abiding citizens do not support those who break laws or engage in election violence. Civil society should not permit the breaking of laws or election violence. While civil society has been speaking out against election malpractices in recent times, these protests should be strengthened,
e) Far more use should be made of "opinion polls" than at present. These could be used, for instance, to ascertain public acceptance of proposals while answers obtained in opinion polls could also be used to shape civil society,
f) If we are determined to develop our country, the first requirement is for both government and private sectors to adopt new thought patterns fearlessly. If we resolve the conflict in the North and manage our economy as it should be managed, we can reach the economic stature of Hong Kong within ten years.
The fore-going is merely a handful of the interesting topics raised in the selections from the author's contributions to the Press. The next section of the book features four speeches made in Parliament commencing with his maiden speech on the 8th December 2000.
The final section of the book consists of transcripts of two interviews presented earlier in the television series "In Black and White". This highly interesting and popular weekly programme is not only shown locally but is also the first Sri Lankan weekly programme to be screened regularly in several other countries.
The two interviews which have been selected for inclusion in this book were those with the Honourable Mahathir Mohammed, Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the Honourable Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of India's state of Andhra Pradesh.It is recommended that all thoughtful voters in Sri Lanka read and/or discuss the material of this book. It is a pity that it has so far been published only in Sinhala.
It would be of value to bring out editions in English and Tamil so that the material is accessible to the entire population of the country. It is also recommended that schools encourage the study of this book to help their pupils to develop insights into the needs of the age in which we live and to break away from the negative aspects of the "political culture" we have grown to expect at election time.
Finally, it is hoped that future editions of this book are provided with a more complete index of contents. This will facilitate ready reference; particularly if the text is expanded.
There is a hint in the title Peravadanak or Foreword that a further publication may be looked forward to!
Produced by Lake House