|Thursday, 24 January 2002|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : Editor, Daily News
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R.Wijewardana Mawatha,
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 1 429429 / 331181
Fax : 94 1 429210
Putting our priorities in place
"We are at a most decisive moment today. This is the last chance we would have in the resolution of Sri Lanka's North-East problem. We should make maximum use of this opportunity and march forward. If not international opinion would weigh heavily against us".
This urgent request made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in the course of delivering the Government's policy statement in parliament on Tuesday, encompasses the prime challenge facing Sri Lanka. On our ability to meet this challenge successfully, depends our well being and happiness.
This policy statement by the Prime Minister will be valued for its clarity of vision and purpose as well as for its poignant summing-up of the greatest enterprises facing the country: the establishment of peace, the rejuvenation of the economy and the strengthening of democracy.
Principal among these undertakings is the bringing of peace. Some of the bleeding statistics in this regard are as follows: Over 60,000 lives have already been claimed by the conflict. Of these, 20,000 victims belong to the armed forces and police. In 2001 alone, Rs. 80 billion was spent on the war, whereas only 2.9 percent of the country's GDP has been spent on education.
Clearly, ending the war is the foremost challenge facing us and the Prime Minister underscored the urgency of this task by making it the principal focus of his speech.
Unfortunately, not all sections of opinion see it this way. Mismanagement and corruption, for instance, may be costing us a pretty penny but the war is solely responsible for the brutalization of Sri Lanka and all the disturbing consequences which have been flowing from it, such as, crime, violence, social unrest, moral decay and the denigration of the human personality.
These are the reasons why the war must end and the peace process should take pride of place in our plans for national revival.
However, peace is a cooperative undertaking which, in fact, involves every one of us. Every man, woman, and child is obliged to help the State in the peace effort, more so the opposition. As the Premier aptly put it, "We will gain in strength if we act with one aim unitedly".
Since the current international situation favours peace, the present chance to end the conflict shouldn't be squandered. All parties to the conflict, need to cast aside petty political considerations, for the sake of realising peace.
There is no doubt that we must also go about reviving the economy with utmost zeal.
Last year, we hit an all time low in economic growth. This depressing outcome must be reversed through a concerted attempt to inject life into the ruined economy. The power crisis must be resolved and the industrial sector nursed back to vibrancy. Agriculture must be made a going concern once again. All this and more will depend on how much funds are pumped into the economy. On this score too, the war must end.
The public is also likely to be happy by the Premier's pledge to implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. Herein lies a key to depoliticizing society and redemocratizing it. The Independent Commissions would pave the way for a greater degree of fair play and justice - two essential prerequisites for social peace.
Produced by Lake House