|Thursday, 11 September 2003|
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Why Malaysia is relevant
To be greeted and welcomed personally by the man who was instrumental in building Malaysia into a dynamic, industrial power house of Asia, no doubt, constituted the high point of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to Malaysia. Besides guiding Malaysia to its current economic robustness, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who is expected to retire next month from the position he has held with exemplary effectiveness for 22 years, ably moulded Malaysia into a coherent multiethnic polity, where collaborative rather than conflictual governance among ethnic groups is a predominant feature.
Accordingly, there is much to be learnt from Malaysia's handling of ethnic relations and the political structures she has evolved over the years to facilitate this. Malaysia's evolution to a vibrant industrial state where consensual governance has come to hold sway among its once competing ethnic groups, was not always friction-free and it would be worthwhile looking afresh at the Malaysian experience in the handling of ethnic relations.
Moreover, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has won worldwide repute as a statesman with a mind of his own; that is, an Asian leader who has steered an independent course in the developmental and political fields. If there is one leader in Asia who has stood up to the power centres of the world and won, it is Premier Mahathir Mohamad. Accordingly, it wouldn't be irrelevant to take a long hard look at Malaysia's relations with the world's powers.
For these and many more reasons it is advisable that Lanka strengthens its ties with Malaysia. Premier Wickremesinghe needs to be commended for the exemplary manner in which he has made use of our respite from war, to strengthen trade and investment ties with the foremost economic powers of the Asian region, including Malaysia. It is this personal dynamism in the conduct of Sri Lankan affairs that we have lacked over the past few years among those holding high office in this country and we are glad that Premier Wickremesinghe is now effectively filling the breach.
However, activism on the external plane has to be matched by an enthusiastic steering of affairs on the domestic front and we are pleased that Premier Wickremesinghe has nudged some of his Ministers in this direction, although much, much more remains to be achieved.
We noted yesterday that Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has conducted some visits to the provinces and these would prove useful because he would have learnt at first-hand the people's views on constitutional affairs, among other things.
We hope more Ministers will thus be seen in the field, learning at first-hand the problems of the people and their views on the future course of the country. There is, no doubt, a close umbilical connection between peace and development but it must be ensured that the latter reaches the people in full measure and doesn't merely "trickle down" to them. This can be facilitated through closer interaction between the political leadership and the people.
At a time when Malaysia is very much in focus, it should be remembered that public discipline in Malaysia has played a significant role in her political and economic successes.
Kick-starting the Lankan economy during this respite from war - which we hope will last - is a prime task, but our efforts in this direction would come to nought if our top politicians (including Ministers of State) do not realise the importance of working unitedly, efficiently and with iron-discipline towards their aim. Acerbic-tongued, bullying and blustering politicians, for instance, need to take a leaf from their Malaysian counterparts.
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