|Saturday, 6 November 2004|
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President's India visit
The immense cordiality showered on President Kumaratunga by India's political leadership, during her current visit to India, speaks volumes for the traditional closeness which characterizes Indo-Lanka relations.
These fraternal ties tend to be enhanced when SLFP-led governments come to the helm of affairs in Sri Lanka, on account of the considerable amity which exists between sections of the ruling elite in India and the politically prominent Bandaranaike family in Sri Lanka. The Gandhi family, for instance, and the Bandaranaikes have been enjoying decades long, warm ties.
Accordingly, President Kumaratunga's personal diplomacy in India could be expected to take Indo-Lanka relations into a qualitatively new phase and give it unaccustomed depth.
This is President Kumaratunga's first visit to India after the UPFA electoral triumph and the return to power of India's Congress party. As is well known, these election victories on both sides of the Palk Strait are seen as memorable triumphs of the Indian and Sri Lankan masses. In both states, the people used the weapon of the ballot to topple from power governments which were largely insensitive to their most deeply-felt needs.
These people's triumphs in both states are likely to bring a greater sense of commonality between the governments of India and Sri Lanka.
As our report of yesterday amply indicates, the governments of both countries have arrived at a series of agreements including the enhancement of the current Indian credit line to Sri Lanka, involving the granting of credit to the tune of US $100 million. These funds would be channelled to rural development, which should prove of utmost importance to Sri Lanka.
Against this backdrop, besides the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, the proposed Indo-Lanka defence cooperation agreement acquires considerable significance.
Almost region-wide, violent, anti-state forces are at work and enhanced military cooperation among these states is likely to project the important message that there are no solutions to perceived grievances, outside the framework of political negotiations and the Rule of Law. The continuing improvement of Indo-Pakistani relations is bound to strengthen this impression.
Regionwide inter-state amity is the strongest bulwark against anti-state, divisive forces and we are seeing such a process taking shape in South Asia. President Kumaratunga's timing, therefore, couldn't have been better. By consolidating bridges of amity with India, she is helping to defeat opportunistic, anti-state forces which thrive on inter-state rivalries.
The race for power
While Sri Lanka's Parliament withdrew the subsidy on meals for MPs, the development seems to have had a ripple effect across the Palk Strait.
The Indian Parliament has resorted to other means to keep its MPs on their toes. The Indian Parliament plans to introduce a sports meet for its Members with a sack race as the dominant event.
This is with the objective of keeping the MPs active for the benefit of the public. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has suggested a regimen of physical activity to all Lok Sabha members to ensure optimum productivity.
"Stressed out Indian MPs to engage in sack races," ran the headline quoting an Indian Express report. The sports events for MPs will be held at weekends during Parliament sessions.
Apart from traditional sports like golf, swimming and cricket, the events will include sack races, lemon and spoon race and rolling the wheel. Azad has exhorted that the need was not only for MPs' physical presence in Parliament but also to be physically fit to manage the stresses and strains of being effective Parliamentarians.
The Indian plan is not all that original because Lankans have already witnessed an MPs sports meet at the Parliament esplanade not many moons ago. Here we were several notches ahead of our Indian counterparts.
The organisers of that MPs' Avurudu Sports fiesta had the good humour to introduce a tug-of-war where our legislators gave a good demonstration of the tug-of- war for power.
The sack race planned by the Indian Parliament for its MPs could have many connotations for legislators. Imagine our oversized lawmakers lined up at the starters point waist deep in tubes of canvass rearing to go and chugging away as the gun goes off.
A regular 'goni race' of this kind would have many positives to legislators. It would be an ideal recipe for burning the extra calories coming from overindulgence that our people's servants are famous for. Lesser weight could mean more agility and extra zeal to serve the public.
Regular sack races could also mean well developed calf muscles giving extra power to a legislator to take flight when pursued by disgruntled voters. The finish would normally see participants saturated in all hues from the coloured dust in the sacks indicative of the chameleon quality of politicians. The sack race will also be a stark reminder that they can get the 'sack' any time from their superiors and from the people at the hustings.
The Indian Minister has certainly missed a trick by failing to include the pole vault in the sports meet. After all, politicians are famous for political somersaults, especially at poll time.
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