|Saturday, 13 November 2004|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 11 2429429 / 94 11 2421181
Fax : 94 11 2429210
The achievement of Yasser Arafat
President Yasser Arafat, whose death the defenders of Palestinian rights the world over mourn today, led his people on a prolonged, very often bloody, epic struggle for the establishment of their statehood, which could very well be considered the stuff of legend.
Arafat fell short of this aim but assumed a personal stature in the course of his single-minded mission, which would be difficult to match on the global political stage.
Even in his lifetime, Yasser Arafat's name came to be linked with undying courage and dogged persistence in the promotion of a just cause - the winning of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. It is not very often realised that there are curious, striking parallels between the history of the Israelis and that of the Palestinians. Like the Israelites, at one time, the Palestinians too are a dispossessed people.
However, unlike the Jewish people whose purportedly centuries-long saga of suffering and displacement ended with the establishment of the State of Israel, full statehood and self-respect has been eluding the Palestinian people to date. It is important that the predominant Western powers in particular recognize that the Palestinian cause is on par with the Israeli cause of the late nineteen Forties.
Inasmuch as the Jewish people, a displaced, itinerant community was entitled to a State of its own, the Palestinians too could make a rightful claim to a State, where it could live in peace with its neighbour, Israel.
It was the achievement of President Arafat to constantly stamp this just cause of the Palestinians on the consciousness of the world.
Arafat may not have succeeded in taking his people to the "promised land" completely, but it is our view that Arafat's 'Glass' of achievements should be seen as "half full" rather than "half empty".
The turning-point in the modern-day history of the Palestinians came when in 1988, at a special session of the UN in Geneva, Arafat said that the PLO renounced terrorism and upheld "the right of all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict to live in peace and security, including the State of Palestine, Israel and other neighbours".
To be sure, we are still a long way from resolving the Middle East conflict, which has proved a storm centre in global politics, but this drastic change in policy which was made under the leadership of Arafat has paved the way for a negotiatory process - a peace process - to commence on resolving the conflict.
The truth is that seeming inflexibility has given way to a degree of accommodation by the main parties to the conflict. The renouncing of violence by the PLO has given way to a process of negotiation of some sort.
It could be said that Arafat was endowed with the political sagacity to change strategies in accordance with political realities, to enable his people to glimpse a peaceful future. It is left to Arafat's successors to turn this vision into reality.
Cycle of life
Last Sunday saw some Government and Opposition MPs as joint participants in a cycle race to promote this popular mode of the poor man's transport.
Our cameraman caught Ministers Fowzie, Felix Perera, UNP MP Bandula Gunawardena and Colombo Deputy Mayor Azath Sally at the starters' line up opposite the Viharamahadevi Park astride their bicycles.
Whether the foursome rode the entire length of the race to Ja-ela we do not know. But the event would certainly have given them some food for thought. While the servants of the people would have enjoyed the novelty of sitting astride a push cycle they would also have been aware of the irony of it all.
To begin with the 'cycle" sure must have brought home the reality of the ups and downs in politics. Politicians taste the full cycle of victory and defeat. It would be a reminder of the cycle of violence in political campaigns.
Astride their two wheeled contraptions they would also have felt a sense of unease if not trepidation being measured by the public in relation to Pajero Intercoolers.
The race would have brought them alive to the race for power and the competition in the game of power politics. It certainly would have been a novelty for them to see their constituents lined up to cheer them instead of being forced to the drains by their limos and security back up vehicles.
The cycle race would no doubt have given them a ring side view of the travails and tribulations of the people. They would see first hand the potholes and craters, the dilapidated bridges and the shoddy road repair work.
Assuming they travelled the full length of the race they could have been at the receiving end of the 'water treatment' as in any other cycle race.
This would no doubt act like a cold douche on the people's representatives on two wheels to wake up to the call of the public and attend to their needs. What with Parliament cutting on their meal subsidy and now with cycle races thrown in for good measure they would be in full trim to take up the task.
This effort to bring back the cycle to the forefront should be applauded. The cycle was an ubiquitous feature. It was the popular mode of transport of office workers.
One could picture the tall upright posture of a typical official decked in khakis with socks rolled up to his knees riding a Raleigh. Who could forget the army of cyclists with lunch packs in their carriers? That was a time when in some homes the humble push cycle assumed the role of breadwinner. Oh for those days.
Produced by Lake House