|Tuesday, 30 November 2004|
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Inspirational and erudite
While the reactions of the opposition to the UPFA Government's maiden budget proposals took on a run-of-the-mill complexion, with mindless criticism assuming a high note, Media and Information Minister Mangala Samaraweera's contribution to the debate stood out for its perceptiveness and enlightened commentary.
It was an analytical and erudite examination of the budget proposals which deserves to be studied in depth. Particularly noteworthy was the Media Minister's debunking of the neo-liberal standpoint on national development which was thrust on the public by the UNF during its short stint at the top of the governing structure.
On account of Minister Samaraweera's studied detachment from his subject he was in a position to appeal to the finer feelings of both sides of the House. This smacks of statesmanship.
Particularly noteworthy and thought-provoking were the Minister's comments on the development dilemmas faced by poor countries, such as ours, as a result of blindingly taking on the globalization paradigm and opening-up our economies to the full furies of neo-liberalism. It is plain to see - as the Minister too emphasized - that developing countries need to be highly selective in their approach to economic liberalization. In short, we need to take what is good in the globalization paradigm and reject what is bad. There is no question of us mindlessly falling for all the attractions of the open economy.
Equally thought - provoking were the Minister's comments on Lankan productivity and on our need to strongly inculcate the work ethic. It goes without saying that we enjoy far too many holidays. In fact we are number one in the league of countries which are on holiday during a good part of the year. This self-defeating culture must end if we are to come out of the poverty trap and forge ahead as an industrializing country. If we are to develop, we need an industrial culture. This wouldn't be possible if we prefer Lotus-eating to hard, productive work.
Particularly commendable is Minister Samaraweera's suggestion that we devote one day of the month to community service. This will foster a social conscience in the people and help in enhancing productivity. Right now, an ego-centric, self-centred mentality is prevalent among many. While the easy way out is preferred when faced with challenges, the natural choice is to get-rich-quick at any cost. Among other things, this has made this country's crime rate soar.
This is a hang-over from neo-liberalism and its accompanying consumerist ethos. It is little realised that a price needs to be paid for development and this is productive labour plus the eagerness to go the extra mile for one's country.
We call on the authorities, therefore, to give serious thought to the Minister's suggestions on community service.
What's in a name?
Many countries which used to be colonies of European powers still have stark reminders of their colonial heritage: Foreign place names and personal names. Silvas, Pereras and Fernandos are everywhere in Sri Lanka.
Take your pick from Kandy (Mahanuawara), Chilaw (Halawatha), Negombo (Meegamuwa), Jaffna (Yapanaya), Batticaloa (Madakalapuwa) and Slave Island (Kompannaveediya). Add to this a veritable cocktail of 'colonial hangover' street names. Our country's old name 'Ceylon' still lingers on in some quarters, the most obvious example being Ceylon Tea.
Many countries are trying to change colonial place names with local names, preferably those with a patriotic and nationalistic flavour. Many of Colombo's street names have been changed in this manner. Many publications now use the Sinhala place names along the English ones. Nevertheless, most of us still prefer to roads and places by their former (British) names for reasons of convenience. Changing place/road names will however remain a controversial move, here and elsewhere.
Right now, place name changes are stirring deep emotions in South Africa, where a decade after the end of apartheid the map remains studded with towns and cities dubbed after white colonisers, European monarchs and racist jokes.
In Cape Town on Saturday, a national campaign called to discuss the name issue ended with scores of place names up for review. Towns celebrating British royalty and other figures will be under scrutiny and several may face the chop.
Two that look set to go are the industrial city of Port Elizabeth, named after the wife of a Cape Colony governor, and George, a sleepy town on the south coast more famous for its lush golf courses than the English king it pays homage to. George is likely to change to Outeniqua, a reference to the mountains under which it lies.
Herein lies the rub. George is obviously easy to pronounce and remember than Outeniqua. But one should not forget the emotional factor. Young South Africans wouldn't even know who George is, whereas the proposed new name celebrates the beauty of Mother Nature, of South Africa itself. It is obviously a name that the locals can relate to instantly. The same goes for Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Yangon and any other 'localised' name.
The lesson here is that place/street name changes should not be done in a haphazard manner. South Africa is doing the right thing by allowing a debate on this issue and hence, public input.
A new name that sounds complex, no matter how patriotic it is, negates the very purpose of changing names. The whole process should tread the fine line between nationalistic fervour and everyday expedience.
Produced by Lake House