|Saturday, 5 February 2005|
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National rejuvenation through inner healing
We hope the Independence Day messages of President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse would have the desired effect of inspiring Sri Lankans with the courage, commitment and humanity to rebuild and re-energise their country in the aftermath of the destruction of December 26, 2004.
The right thinking among our citizenry are likely to unhesitatingly endorse the sentiments in these messages because rebuilding and national rejuvenation are indeed our most essential needs at present.
As we see it, the great challenge of rebuilding Sri Lanka needs to take place at mainly two levels. One is the physical level, where Governmental intervention and initiative are already visible.
For instance, as is well known, the State through its Task Forces and other mechanisms has already immersed itself in the task of rebuilding the country's damaged infrastructure and is in the process of also providing for the tsunami-affected, food and drink as well as suitable abodes.
For the foreseeable future, the country may not run into any major difficulties on this front because it has received an abundance of material assistance - locally as well as internationally - although the State is obliged to establish tighter procedures in the aid-distribution process, which would ensure transparency and accountability on the part of particularly State functionaries involved in the relief operation.
In this connection, we wish to call on the Government to lose no time in ensuring equitable and quick distribution of relief among the victims of the tragedy.
This is urgent in view of the fact that on the Government's own admission only some 30 percent of victims have received assistance to-date. We emphasise that such relief should be provided with absolute fairness - North, South, East or West.
The second level of re-building Sri Lanka is personal and spiritual. It should be only expected that sagging spirits would the lot of a considerable number of Sri Lankans, given the proportions of the devastation.
Thus fortifying people spiritually and emotionally emerges as important a task as rebuilding Sri Lanka on the physical plane. It is difficult to see national rejuvenation coming our way if shattered spirits and dampened inner lives are not restored to normalcy.
A great task of rebuilding lies ahead, but this cannot be undertaken by a demoralised people. It could be shouldered by only a spirited and courageous people.
This should draw the attention of the authorities to the need for widespread counselling services. This is not a country which is reputed for its psychiatric services but - as suggested by us recently - our vast array of religious institutions could be used for the purpose of nursing dispirited hearts and minds back to normalcy.
Our clergy could be imparted the necessary counselling skills and used for rebuilding the shattered inner lives of our people. Likewise, teachers and social workers could be trained and deployed in the same capacity. In fact, the time's ripe for the religions of Sri Lanka to prove their humanising capabilities. This is, indeed, their hour.
We are also glad that President Kumaratunga has underscored the need for national unity and communal amity in her message.
If the current crisis could teach those sections which are squabbling in our land over power, the value of living amicably and in harmony with each other, much could be achieved. In fact, a milestone would be reached in ending our conflict.
This too requires a thorough-going attitudinal change on the part of all. In other words, hearts and minds would need to be humanised.
Here too, the clergyman, teacher and social worker could play a major role. But the onus is also on the State to re-energise the peace process and to make a concerted effort to build bridges of unity among our communities on an urgent basis.
Produced by Lake House