Why people count in Sustainable
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a strong case for
sustainable or eco-friendly development at the Rio + 20
environment summit and this is as it should be because without
development thus defined and implemented, at least to a degree,
mankind's lot would be highly pitiable. Besides, he has made the
very important point, quoting the illustrious Arahat Mahinda
Thera, that rulers are the 'custodians' of the earth and its
resources and we believe this thought helps to focus on the role
of governments the world over in ushering and perpetuating
Sustainable Development. In this commentary, on numerous
occasions, even prior to the Rio Summit, we have dealt in detail
on what Sustainable Development means and also dwelt awhile on
its policy implications.
Essentially, Sustainable Development is all about putting
humans at the centre of development with an equal emphasis on
conserving natural resources. It should be plain to see, that
economic activity that is destructive of nature cannot qualify
to be seen as development because it blights both human and
natural life. Consequently, such activity by humans is
self-annihilative and is the very anti-thesis of development and
As pointed out by President Rajapaksa, the concept of
Sustainable Development is not alien to the Sri Lankan mind.
Being heirs to the finest humanistic traditions inculcated in
the Eastern hemisphere, Sri Lankans and their governments would
not need to be specially attuned to Sustainable Development and
its policy outcomes.
They are part of our cultural heritage and the Mahinda
Chinthana, from which our main development thinking derives
currently, is very much part of this treasured intellectual
capital which is native to us.
We need to focus on these insights as we persist on the path
of development. In current times, the North-East is scene to a
flurry of development activity and it is plain to see that the
state is particularly anxious to increasingly integrate these
regions into the economic mainstream.
As this takes place, the state would do well to ensure that
the people of the North-East are progressively drawn into the
decision-making process because one cannot conceive of
Sustainable Development without keeping in mind that human
wellbeing is the ultimate aim of all development thrusts.
Material advancement for its own sake would defeat this
humanistic focus of the development experience.
Over the past few days this newspaper has been reporting
faithfully on the development initiatives undertaken by the
state in the North-East and it is quite clear that
infrastructure- building is very much at the heart of this
development drive. There could be no material growth for the
provinces in question without the steady development of physical
infrastructure and one would not be wrong in saying that the
foundation is being laid for a sustained growth process in the
This is at it should be because over the 30 years of turmoil
in the North-East, the provinces did not experience development
of any kind and a government which is desirous of fully
defeating the separatist sentiment would ensure that real or
Sustained Development is experienced by the people of the
provinces. This is an essential undertaking because the people
must believe that their lives are being qualitatively enhanced
and that the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration is the driving
force behind this uplifting experience.
The latter message would be best impressed on the North-East
people by drawing them into the decision-making process in
increasing degrees. The people should be engaged by the state
and it is when this is done effectively through a sustainable
growth strategy that they would come to value the Mahinda
Chinthana and its true import. So, material development needs to
go hand-in-hand with an increasing state-people engagement. This
is one of the most effective ways of building bridges between
the state and the people and sealing national integration.