FEATURE: Decades of Sovereignty | Page 8 | Daily News

FEATURE: Decades of Sovereignty

Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage

Another Independence Day has dawned and the atmosphere is charged with national fervor and sentiment. The customary parade at Galle Face, where it all began, spiced with cultural pageants and the display of military prowess will be the chief attraction at the 69th National Day. Other ceremonies too would be held countrywide to mark the momentous occasion with events highlighting patriotism and national unity taking center stage. The national flag will flutter proudly on all state buildings and most homes. Politicians will deliver their usual messages calling for national unity and religious leaders will espouse the need for amity and brotherhood as a cohesive force for nation building.

Every Independence Day the country's rulers gloat about a past grandeur and the need to emulate the achievements of our great forefathers. However, looking back over the past, seven decades since Independence, Sri Lanka as a nation has yet to realize the ideals espoused by our leaders on that first Independence Day.

Vast improvement

True, Sri Lanka has today advanced to the level of a middle income country. We have improved in many spheres. Sri Lanka has perhaps the best health care system in South Asia and could boast of a high life expectancy, low Infant mortality rate and welfare indices that could match, or even surpass economically advanced countries in the region.

But, for all that, a sizable proportion of the country's population is still living in poverty. For them, this Independence, as others before it, no doubt would have meant nothing. For true Independence, the people of a nation, at least a sizable proportion of the countrymen, should be a happy and contended lot. Some would rightly contend that the country had only received political independence, but is still shackled in terms of economic independence and continue to depend on its former white masters to raise its economy. Pseudo patriots who shout hoarse that the country has been sold to foreigners have themselves failed to offer a solution. All governments since Independence have gone on bended knees for foreign aid plunging the country into a bottomless pit of debt.

Economic prosperity

Even though physical development is evident all round, social development has not matched the advances made in this regard. For all the boasts of a 90 percent literary rate most of the population are backward in many respects. Economic prosperity to its citizens promised by all governments following independence still remains a mirage with exploitation of labour continuing as before. Economic dividends of the state are still enjoyed by only a few with the vast majority left out. Solutions to these problems have still eluded all governments since independence. It is in this backdrop that the country is today observing Independence Day.

The celebrations itself have lost their luster compared to the past. This most important event in the national calendar too appears to have suffered the vagaries of commercialization and the market place, with February 4 being just another holiday for enjoyment and revelry to most. Much more significance and meaning needs to be attached to Independence, with rulers taking the lead in inculcating the spirit of Independence among the populace in a more tangible way than at present.

Perhaps the fact that Independence was gained without the spilling of blood, unlike countries such as India, may be the reason for this laissez-faire attitude among Lankans.

Independence Day celebrations in the immediate post colonial era though were elaborate ones where not just the ceremony but also that which mirrored the aspirations of a people just redeemed from foreign subjugation and expressed with vigour and justifiable pride. The wish of the people was to forge ahead in achieving national goals as set out by the leaders and everyone put their shoulder to the wheel irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, cast, creed or other differences.

National endeavour

That is why our post Independence history is littered with the feats of national endeavour of stalwarts from the minority community. These were colossuses who stood shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the majority community to give the stamp of recognition to the country in the social, economic and cultural fields. All strove for national progress with no time for parochialism and petty squabbling. Hopefully this spirit of camaraderie and conviviality among the communities that prevailed in the nascent independence days will be witnessed soon with the stage set for national reconciliation after a fractious war that sharpened divisions and split the nation on ethnic lines.

It is also the time for close introspection to ascertain the true meaning of national independence transcending the pomp and ceremony. This is because over the years the national day celebrations have gradually lost their relevance and significance to most, with its real meaning subsumed in the parades and the military panoply. As mentioned before Independence was achieved by the collective effort of all communities. As such today's Independence Day too should be shared equally by all. All communities and ethnic groups should be infused with a sense of belonging. The government's decision to have the National Anthem sung in Tamil should exemplify this sense of belonging. All communities should be urged to put behind their differences and acrimony that was sharpened by three decades of ethnic conflict and resolve to live like brothers and sisters of one Lankan family.

All Lankans also should resolve to forget all petty differences springing out of political divisions and work towards rebuilding a new Sri Lanka. Much damage has been caused to the national fabric as a result of contentious and acrimonious politics that have divided the nation as never before stifling progress and development. Selfish motives should be banished from one's mind and patriotism given true expression in one's actions on behalf of the country.

Today, most in our midst though disporting themselves as patriots do not demonstrate this by their actions. Strikes are resorted to at the slightest provocation at a time the state is in need of all the resources it could muster to achieve the country's development goals.

Maximum rewards

We are devoid of a work ethic, preferring to do the least we possibly can while demanding the maximum rewards from the State. We have become a nation lacking in initiative. Waste is rampant and corruption endemic. Little, or, nothing is done to rectify the situation, all cumulatively affecting the nation's forward march.

This is hardly the recipe for nation building and could be a reason why nearly seven decades down the line we are still languishing behind most countries that gained independence at the same time as Sri Lanka. One recalls Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew urging his country to follow the example of then Ceylon in the immediate post independence era. But we fell by the wayside while S'pore, which was enjoined to follow our example, is today a developed and prosperous state. Where did we fail?

Negative attitudes should be banished and Lankans as a whole should give of their maximum if we are to realize the dreams of our forefathers of reaping the rewards of true independence. Above all, it is important to move away from the external trappings of this most important Day and lay emphasis on the significance and substance of true Independence.

This should begin from our schools. Youth, from their formative years, should be inculcated in the ethos of the national freedom struggle, so that Independence can be celebrated on a more meaningful and dynamic note. 


 

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as power full soveriinguly kindom , not chatterig( we must do,) as variues uniform exibition saw, it is poor actives!

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