A cautious step into the New Year | Daily News


A cautious step into the New Year

A majority of Sri Lankans, no doubt, would be ushering in the New Year which dawns today with renewed hope after the grim forebodings cast by the recent political upheaval which is now behind us, returning the country to calm waters. Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should share the credit for not allowing the crisis to continue indefinitely by agreeing to compromise on their hard-line positions which otherwise would have spelled disaster for the nation.

A new Government has been installed under Premier Wickremesinghe reverting to the status quo and also a new Cabinet sworn in by the President. Hopefully, things will work out smoothly for the remainder of the period of the Government with the President not queering the pitch and the Government for its part not trying to trip the President at every turn. The hatchet should be buried if for no other reason than that both leaders owe it to the country and its people whom they kept on tenterhooks for two months while also rendering the entire state machinery paralyzed.

This is also not the time for recriminations but for sober heads to figure out what brought about the crisis and action taken to prevent a recurrence. It is also time to take remedial measures to redress the damage caused to the economy and also the democratic credentials of the country which suffered immensely, and recommence the task of nation building.

Certainly, the outlook on the economic front is not encouraging. For the first time in its post-Independence history the country is entering a new year sans a national budget due to a political crisis. The rupee has hit a new low now standing at Rs. 184 to the dollar. There is also political instability in the air with a Government pitted against a potentially hostile President which is not the best recipe for progress on the development front, with both parties bound to scuttle the each other’s efforts in a game of one-upmanship.

This year has also been declared an election year exacerbating matters, with both sides bidding to woo the electorate to the neglect of urgent matters of the State. Moves are also underway to introduce a 20th Amendment to the Constitution that seeks to abolish the Executive Presidency at a time President Sirisena has all but indicated his intention to run for a second term. In an added dimension ethnic tensions too have surfaced once again following the incidents reported from Mawanella which has been given new twists in the social media.

Hence, it cannot be said exactly if the New Year is being ushered in on a propitious note although the tensions that gripped the nation by the political crisis are no longer felt. It is therefore the duty of political leaders to act with responsibility by giving priority to the welfare of the nation, putting aside parochial interests. Certainly President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe are mature enough to realize that the nation today needs their combined attention to overcome the multi-faceted challenges on several fronts.

The need for statesmanship has never been felt in the country’s post Independence as at the present juncture. It is also the time for toning down the current political rhetoric and politicians of all hues to act in concert to pull the country out of its present quagmire. It is the contentious and rancorous politics that has been the bane of the country all along, stifling its progress. Perhaps the religious leaders should step in to intervene in the current impasse and emphasize on the leaders the need to get their act right and do what is best for the country. Sadly though, some members of the clergy themselves add their voices to the strident political discourse causing divisions and racial tensions.

With the country gearing itself for elections more of the same could be expected in the coming weeks and months which does not augur well for a promising new year. It is such rhetoric that has made the reconciliation process that began with much promise become somewhat elusive today.

No doubt, a majority of citizens would wish for all political party leaders to collectively pledge to usher in a new political culture as a New Year resolution that would see an end to the vituperative politics being practised in this country. This, while bringing in a breath of fresh air to the political climate would also greatly reduce all the ills that have beset this nation stemming from political rancour and discord. Ideally President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe should give the lead in this exercise.

One recalls how, in the aftermath of the Tsunami devastation, the leaders of the two major parties mounted the same platform to express solidarity at a time the nation was in peril. Though not on the scale of the Tsunami, the country, today too, is in the throes of a crisis, made not by natural forces but due to a battle for political power. 

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