Of community contributions and sacrifices | Daily News


Of community contributions and sacrifices

National Freedom Day or Independence Day as is commonly referred to this year will take on an added significance with the country set on a new course following the election to the office of a new President who has pledged to restore national security as a priority step.

After all, independence is all about the security of a country and its territorial integrity which had come under threat at various times during the past 72 years. Recently, the country was virtually under siege by another external threat in the form of Islamist terrorism that also caused damage to the country's economy. There were also bloody insurrections and the three-decade long war against terrorism that pushed back the country in terms of development and progress. There was also political turmoil and de-stability that took the country down the wrong path, particularly in recent times at tremendous cost to the nation's well being.

Hence, there is a lot of catching up to do if we are to make strides to keep pace with a rapidly changing world, its technological advances and all other spheres of activity. Moreover, all Sri Lankans, this Independence Day, should resolve put their collective shoulders to the wheel to make the country achieve its much cherished goals leading to progress and prosperity.

No doubt there will be much optimism and also many imponderables as the country chalks up 72 years of Independence from colonial rule. It is as good a time as any other to reflect and for stock taking on what are our achievements and where we have failed.

Much water has flown down the bridge since the day the country's first post independence Prime Minister hoisted the Lion flag opposite the old Parliament building at Galle Face, ending centuries of subjugation. Looking back, Sri Lanka can be satisfied a lot that with the way things had turned out during the last 72 years. Equally there is also cause for disappointment and recriminations. The country could have achieved much more than what we have achieve today had not three major uprisings intervened setting back development and progress by many years. Party politics too played its part leading to disunity and disharmony that divided the nation when what was needed was a collective effort on the part of all to lift the country from the pitfalls.

On the positive side, Sri Lanka has, today advanced to the status of a middle income country. It has also advanced in leaps and bounds in other facets. Its social indices are among the best in Asia and boasts of one of the best healthcare services in the world. The same could be said with regard to technological advancement, not surprising for a country with a 90 percent literacy rate. The country has also advanced by leaps and bounds in agricultural production and industrial output. For all its success and advancements in many spheres and sectors the country has yet to reach its full potential though.

Of course, the reason for this is a fractured and highly polarized political landscape that has stultified development and enterprise. Divisions based on communal lines too have exacerbated the problem. There is also a tendency to forget that leaders of all communities who put their shoulder to the wheel to achieve Independence and free the country from the colonial yolk.

Hence, all these fault lines need repairing if the country is to forge ahead and achieve its development goals. All citizens should identify their responsibilities towards the Motherland. They should cultivate a strong work ethic in their workplaces and do their optimum to reap the benefits of their labour for the country. This country cannot afford to have malingerers and shirkers if we are to get anywhere.

Some may say that the country is independent only in name and there is no economic independence. They will point out that we are still dependent on our colonial masters for our economic sustenance. There will also be those who will maintain that we are still being dictated to by others and work to the agendas set by them. The involvement of many international actors in post war Sri Lanka has added credence to this contention. While there is an element of truth in these claims it also cannot be denied that we have achieved much during the past 72 years while it may also be true that we have a long way to go before social and economic independence is achieved by the country.

For the moment though, the keen attention of the nation will be focused on the main Independence Day celebrations at Galle Face. Time was when Independence Day was observed with due solemnity given the significance on the event. With the passage of time this gave way to extravagant parades and military and cultural displays. This war brought about a radical change in the celebrations with the military element being the dominant feature. Independence Day was transformed into an occasion to display the country's military muscle and hardware. Today's event will be no exception although President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered the toning down of the other features in the celebrations. However, it is a matter for regret that Independence Day has become just another national event over the years not withstanding the elaborate pomp and pageantry and is forgotten soon thereafter. Even in schools, in the lower grades, not much is being taught to the children about the significance of our independence. This may be the reason why many are not aware about the contributions and sacrifices made by all communities in the achievement of the Independence. The education authorities must think of ways to import this fact into the minds of the students from their formative years, lest the next generation too falls prey to distortion by racists elements.

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