05 February 2015

Here’s to tomorrow

Pic Courtesy Tharindu Amunugama
Each Independence Day or rather each anniversary when we celebrate what happened on February 4, 1948 is unique.  There are however some celebrations that acquire special meaning. For example, February 4, 2010 was unlike any fourth day in that month in the previous twenty years.  It was the first Independence Day which the nation could celebrate without the threat of terrorism hanging like an ominous shadow over the heads of the citizenry.  It was a special Independence Day, therefore.

This year too there is a dimension previously absent.  The nation celebrates Independence under a new regime, a Government made of and supported by political parties of all ideological persuasion and identity fixation, even though it came to power by a relatively thin margin.  There is, nevertheless, an air of hope that things have changed or will change for the better after Maithripala Sirisena was elected President on January 8, 2015. 

If there’s less pomp and pageantry than before, it will not diminish festivities but rather affirm a different way of thinking about celebration.  Simply put, celebration has for too long been associated with wastage.  It is not that Sri Lankans abhor wild celebration of course, but in general a sense of proportion is appreciated by one and all, leaving out glitz-loving politicians of course. 

There was a lot of hope way back in February 2010.  There’s as much hope now.  It’s a different kind of hope, one which is not shared by all.  Back then too, the Government was not supported by all, but still the vast majority, including those who did not vote for the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, were relieved that the era of suicide attacks, parcel bombs and the inevitably horrific outcomes yielded when people fight one another, was all over.  Today, there is hope because there’s a promise of changing a constitution that had effectively disenfranchised the people and a fixing of flawed institutional arrangements. 

What is independence? Is it is just a word? What is independence if, as the song goes, we have the flagpost but not the string, if the flag belongs to the invader and we have just the lion? What is independence if we have to submit ourselves to the sorry state of inhabiting someone else’s version of our reality?

Today we are a plaything of not just powerful nations but are slaves to ideologies that rubbish our priorities and our national interests. We live in a country where the Ambassador of the United States of America has more sway over politicians than the Mahanayake Theros.  We live in a country where some even claim that Maithripala Sirisena’s victory was the work of some Indian spy, thereby totally rubbishing the importance of every single citizen who voted for him. 

We are a country where the Government’s Cabinet Spokesman talks of removing a sitting judge because ‘it is necessary for us to get things done’.  We are a country where it is hard to distinguish politician from thug.  We are a country where a multi-billion rupee drug business is headquartered at the Welikade Prison, with jailors and law-enforcers essentially turned into accessories after the fact of trafficking and dealing drugs.  We are a country where the pharmaceutical industry holds the entire health sector to ransom and where multinationals dishing out chemical inputs essentially write agricultural policy. 

And yet, we are a nation that defeated the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization. We are a nation that recovered from a tsunami in ways that the USA could not recover from the far less destructive Hurricane Katrina.  We are not a blameless people because we have elected and re-elected thugs, crooks, murderers and other notorious criminals.  But then again, we have risen as a nation to vote them out as well. 

We are not a nation at a crossroads. We are a nation that is perpetually at crossroads.  What this means is that we have yet to encounter that foreboding place called ‘Last Chance’.  And yet, this should not lull us into the complacency of silence and inaction.  We can move into a better tomorrow only if we seize the ‘Now’ of our historical opportunities.  At every turn.  With confidence.   

So here’s to tomorrow.  Let us make ‘independence’ something much more meaningful than a word, a day and a celebration of something that came deformed and incomplete.  Let us resolve to close that grotesque chapter and step forward on a path that leads to a different Sri Lanka.  Inclusive.  Kind. Gentle.  And let us honor those who gave their lives to give us our ‘today’, by resolving to always be resilient.  


Buddhika said...

It was rather a simple ceremony compared to previous ones. One noticeable thing was the losing of the national identity of the president Maithipala Sirisena's dress. Don't you think the national leader should wear the national costume in our independence day...?

Anonymous said...

to me personally it is a loss of independence which occurred exactly 200 years ago that came to mind when the last king of sinhalaye was betrayed by his court and handed over to the English; history has a way of repeating itself, 2015 independence celebration marks the handing over of nationlistic thinking to neo colonial liberalized thinking; every thing shall come to pass according to the ways of the world, hence here's hoping that the present stewardship of the country shall be able to retain the sovereign state without borrowing ideologies from India, USA, Briton and EU and dancing to the tunes of other "perceived friendly countries"with vested interest!

If this comes to pass, you cannot avoid a perception that the country's north eastern province has been leased out to India and the balance to the West for the next 05 years!

Country before self is an ideology that will remain out of reach to the majority of right thinking citizens irrespective of their personal political view since the majority of our people are not educated about their civil rights and how it could influence our society to settle our affairs internally rather than running for help to outsiders for the slightest thing!Civil society leaders have led by example that they are incapable of providing true leadership to face such issues head on. They rely on the help of aid from foreign countries and in turn become slaves of their masters!

If we had genuine gritty leaders like Anna Hasary we would be able to create a real change in our thinking! Unfortunately though we have four great religions they have merely been reduced to lip service. We have become servile to others for too long that we have lost our sense of righteousness, most of our future generation has not been trained to think out of the box and develop independent thinking, but to rely heavily on a virtual world which they believe is real!

Hence you cannot find righteousness in our society, it has been replaced by mud slinging! we as a society should have the guts to condemn the wrong and commend the right, but we fail miserably in this regard!

Hence independence to me personally is really a concept which is far far away from out motherland!