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SLFP-UNP accord raises unprecedented hopes

UNITY: News of the accord reached between the two major political parties in Sri Lanka, who together reflect the majority opinion of those, allowed to vote at the last general election has been hailed as the best hope for this country, since we became an independent nation.

Is it too much to wish that at least now, our leaders will be able to set aside their petty self-seeking and personal aggrandisement and place the welfare of the whole country and all its people above every other consideration.

Even a cursory, if not critical examination of the root causes of the rot that is evident in this country will reveal that these are some of the reasons which afflicted those, who were and are in the forefront of our political scene.


HISTORIC UNION: The two leaders shake hands at the signing.

However, it's the accepted custom for most Sri Lankans to deify their dead leaders, (as the plethora of death and birth anniversary commemorations indicate), failing to realise it was due to their obtuseness and lack of foresight, that we are in this mess today. The fact that their actions were prompted mainly by their self-interest and vote-catching ploys is a conveniently, forgotten fact.

We don't need to delve too far back into our political history to realise these truths. We were fortunate that, whatever else a knowledge of English didn't achieve, it once bred an intelligent, educated and articulate segment of people, who were able to pit their wits against the existing colonial regime and gradually encroach on their arbitrary powers.

At that time, differences of race and religion were not of paramount concern and the very names of these mostly forgotten patriots, who were in the forefront of the agitation for reform prove this fact.

Names like James Peries, Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Ramanathan, H.J.C. Pereira, A. Arul Anandan, F.R. Senanayake, C.E. Corea, E.W. Perera, D.B. Jayatilleka, C.W.W. Kannangara and a host of others were the stalwarts, who in their day, were able to wrest more and more powers from the colonial government.

However, with the granting of a modicum of self-government and universal suffrage by the Donoughmore Commission in 1931, the need to get the support of the masses became an issue of paramount importance. Many prominent Christian politicians became Buddhists overnight and even changed their western attire for the national dress.

Their motives for doing so were patently obvious, as, if they were to survive as politicians, they had to show they empathised with the masses. After all, they were now their masters and they had to fall in line with their volatile whims!

Such cosmetic changes were tragically, the harbinger of the rot that set in, as more destructive and divisive forces crept in. The so-called Pan-Sinhalese Board of Ministers that excluded Tamils was a case in point. Also there was vaulting ambition ...not just for oneself but for one's offspring.

The much acclaimed 'Father of the Nation', the leader of the U.N.P. paved the way for his son Dudley Senanayake, to succeed him, as Sir John Kotelawela succinctly detailed in his book "the Premier Stakes".

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who should have logically succeeded D.S. from the point of ability, experience and seniority, found no option but to cross-over and form a party which gave prominence to demagogic forces.

This further polarised the divisive elements in our society into basically these two main parties - the S.L.F.P. and the U.N.P. who have alternately ruled this country for over 50 years. At long last they are coming together. It is hoped that they will eventually work together to end the malaise that has afflicted this country for over 50 years.

Hopefully, the era when politics was riddled with nepotism and which hitherto seemed to be the preserve of the unscrupulous and the corrupt, whose tentacles infiltrated almost every activity in this country, will soon end.

Maybe even the ongoing war which is raging with its tit-for-tat casualty figures and records of destruction officially announced, as if they are scores, giving the run rate or loss of wickets in a national cricket match, will soon cease.

Is it too much to even wish, that the Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and others whose forebears struggled once as common brethren, with such high hopes for this country will be united in the same spirit once more.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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