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Thursday, 27 January 2011

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Time for sit-back, deep breath-take and self-assessment

I made the following observation on the state of the nation recently: ‘I don’t believe, as some do, that things are bad. I think, on the contrary, that things are pretty good, all things considered. We haven’t had to sell our national assets. The space has been cleared for development, investment and innovation. Income-earning opportunities have expanded. The cost of living has come down. People are not starving. Times are not easy, but they are not so tough as to warrant food riots.’

A couple of errors in the above assertion have been brought to my notice. First, I was told that while it is true that key assets such as banks and corporations have not been sold (as would have been done in the first moment of anxiety by previous regimes), land is being sold (to whom I was not told). This claim I could not verify.

Inflation under control

The second error was valid. A person by the name of Asela Fernando who occasionally takes issue with what I write (less with reason than emotion, I must add), pointed out that the cost of living has not come down. I wholeheartedly agree. What I meant to write was that the rate of inflation had been brought under control. My error. Acknowledged.

One hopes that things get start getting better before they get very much worse and that the benefits of the current development thrust accrue to the most needy sooner rather than later.

One year ago the people of this country woke up to the reality that they usually wake up to on post-election morning: if they were kings and queens the previous day, they were nonentities largely dependent on the goodwill of the elected. If you read the Daily News of January 27, 2010, you might have come across the following observations I made about the re-elected President:

Trading at Colombo Stock Exchange. The rate of inflation had been brought under control. File photo

‘He has the most difficult task, that of recognizing his mortality, that of remembering that even if almost half the electorate voted for someone else, each and every one of them is a citizen and that as President he has to represent and be mindful of the concerns of each one of them, for he is the President of Sri Lanka and not a political party or a constituency. Let him try to deliver the promises of his manifesto by all means, but let him not be arrogant in his moment of triumph and afterwards. Let him pick his team, but let him not punish those who worked for his opponent(s). Let him have the wisdom to mobilize all resources at his disposal, especially human resources regardless of party colour.’

Human resources

I mentioned around that time that having accomplished what others did not or could not, Mahinda Rajapaksa need worry only about the kind of legacy he would leave behind. In the manner of a friendly warning, I traced some worst-case scenarios. Given below are a sample of possible answers to the question, ‘How do you (Mahinda Rajapaksa) want to be remembered in history?’

‘Would you be happy with a remark such as ‘Did a little, could have done more, had potential but fell short’ to follow your name? How about this: ‘Wore a kurahan saatakaya but could not drape the kurahan saatakaya on every element of political, economic, social and cultural life and thereby return to the sons and daughters of the soil a nation that had been robbed from them by weak colonial clones intent on supervising for former lords and ladies the humiliation of a people and the robbing of resources’? There was also, ‘He was positioned like no other had been to turn the country around; he didn’t’.’

Leaders too suffer from the general crisis in human resources but I pointed out that there are things he needs to fix: ‘You must understand that there is a certain vulgarity in the way people close to you conduct themselves. There is a problem that all leaders have: sycophants. You have shown you have the eyes to distinguish friend from foe. You have shown that you don’t hold a grudge. Now you have to use those eyes to figure out who is causing you the greatest harm. You cannot afford to let the behaviour and indiscretions of such people dictate the wording of the tablet that history will construct in your name.’

The economy is not collapsing as some would have us believe. Things are not rosy though. Some thrive, others do not. Some get new holes punched in belts to accommodate girth growth, others tighten theirs. Some are forced to be thriftier than they were.

Others are wasteful. When is wasted on pageantry and joy rides, it is shockingly vulgar.

When the law-abiding are made to understand that some can flout the law and get away, it pushes them to the point of abandoning good sense and decency.

A year is not too long a time, but an anniversary makes for a deep breath-intake, a sit-back and the sending of gaze backwards over the path that has been walked. The above observation in such an exercise would translate into a set of questions President Mahinda Rajapaksa would do well to ask himself. They are after all questions that the general public do ask and answer too.

msenevira@gmail.com
 

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