FREEDOM CAN LAST PURELY ON PEOPLES’ SPIRIT
by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando reporting from London
A new era dawned on Sri Lanka on 4 February 1948 when its governance changed from the Colonial rule to an independent sovereignty. A unique factor in achieving self-determination marked a ‘struggle’ without having to shed a single drop of blood. A few patriotic political leaders’ efforts in restoring the self-respect of a populace that had been crushed under the foreign boot of Portuguese, Dutch, and the British, over four centuries, recorded this very aspect as an immeasurable service rendered to the Nation.
Independence of a nation after four centuries of foreign dominance should have showed the way to a superlative transformation once the foreign barriers were removed. Understandably one could not have expected for an ‘enslaved’ nation to wake up overnight through any kind of overwhelming jingoism or by magic from a centuries old ‘ slumber’ under a colonial boot! People of Sri Lanka have been exceedingly patient in this regard and given the new native rulers bags of time over sixty long years to shell off from the old mentality, the attitudes, social degradation and corruption the ‘ white masters’ had imposed on the nation.
Theoreticians and political analysts have assessed the post independent Sri Lanka with negative comments often, sighting all administrations that had been appointed at general elections out of universal franchise promising the people to maintain and continue the political freedom they achieved with economic autonomy. At every election rally the new breed of governors of the country had been preaching the people that, ‘mere independence was not worth its salt, if the country was allowed to remain in eternal poverty’. Yet what people have witnessed and experienced for the last sixty years is only the emergence of two main political parties of green and blue promising the people sun, moon and the earth with a brighter 'tomorrow'!
How would the memories of a generation who experienced the difference between the foreign rule with that of our own Sri Lankan governance compare after the freedom? They could perhaps write and add to the Ceylon history how our own rulers have been abusing power freely, gagging the freedom of expression at various stages, aiding violence and engaged in war. In their own experiences they would record how they witnessed the degradation of human values; injustice and corruption prevailed and became contagious; repugnantly witnessed their own brothers and sisters getting murdered, corpses floating on rivers and lakes and decapitated human bodies burning on road-side-spikes with fetid yellow liquids draining out in the form of melting human body oil and a segment of the society, once so friendly, brotherly and cooperative, turned into a most ruthless gang of terrorists and murdered the young, old (men and women), politicians and rulers of this country indiscriminately in the name of ‘ freedom’.
So, after sixty long years of hopelessness in the minds of people in this country what could future hold for them? May be they can see an infinitesimal ray of hope emerging out of the blue in the form of a faint silver lining through the dark clouds of the past. If one were to believe in the law of Cause and Effect, then it is high time that Sri Lanka should progress culturally and spiritually as a nation. These two aspects of human life (culture and spirituality) flourish naturally when a nation is freed from suppression. ‘Spirituality is not mere religion or faith but it goes beyond to the humanism of man. The spirit of a nation is the bold outcry of its soul. A dispirited nation is a state that has sold its soul. Culture is not mere act but has more to do with the morale embossed in our hearts’.
What Sri Lanka needs today, even after sixty long years, is a dedicated and determined patriotic leader who understands the human misery and who has the common touch with his people. When that happens one could see the dawning of the golden age for Sri Lanka. In a ‘golden age’ scenario people could expect politicians to be genuine in their promises and act sincerely during elections and after coming into power. Those who are destined to become members of the opposition will have to refrain from getting bogged down in the same old rut of criticising those who govern, for the sake of being in the opposition, bearing in mind that they are nothing but representatives of the people whom the public elects to the parliament to represent their particular constituencies. .
Perhaps only the next generation of people in this land will be able to witness fully and bear the fruits of the rapid advancement and development programmes in the country for which the foundations are being laid right now.
People in the ‘golden age’ may once again begin to respect each other. All religions may merge to form a powerful inter-faith lobby. Teachers in schools may turn professional once again and commit themselves as traditional ‘gurus’ to eliminate the private tuition-fungus from the education system and the children will once again get their childhood and independence back. Clergy may confine to their temples, churches and mosques in propagating their characteristic religious duties. Buddhist priests, in conforming to centuries-old- tradition of being advisers to the rulers of this land, will still be guiding the head of state as customary. It may not be necessary to waste tax payers’ money any more on commissions to investigate fraud and bribery. With only a skeletal cabinet of ministers, rulers may demonstrate their skills and serve the people without getting caught up in ‘ political party cross- over’ and number games.
Ultimately with complete harmony, balance and peace prevailing in the country the word ‘terrorism’ may be a thing in the past. With international financial aid flooding in from the European Union, Japan and other donor countries, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee towns may transform into fashionable and sophisticated new townships like in Germany and Paris. Motor ways and express ways may replace the old pot-holed and gravel roads in the north and east; metros, underground tube trains and channel tunnels may extend Sri Lankan’s travel from the newly developed area to Tamil Nadu, India and Maldives revolutionising the whole transport network of Sri Lanka.
As an additional boost to the economy crude oil and gas may start to flow from Sri Lanka’s north sea oil platforms to transform this pearl of the Indian ocean into a modern but mini USA replacing the motor bicycles and ‘tuc tuc’ three wheelers with ultra modern limousines .
Perhaps journalists writing about the future independent anniversaries may be able to write about how the Colombo Administration resolved the terrorist menace from the Sri Lankan soil for good by eliminating the radical fanatics who terrorised, suppressed and killed their own kind and found a political solution to bail out those helpless Tamil folk in the north and east, who were threatened and marooned by the terrorist outfit. This would not only will shut the faces of those who were naďve or for political gain became critical and kept on harping on a political settlement alone with terrorists who never wanted peace. Finally Sri Lanka may appear as a role model to combat international terrorism.
In this golden age, King Parakramabahu's advice to ‘make use of every drop of water before it is allowed to drain away to the seas’ may become a reality once again with irrigation developed, home grown food becoming plentiful and in abundance to be self sufficient, and Sri Lanka once again be self sufficient to be called the Paradise Island once again.
The underline factor is that freedom will last as long as people’ spirit lasts as a nation.