“Freedom carries grave responsibilities. Our acts and omissions are now ours. We can no longer blame others for the faults and errors of our administration. It is therefore the duty of every citizen of Lanka to seize this opportunity and strive and work of their own free will to advance the happiness and prosperity of the country. Our nation includes many races, each with their own unique culture and history. It is up to us to blend all that is best in us and set ourselves with the resolve to build this high quality and join with other nations of the world in establishing peace, security and justice for all the peoples”, – DS Senanayake (1884-1952), “Father of the Nation” and first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, February 4, 1948.
One cannot miss the relevance of the above perfectly worded message from the late DS Senanayake in today’s context as the nation enters the 75th year of independence from colonial rule.
Last week, the Nation marked the 74th Independence Day with a well-rehearsed state ceremony where colorful parades, cultural events and the display of military might took center stage, in keeping with the tradition. As we take pride in and honor the country’s historic accomplishments and the countless sacrifices of our ancestors to achieve these milestones, may it also be a time of introspection to see where we are today as a nation and if we can really be proud of that status.
Seventy-four years after liberating the country from the clutches of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonizers, who succeeded and ruled this island for about 450 years, we still dream of true socio-political and economic freedom. , national unity and development.
To date, the country lacks coherent national policies in vital areas such as education, environment, agriculture, electricity and energy, and short-sighted policies aimed at the instant gratification of the masses. elections have dragged the country deep into a dark tunnel. Positioned in the midst of one of the worst economic and currency crises in its post-independence history, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country depends on foreign lenders for the continuation of even essential supplies of the population. .
As the quote from the late DS Senanayake quoted above suggests, no one but ourselves should be blamed for the current sad situation in the country in many areas, especially on the economic front. Needless to say, this is not the work of one or two years, but all successive governments in post-independence Sri Lanka have had their part in it with their political expediency and greed for power.
Call to the Nation
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his Independence Day Address to the Nation, showed his political will to take the difficult roads less traveled for the good of the country and its people despite what his detractors would say.
“When we lead the country in the right direction, we know that the support of every person in the country cannot be expected. We are not ready to abandon our plans for the future prosperity of the country by looking at those who will not change. Our goal is to do what is right for the country, not to please everyone,” he stressed.
“Leading a team towards a vision is not easy. Changing existing methods, however well intentioned, is not easy either. On some issues, local and foreign forces are organizing against us,” he added.
The President, throughout his address, also attempted to pour in a lot of positivity to dispel the dark thoughts that surround people’s minds and infuse them with determination and encouragement.
“We can only succeed on our journey with a positive attitude that looks to the future with optimism. We can only overcome the challenges we face if we dedicate ourselves to a victorious journey. Pessimists do not change the world. don’t even have the ability. Those who are used to criticizing, without proposing a solution to a problem, have no vision for the future. The world has been changed and will be changed by these people with positive ideas, who dream of a future with optimism and strive to make it a reality,” the president said.
President Rajapaksa, speaking to local and foreign dignitaries in Independence Square last Friday, expressed his resolve to pull the country out of rough seas while weathering the storm.
“What the people expect from the leaders is to manage all these crises and move the country forward, but not to escape the problems… None of the crises we are experiencing today are long-term problems. We can find solutions for them with an optimistic approach. There is a role each of us can play to speed up this process. We must all strive to do our best for the country by carrying out our responsibilities appropriately,” he stressed.
Towards the end of his speech, the President reiterated his call on ministers, parliamentarians and other politicians to set an example for the people by making more sacrifices for the country.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Prof. GL Peiris yesterday concluded a three-day official visit to India where he met his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla, in New Delhi.
This visit comes against the backdrop of Sri Lanka looking to India for broader financial assistance to overcome the country’s economic crisis. The current package granted by India amounts to US$1.9 billion, and includes a US$1 billion line of credit to import essential items such as food and medicine, a line of credit of US$500 million to import oil from India and the SAARC currency swap of US$400 million.
“Productive talks with the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor GL Peiris. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Focused on additional measures to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security. Exchange of views on fishermen’s problems and agreement that bilateral mechanisms should meet soon. Recognized the importance of increased tourism for economic recovery. Also noted the importance of connections between people through greater connectivity. We will mark 75 years of our independence and diplomatic relations appropriately,” Dr Jaishankar said on Twitter at the end of the bilateral talks. The meeting was also attended by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India, Milinda Moragoda.
The Indian foreign minister’s Twitter post said “energy security” was among the topics discussed at the meeting. The minister, Prof Peiris, commenting on this aspect in an interview with StratNews Global editor Nitin Gokhale, said on Monday: “If we can connect to the Indian power grid, that would be hugely beneficial. Currently, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) generates around 4,300 MW, while the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), (India’s largest energy conglomerate), has the capacity to generate 60,000 MW. In Mannar, we have the potential to generate 5,000 MW of wind power”.
Recently, media reported that India’s NTPC has expressed interest in a joint venture for a solar power park in Sampur, Trincomalee. The media also reported that an Indian business tycoon had shown interest in investing in wind projects in Mannar and Pooneryn.
The government has turned to renewable energy rather than coal as a policy and aspires to meet 70% of its electricity demand from sustainable energy sources by 2030. The country is currently experiencing a crisis of electricity due to a number of factors such as shortage of dollars to purchase fuel to generate thermal power, drop in hydroelectricity production due to dry weather and non-commissioning service of new large-scale power plants since 2014.
During the same interview, Prof. Peiris pointed out that there is no arm wringing from India regarding the issues of Tamil-speaking people in the North. Commenting on the fishermen’s problems, the minister stressed that this was the “one constant irritant” between the two countries, which otherwise have strong and flourishing relations.
Responding to a question on the country’s current financial situation, the minister said the government was considering debt restructuring, adding that some debt restructuring was inevitable. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an option, but not the only option. We are currently examining other options such as bilateral arrangements, but IMF assistance is not excluded. Sri Lanka has shown resilience and its outlook is not bleak,” the minister remarked.