By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando in London

Sri Lanka, whose material treasures and spiritual values acted as a magnet to travellers from around 350 BC. The Island was known by many names from Taprobane, Simundu, Salike, Sila-Diva, Serendib, Zeilan, and was under foreign domination from 1505 to 1948. During British governance, the Donoughmore Constitution gave the country an elected legislature - the State Council and the Universal Adult Franchise appeared to stay permanently.

Sri Lankan politicians derived training in legislative and executive functions, from the State Council. Some British planters and business hierarchy were instrumental in influencing Sri Lankan politicians to become 'masters' in their own affairs. Thus, history began to repeat itself - like in the case of Britons against the Romans.

A unique factor during the struggle for Independence was not to shed a single drop of blood in the battle for freedom. Finally 4 February 1948 dawned a new era for ' Ceylon' when it changed from the Colonial rule to an Independent state with full of promise.

Has Sri Lanka, after 57 years of her Independence, progressed as a nation politically, socially, economically and industrially? Today, will the word 'independence' mean anything to a generation that has grown into manhood in the post 1948 era? This new generation has heard and learnt from the history books how pious and united the Lankan community was, during the pre-colonial era. What ' Ceylon' had then was a tolerant and a law-abiding society, which stood out as a living example to the world outside. With a rich inherited strong culture descending over thousand of years, Lankans used to enjoy freedom in their own right as a people, prior to the invasion by foreigners. The very unity that existed among its people helped even to get rid of some of the rulers, prior to the foreign invasion. Sri Lanka's history reveals how their own subjects have dethroned some of the Kings who ruled Lanka whenever the rulers fell out of line or did not pay heed to the people's voice. It was a completely different era where a cordial interaction existed between the kings and the subjects.

In a post Independent phase, especially from early 1970s, this new generation has seen a completely different country. Looking at past records of the country people qualify to point a finger at the leaders of all political parties who had promised the sun moon and the stars since becoming their own masters and promised the nation the democratic existence.

Over the past fifty seven years these leaders from all political hues have made repeated promises to the people with all sincerity, especially during election times, but what have they done after coming to power? Rather than fulfilling their commitments and getting down to business with their own election pledges they have been obsessed with fault finding and criticising their predecessors instead. The post independent generation has seen violence, war, loss of life, injustice, and corruption destroying the democratic, political or moral progress in the country. In such circumstances will the word 'Independence' mean anything at all for them?

The ordinary citizen does not hope for much or except luxuries, but their only urge is to lead a contentious life with their kith and kin by hard work. In a broad generalisation, the majority of the people do not expect to run about in 'Inter-coolers' or live in air-conditioned palaces or have offshore bank accounts either! They are not interested in acquiring power nor do they want to massacre each other to come to power and breed a new army of underworld murders too. Any humble citizen's dream would be to have a roof over his head and a decent job to bring bread and butter home at the end of the month and to live in a just society, free of corruption, intimidation or harassment.

Sri Lankan politicians and leaders who ruled the country for 57 years throughout the so called Independence have been given a second chance on 26 December 2004, by way of a natural disaster, to mend their differences and work in harmony for the progress of the country and the welfare of its people, unfortunately at the cost of so many innocent lives. After the whole world community coming together and extending a helping hand to rebuild Sri Lanka, the time has come for all our politicians to open their eyes wide and to be realistic in their utterances and actions; most importantly to be united as One in all national issues and to restore and maintain the integrity and the independence of our nation which our forefathers gained from the Colonial rule.

This is the last chance for Sri Lanka, and if the leaders and politicians fail in their task even now, then those forefathers who fought and redeemed the country without shedding a drop of blood will otherwise be cursing from their graves when even after 57 years of independence Sri Lankans are still divided as a nation and keep on marching backwards.

Now it is more than a month after the Tsunami disaster when the Natural forces in a kind of a punitive means paved the way, for our leaders and politicians to wake up from their slumber and get the act together and work towards the progress of the country. Apart from distributing some immediate flood relief to the victims what have they done so far to restore and rebuild the devastated lives of the unfortunate who lost everything of a lifetime? What steps have they taken to utilise the billions of rupees pledged to rebuild the tattered infrastructure? Did they miss a golden opportunity to be united with all races in the country and to work for a common ground - the humanity? Why are the authorities still engaged in a political and/or bureaucratic football game and trying to pass the buck on each other in decision making about the reconstruction of the country? Are they only showing an interest in certain devastated areas, particularly their own constituencies for their own political gain, ignoring the human element wholesale? In such circumstances are people of Sri Lanka going to see huge political cracks due to such nonchalance?

Other Tsunami affected countries such as Thailand are already engaged in rebuilding their shattered economies and infrastructure rapidly utilising the millions of funds donated from the Tsunami appeal from all over the world. Shamefully when our policy makers, politicians and bureaucrats, in Sri Lanka, appear to be twiddling their thumbs and marking time at snails pace, how long the people of Sri Lanka have to wait to see the real progress of the country and signs of reaping the real benefits of the Independence we fought and gained 57 years ago? If they do not get their act together this time and put some effective, remedial performance quickly, it is dead certain that a different kind of political Tsunami will soon wipe them out from their power, for well and good for ever, rewriting the history of Sri Lanka.



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