SRI Lanka can. That is the message that every Sri Lankan can take from the win of Manju Wanniarachchi, who brought glory to the country by winning the first Commonwealth Games gold medal in boxing after the lapse of over seven decades.The rest, they say, is history. And history is most often written by one person – or it may appear to be the case for those who turn to those annals for lessons on life. But what is more important is the living lesson that we have before us today. That a simple, unassuming and quintessentially Sri Lankan man can bring glory and climb to international standards with support and willpower purely home-grown.
True, training can come from external sources, but what makes this win all the more emphatic is that it is done by someone or a group who had the insight to assimilate the training. Despite facing stiff competition from a teenager, Wanniarachchi had the capacity to adapt into his challenge and deal with it by using all the acumen within his grasp – that instinct to give all to that moment and achieve the best is something that we all can learn from.
Even with the backing of an influential and successful conglomerate, Wanniarachchi was up against some of the world’s best and had to beat the Olympic bronze medallist on his journey for gold. The facilities that many of the other athletes trained under would have been the best in the world and yet a Sri Lankan managed to better them all. In many ways it is a humbling moment and a time for everyone to take stock of the courage that this one solitary individual encompassed and channelled to reserve a page in history.
After three decades of war, Sri Lanka also has to gear up for a global challenge. In many ways the same tests that Wanniarachchi would have faced and the untold contentions await an entire population today. There will be many problems, both from the outside world and internal limitations. The quest has just begun and it must be remembered that even though it seems as if one person can change the course of the future, realising the dream of development requires work from each one of us. In this march there can be no one left behind or it would be an incomplete dream.
There are still millions of landmines to be cleared, thousands of people disabled by the war and tens of thousands who need adequate livelihoods to enjoy a decent standard of life. Bringing about real change that can be felt in the wallets and hearts of people is still slow on the ground and it will take decades longer for the country to recover from the ravages of war. In many ways Sri Lanka has to overcome a slow start from a less than privileged background and travel a long and arduous journey before reaching the desired end.
The comparison is beyond superfluous – it underscores the very need for Sri Lankans to believe in themselves and trust in their own tenacity. Clearly we have the power to survive – now comes the time to succeed.