HOOPLA is part and parcel of Sri Lanka. True to tradition and to dispel any doubt of being frugal about celebrations all stops are being pulled for the second swearing in ceremony of the president. It is an important occasion that cannot be doubted, but there are many ways that the money can be spent wisely.
Sri Lankans are well known for their stopgap arrangements. It is positive that the organising committee issued directions that no political images other than the president’s photograph can be used in the numerous cut outs and billboards that will undoubtedly dot the land come 19 November.
A string of other celebrations have also been planned among them to plant 1.1 million trees countrywide at 11 a.m. and the president’s brother is utilising Rs.1.1 billion in a massive infrastructure development project centred on Gampaha.
Usually these celebrations not only take up the valuable time of people, but they also result in a huge waste of resources. Planting trees is a great idea but the organising committee must take it a step further and ensure that these trees are taken care of for the future generation. The expense, time and labour that will be dedicated for a plethora of other ceremonies must keep the same goal in mind. Celebrations that tie into larger development and economic processors should be focused on.
At a time when the country is hungering for development and reconciliation – often in combination, landmarks such as this can send a strong message out, not just the world, but to our own people. Celebrating the occasion in an inclusive manner and including all the different ethnicities in these celebrations in a more meaningful way than parades would be laudable.
Genuine grievances have to be addressed with genuine solutions. They cannot be shunted behind fine words, loud music and empty promises. The government has to take this pivotal moment in history to show that the second term of the president will answer the aspirations of Sri Lankans as equal partners of one nation. It must give more than assurances, more than finger pointing and more than statements.
The recent footage shown on Al Jazeera underscores the importance of keeping the intentions of reconciliation in the limelight.
The government can deny till it is blue in the collective face, but people will only believe what their brains and conscience tell them is right. If the people are to be truly convinced then they must see real change on the ground. Inclusive legal frameworks, political rights and equal governance must be given in a transparent manner. These are the marks recognised by history.
Going beyond tree planting what is merely ceremonious must become imbibed with real meaning. How many people will even be moved by the speeches made if they do not see action implementing words? One and a half years after the defeat of the LTTE is there a government that the minorities can believe in? Is there a president that all Sri Lankans can trust in?
Idealistic as these questions are, time will demand an answer. With the 18th Amendment removing provisions limiting two-terms for each president, chances are that the people will see many more consecutive swearing in ceremonies. At this juncture the President has to present a report card to the people – that is what will value his true worth and found a peaceful nation.