What’s next, Sri Lanka?

Friday, 8 April 2022 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


As the events have been unfolding over the last few days, weeks, and months… it’s been difficult to understand what the country needs next. What can we endorse and stand for? It’s an uncomfortable position to be in when you can’t help something you so desperately want to help.

One thing is for sure right now: this Government has to go! The people have taken to the streets — in peaceful protest, as they should. Enough is enough.

Yet, we have to remain cognisant of the fact that this will continue to happen, again, and again, and again — if the systems remain unchanged.

I choose to cite Rohan Samarajiva’s article in which he describes the “Way Out” — similarly, as have others, but this one particularly highlights the dangers of jumping on any bandwagons which may have rallied popular support.

“There is much to be done. But if we seize this opportunity without being enticed by the demagogues, we still have a chance of saving this country.”

And it is precisely that — for too long we have tried to appease the immediate desires and prejudices of our citizens without logical or rational reason. It is the job of leaders to ‘uplift’ their citizens by creating awareness, opportunities, and foremost, space for education based on meaningful learning and critical thinking.

Once the immediate issues are addressed: basic needs restored with a fiscal plan in place — we cannot ignore the need for drastic social changes if we are to continue. We need to actively promote the evolution of our culture — to be more inclusive and find the place where social cohesion and active participation by women, youth and other marginalised groups play a critical role in our growth as a country.

These may be idealistic in nature — but we have to find ways to actively engage and contribute to this as citizens. Individually, and at all levels, we have to look beyond our social conditions. We have to re-evaluate our values, challenge the status quo, and question our roles, our actions, our responses —

How can we be better? How can our actions make our country better?

In practice, one example that will never get old is the need to advocate for women’s participation. Women constitute half of our population, harbouring multiple skills and talent — what a potential asset to our economies! Yet, there are so many barriers based on obsolete social norms and lack of supportive policy! Can these be justified? Gone is the time for debilitating social convictions that have been indoctrinated in us for generations! We have to endorse inclusive, practical processes and focus energies on implementing progressive, longer-term solutions.

At an institutional level too, the private sector plays an important intrinsic role. Companies need to revolutionise practices and policies — realising that bold decisions will come with bold rewards. Here too, currently, obstinate old men dominate the space for the better part of their egos. Find talent, train talent, encourage innovation, let go this fear of losing control. If institutions can operate responsibly with wider social goals and work as part of the social fabric— people too will be encouraged to reciprocate through accountability and performance. Businesses have a bigger role to play than merely profit: the part they play in social change, policy influence and economic growth is invaluable.

Not to mention, our notorious public sector, which is in need of a complete shake-down and can take a lesson or two from the corporates. These institutions need to be downsized for efficiency and made performance-based. After all, they are run by tax-payer money and by nature, exist to be a service to the people. Cue: partnerships and participation.

Communities. Communities are at the heart of this agenda. What is any of this, if not for the people? A country where people not only feel safe and looked after, but empowered and uplifted to be productive citizens. Isn’t the goal, prosperity for all?

Moving forward, whatever happens of our governance — we have to function with refreshed lenses. Now is the time to act differently. Act inclusively. Progressively. Have a vision of peace and prosperity — and embrace it.

(The writer is a development practitioner with an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK. She can be reached via email on [email protected])

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