The Sunday Leader

Whither Patriotism!

By Faraz Shauketaly

To the casual observer, Sri Lanka has everything going for it. Emerging from a 30-year civil war, concentrated largely in the Northern and North Eastern provinces, the country has shown remarkable progress. Government spend has gone through the roof, and the private sector has not been left behind.

The Colombo Stock Exchange has steadied and has provided rich harvests – especially for investors who made their move during difficult climes – in spite of palpitations last year. The Central Bank has averted financial disaster a la Britain, Spain and Greece in spite of the better efforts of suspects such as Lalith Kotelawala, Golden Key and the rest of the much-maligned Ceylinco Consolidated companies.

Tourism has not seen a boom quite like this perhaps ever since President Jayawardene opened up the economy following laissez faire policies. The war and the attendant security risks are firmly behind the people, and indeed some say the party celebrating a return to ‘normalcy’ is still going on. Whilst all this is going on and the country is working steadily towards a benchmark per capita GDP of USD 4,000, the Marxist ideology (in the form of the JVP) continues in the manufacture of mischief wrapped in the guise of the national interest.

The people of Sri Lanka, says a European parliamentarian, are myopic. Indeed the legacy of violence and terror carried out by elements of the JVP appears to have been forgotten – but in the Northern Province we can’t seem to miss the steps in place to ensure ‘that’ does not happen again.

Reputation Management front

Sri Lanka continues to battle the Reputation Management front. On the one hand there is the rump of the LTTE in key overseas destinations like Europe and North America working overtime and continuing to illegally raise funds in the forlorn hope that a separate state can eventually be obtained. On the other hand is the JVP’s near subversive activities locally.

The government finds itself stymied on some fronts. In Britain, certainly, with a first-time ever coalition government in place and the ethnic vote playing a key role in at least 20 marginal seats around the Greater London area, the LTTE-leaning diaspora have found a new impetus. Neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor Nick Clegg’s Liberals (or for that matter the Labour Party) dare ignore the increasingly vocal demands made on them by the Diaspora.

Locally even the so-called United National Party – the official mainstream Opposition party – clutches at straws and involves itself on matters that are not fully investigated, and has joined the bandwagon of innuendo and claims that cannot be justifiably defended outside of the privileges of parliament.

A recently formed Trade Union movement for journalists has annoyed the government so-much, the innuendo claims, that an attack has been carried out on an officer of the Union. The source of funding of this particular venture remains hazy at best.

Adding further fuel to that is the unsubstantiated claim of the existence of a ‘file’ said to have the evidence required to prove corruption at a high level. The UNP have ignored many other cases of National Interest perhaps because these current matters make for more international newsprint. To engage in such rhetoric is far from equitable.

The government in retrospect may well have been better advised on the handling of the so-called CJ43 affair, although some aspects of that matter have found its way to Court. The fact that the Chief Justice of the country must be able to live up to the requirement of being “whiter than white” appears lost to all sides.

The business of government, it appears, is a somewhat thankless task; one is damned if one does not act and one is damned anyway if one acts in the national interest. The meaning of the word impartial somehow seems to have been misplaced along the way.

Dipped Products

The private sector has not been left out of controversy either. The recent case of a factory owned by one of the most diversified conglomerates in the country being forced to close down operations, however temporarily, offers little comfort to those entrepreneurs who have toiled hard, survived through the war years and who now have a legitimate (and indeed constitutional right) expectation of equitable treatment as the country’s economy zooms ahead. Dipped Products PLC is perhaps one of the most successful commercial stories to come out of Sri Lanka: their expertise and their resolve to be the best in whatever they do has seen the company sharing a position said to be within the Top 5 globally.

That’s right – globally. The fact that this one company is responsible for over 3.16% of Sri Lanka’s exports has sadly been overlooked. That theirs is just a single entity within a water basin that is 772-square Km big has also been skilfully ignored by the protagonists masquerading as the JVP-leaning trade unions. The real value of a Trade Union Movement has been easily circumvented by the JVP-unions resorting to near subversive activities in support of 120 members of a Union who were all dismissed after the company followed precise legal and established procedure. A little known fact is that the Dipped Products productivity actually increased after the miscreants were dismissed, vindicating the actions of a professionally run company.

The wood it seems cannot be seen for the trees: amongst the many businesses owned by the same Group is a not too dissimilar factory located in Thailand. Have the so-called responsible JVP realised that with almost a single stroke 800+ workers may actually join the ranks of the unemployed should the facility shift its production outside of the country. No one will fault the management if they did so out of sheer frustration. On the other hand to stay may well be the actions of one governed not by facts but by the heart.

Spineless Opposition

It is not to say that Sri Lanka is some utopia only found by some. Certainly not but as the adage goes, Roman was not built in a day.

Prior to the completion of the Southern Expressway to Galle, much was made of the expenditure.
Now that the hoi-polloi can ‘run up’ to Galle, have dinner and be back in time for bed, the negativity has fallen by the wayside.

And so too with some of the more pressing matters: like the judiciary for example. The rights of the internally displaced and the minorities are key issues awaiting resolution.There are many aspects of development that are quietly taking place without a lot of fan fare. That the opposition is likely to say is because transparency is lacking. Why pray does the Opposition remain silent instead of highlighting these issues? The fact remains that the people of this country are a singularly unfortunate lot in terms of politics: they lack a key ingredient of democracy: a viable, effective and vibrant opposition.

The Opposition in Sri Lanka are either masters of the subversive or are akin to jelly fish – spineless. As for the JVP, it is beyond reasonable understanding how a party with such little national appeal can consider itself to be part of any Opposition.

They have shown, time and time again, that they have not lost any of the enthusiasm for undemocratic behaviour they displayed in the past – including going back to the days of the 1971 incidents. If the JVP are true to what they loudly exhort – that they act with the interest of the nation at heart – they would resist the temptation to play within the realms of subversiveness and resort instead to playing a dynamic role in Opposition and holding the government accountable where accountability is demanded. Now that would be a breath of fresh air.

1 Comment for “Whither Patriotism!”

  1. gamarala

    The ‘crossovers’ from the opposition enticed by cash,positions and perks by the government are the persons who totally weakened the opposition.
    They deserrted their parties and their voters for personal gain.
    They are the Political Scum of sri lanka.
    Knowing this,blaming the opposition is unjust & idiotic.

Comments are closed

Photo Gallery

Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes