Independence - 67:
Need for eternal vigilance and national harmony
“There is no easy walk
to freedom, anywhere. For, to be free is not merely to cast off one’s
chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of
- Nelson Mandela.
World Philosopher from Africa. (1918-2013).
The 67th Independence Day dawns upon us bringing in its slip-stream a
whole cornucopia of positive gifts to the masses at large.
The current Independence Day celebrations unfold in a wholesome
atmosphere of unique national achievements. This time around, we have
initiated a positive move towards the winning of a national goal that
had continued to be elusive, almost from the day we gained our
Sri Lankan people have always yearned to lead lives of peaceful
co-existence. All nations invariably possess, such healthy and humane
differences as ethnic, religious and linguistic variations. In the past
tragic decades, disruptive elements in Sri Lanka attempted to utilise
these divisions, as centrifugal forces to bring about conflicts between
these different groups.
We have paid sorely, for allowing those disruptive hordes to raise
their ugly heads and to grab our innocent men and women, in their
blood-soaked hands. In about 30 years, harmless citizens of Sri Lanka
were massacred in hundreds of thousands, mainly because those diabolical
beasts could exploit our divisions, to engender cold-blooded murders in
the name of divisions.
At long last, we have indicated vehemently that as a unified nation,
we are prepared to say – ‘enough is enough’, and that we cannot be
manipulated to fly at each other’s throat, at the will of those
blood-thirsty demons. A change has now happened.
This is decidedly a national triumph, because on this day of
Independence, National unity has emerged as a positive, collective
But this is not exactly an end by itself. We can keep on talking
about, all those exalted ideals. Lip service alone does not build
structures. Nor does it bring about immediate “sea changes” enabling men
and women suddenly to be transformed into totally free, responsible and
democratically enlightened model citizens.
Independence implies training the citizens to savour freedom fully.
Leaders should see to it that the citizens are adept at utilising the
liberty they gained.
An anecdote is quite relevant here, I feel.
In the South of the US, a land-owner operated a sugar-cane crusher.
He utilised a horse to turn the crusher. Yoked to the crusher the horse
goes round and round working the crusher.
The owner took pity on the animal and freed the horse, allowing it to
roam and wander, wherever it liked, in that vast plantation.
Next morning, when the owner awoke and surveyed the place to his
shock he saw the horse he freed. Though it was untied from the yoke, he
saw the horse, still going round and round, round and round, in spite of
the fact that the vast plantation stretched before him.
Those who are not quite attuned to the true spirit of Independence
are very much like that liberated horse. Unaware of the liberty granted,
they keep on going round and round, in steady obedience to the slavish
mentality, they had been bred into for long years.
The true leaders of a society have to set the people the proper
example in using the acquired Independence, in positive and meaningful
But, unfortunately, we just cannot see some of the leaders, serving
as role models for the messes they exert their rule over.
It is quite disconcerting to see how some leaders participate in
public discourses, especially in electronic media. They keep on mouthing
thread-bare shibboleths endlessly, without any deference for their
There are some group-discussions, that end up in near fisticuffs.
Untrammelled exchange of views, is a staple factor in places, where
liberal life-styles flourish.
When we aspire to united nationhood, the primary social virtue we
have to cultivate is tolerance. A whole series of components, has to
come together, to form a united and independent national unit.
The component segments, merge in the larger national entity - fully
and totally - preserving the ways of behaviour, unique, specific and
particular, to those participating entities.
Conflicts, within a National Unit invariably occur, when people
overlook the inescapable obligation to understand the ‘ethos’ of each
component, within the larger whole, they adhere to.
The celebration of the 67th Independence Day, is the right moment to
begin this empathic approach, towards the component elements within our
The bitter carnages of the past decades should be the incentive that
will nudge us towards understanding each other intimately.
Those of us who are around today to celebrate this Day of
Independence, are being formidably challenged. We are the group
especially called upon to strengthen the National Unity, that
characterises the 67th Independence Day of Sri Lanka.
All of us who are witness to this praiseworthy, initiative whether we
like it not - have been assigned by history to be accountable to
generations to come. If we mishandle this moment, and plunge this noble
land once again, into an era of conflict and blood-shed, future
generations, will never forgive us. To ensure continued, peaceful
co-existence, we have to pay a price. Wendell Phillips sets it down in
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty - power is ever stealing
from the many to the few. The hand entrusted with power, becomes the
necessary enemy of the people.”
A massive demand is made on the rulers of a free, united land.
Wherever possible they are under obligation to pare down their
life-styles to set an example to their people.
But in a modern state, a ruling coterie, becomes elitist, by
convention and by constitution.
Even so, they can lead their personal lives, in a disciplined format,
while utilising the luxuries offered by office.
The official paraphernalia is utilised with the fullest awareness,
that it is for the office. The person can remain austere and light.
Although such a concept may seem proper theoretically, in real life,
many of those who come to power are easily deluded by the trappings of
office. This is a professional hazard that afflicts many a leader.
The general tendency of many of those who attain positions of bower,
is to allow themselves to be brought under an authority - induced spell
of miasmic euphoria. Once caught up that way, those leaders may get
easily led stray from the path they should tread to strengthen the sense
of National Unity.
Fortunately for us in Sri Lanka today, we seem to be blessed by a
breed of rulers who are prepared to uphold austerity and simplicity as
the proper assets of a leader, endowed with humility essential for the
emergence of virtuous and humane leadership.
While celebrating the 67th on Independence, the people in this and
will earnestly seek the kind of leader who will prioritise the
well-being of the masses to the exclusion of a search for an elitist
style of life for themselves.
History has given us a rare opportunity to be the generation that
will leave to those who come after us, an undivided land, that will
never allow life to be marred by violent power seekers – again.
For all we know, our leaders may very well pioneer a simple way of
life that will distinguish a time leader of the masses.
In current Sri Lanka a significant event that took place about 2,500
years ago in Rome, could probably get repeated.
In the 5th century BC a citizen of Rome named Cincinnatus, was
ploughing his field, in the vicinity of River Tiber. Mincius, the
beleaguered consul of the day came to the field, seeking the assistance
of cintinnatus, to resolve a conflict that confranted the land.
Cintinnatus, the statesman, left the field and freed the land through
his exceptional skills in governance. Pleased, Consul Mencius offered
him rulership. Thanking the consul for his gesture, Cintinnatus went
back to the field where he had left his plough.
Today such simplicity is never called for. But, to sustain the
National Unity that is being forged, eternal vigilance and selfless
austerity are very much needed from the leaders.
They set the trends to the masses, enabling them to safeguard