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Sunday, 1 February 2015

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Government Gazette

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 others.”

- 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 Independence.

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.

Enough

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 value.

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.

Liberty

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 ways.

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 audiences.

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.

Empathic

The celebration of the 67th Independence Day, is the right moment to begin this empathic approach, towards the component elements within our nation.

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 these terms.

“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.

Awareness

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.

Pioneer

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 hard-war Independence.

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