I probably was one among millions of people in Sri Lanka privileged to receive a SMS from the President, wishing me “a peaceful and a happy New Year”. (A large majority who do not own a cell phone would receive no such wishes from the highest in the land). While many might argue this to be another gimmick of the President to gain popularity at the expense of the exchequer, I was prepared to grant His Excellency, these minor indulgences, since it causes little harm to anyone, and may even give an ego boost to some, to receive a direct wish from the President himself. However I thought if the President had taken the liberty to wish me out of the goodness of his heart, then I felt obliged to return his wishes. I therefore typed a message to the President, and tried sending it using the “Reply” option, only to receive a automated response stating “invalid contact details: President”. It is obvious that the privilege of wishing is only one way when it comes to the President. This is understandable given that if everyone decides to return his wishes, his phone could be clogged by millions of messages (some of which may not be very pleasant to read too!). I thought however to share with Groundviews, the message I had wanted to send to our “Dear Leader” which reads as follows:

“Thank you Sir for your kind wishes. While returning your wishes, I am sure you will realize that you as the President of this country, can do a lot to make these these wishes of “peace and happiness”come true for you and us, the citizens of Sri Lanka, by ensuring that the country is administered with respect for good governance, democracy and above all the rule of law.”

My decision to send this reciprocal message stemmed from the fact that I remember receiving similar messages in 2011, both on Jan 1 and also for the Sinhala & Hindu New Year. But when one looks at the track record of the political administration of the year, what one saw was a trail of mismanagement which brought neither peace nor happiness to many people. When the President wishes his fellow citizens (though some feel he sees them more as his subjects), he should realize, that as the Head of the State with untrammelled powers (JR once said that the only thing the President couldn’t do was make a man a woman and a woman a man!), his actions or inactions can determine the peace and happiness of the citizens of Sri Lanka.

A review of the events in 2011 makes this very clear. The crime rate in the country has soared to unprecedented levels including nearly 500 murders and 1600 rape cases reported being upto November 2011. Kusal Perera in the Sunday leader today, states that there were 241 cases of kidnappings/abductions. Corruption, wastage and abuse are rampant. The bid for the Commonwealth Games spending nearly Rs800m and the Mihin Air losses in the billions are examples.

The education system is a sordid mess and the recent A/level debacle is a case in point. The bungled implementation of the veggie crate policy saw hundreds of farmers and vendors up in arms. Custodial killings resulted in two police stations being attacked after suspects were killed while in custody.

The murder of a much loved doctor in Karandeniya was a dastardly act involving contract killings undertaken by security personnel. (Ironically it is to the military institutions that university students are sent for leadership training.) The recent killing for the first time in the country of a foreign tourist, took the country to its lowest point. There is also the gun duel in broad daylight between rival politicians(a sitting MP and a former MP) from the same party, that ended in one of them being killed and the other seriously injured. Political thuggery is the order of the day with politicians themselves behaving like thugs (even inside the parliament sometimes) with non ever being brought to book.

Recently I attended a wedding reception at the Galle Face and when returning to my vehicle, on a curb adjoining the hotel, I saw a mother sleeping huddled with her two young children because of the cold that is being felt in Colombo these days. It was only the previous week that night races were organized for the rich to flaunt their (often ill gotten) wealth.

Now one could ask me what has this got to do with a kindly President (with probably no precedent) who takes the time to wish the citizens of the country on such celebratory occasions. I have reason to do so, because this situation has arisen not only because of inept criminalised political governance and administration, but also because of political complicity in these lawless acts which brings so much misery and social unease to many people in this country. The deliberate creation of a special breed of sycophants comprising academics, professionals, bureaucrats has also helped consolidate the situation.

In such a situation these wishes are seemingly very hollow and serve only to create a deceptive illusion of benevolence.”

  • Observer

    every year someone complains about this sms. i feel inclined to reiterate something i said about a year earlier here. those that want to blame the rajapakse administration for all the short comings in the country, why dont they instead complain about lack of a strong opposition party in the country who could do things better (dare i say it)?

  • LalithS

    “In such a situation these wishes are seemingly very hollow and serve only to create a deceptive illusion of benevolence.”

    How true!

    This must a sick joke he is playing on the people of Sri Lanka!

  • Ranil

    “A large majority who do not own a cell phone would receive no such wishes from the highest in the land”

    A presumptuous start to the article: the vast majority of the country does, in fact, own a cellphone. Suggest you look up stats of cellphone penetration. Hence the medium used.

  • luxmy

    I don’t have a cellphone. But there is a New Year appeal to the President:

    The look on your face in recent photographs reflect an inner immense fear.

    You have had two terms by pleasing=following the voters in number enough to keep you in the position.

    Start planning to follow the Buddhist precepts at the end of this term.

    • kusum

      You mean to appeal to him:
      Please follow your head-and-heart.

  • How can we have a ‘peaceful and happy New Year’ with so much lawlessness and selfishness? Poor little mothers shivering on the pavement with their babies, while Colombo’s rich, race and party.

    A happy and peaceful New Year? how?

    Silence would have been better than meaningless greetings.Hollow, hollower, hollowest.

  • silva

    Can you be the President in bringing a New Year with a ”paradigm shift” in post-independence Sri Lanka by implementing the LLRC recommendations please?

  • silva

    Any message in Tamil to the Tamil-speakers?

  • kadphises

    We wish you a prosperous New Year too with our taxes, as your prosperity is a more likely reality than ours’.

  • kusum

    Vino Gamage

    New Year appeal:

    No firearms for citizens other than the armed forces please.

  • ‘When good people run things, everyone is glad,

    but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans’.

    ‘A leader of good judgment gives stability,

    an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste’.

    (Proverbs 29.’Message’ Bible)

  • Ward

    My New Year appeal to the President:

    Please reverse what SWRD Bandaranaike started. All these days you have been going in the direction erroneously set by SWRD Bandatanaike. Please reverse and go in the opposite direction(SWRDB couldn’t reverse his direction when his conscience began to prick him):

    ”It is only after a long period of being prepared, pushed, and threatened by leaders who control the army and the airwaves; it is fear and hate generated from the top, and not ethnic differences, that finally push people to commit acts of violence. People may come to fear or resent another group for a variety of reasons, especially when social and economic change seems to favor the other group. And yet such competition and resentment “at the ground level” usually does not lead to intergroup violence without an intervening push from the top” – John R. Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” Journal of Democracy 7.4 (1996) 3-14

  • Ward

    Dear President,

    ”States do make choices, particularly about political processes, that ease or exacerbate intergroup tensions. As political scientist Donald Horowitz has pointed out, if we consider only their starting conditions, Malaysia ought to have experienced considerable interethnic violence (for the reasons given above), whereas Sri Lanka, where Tamils and Sinhalese had mingled in the British-trained elite, should have been spared such violence. And yet Malaysia has largely managed to avoid it while Sri Lanka has not. The crucial difference, writes Horowitz, was in the emerging political systems in the two countries. Malaysian politicians constructed a multiethnic political coalition, which fostered ties between Chinese and Malay leaders and forced political candidates to seek the large middle electoral ground. In Sri Lanka, as we saw earlier, Sinhalese-speakers formed a chauvinist nationalist movement, and after early cooperation Tamils and Sinhalese split apart to form ethnically based political parties. Extreme factions appeared on the wings of each party, forcing party leaders to drift in their directions”

  • Ward

    Sri Lanka: Lessons to be learnt

    “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” John R. Bowen, Journal of Democracy 7.4 (1996) 3-14,

  • silva

    Dear President

    There has been an unfinished business for all our rulers. Will you finish it please – just become a statesman. You can do it – please forget about the *”curtains”:

    ”When a government, however popular, begins to pander to racial or religious emotionalism merely because it is the loudest of the raucous demands made on it, and then meddles in the administration and enforcement of law and order for the benefit of its favourites or to win the plaudits of a crowd, however hysterical it may be, catastrophe is certain.
    At the risk of losing the monumental support of the anti-Muslim Congress sympathisers, Mahatma Gandhi once said: ”No cabinet worthy of being representative of a large mass of mankind can afford to take any step merely because it is likely to win the hasty applause of an unthinking public. In the midst of insanity, should not our best representatives retain sanity and bravely prevent a wreck of the ship of state under their care?”
    Can anyone doubt that if this glorious principle of statesmanship had been applied in Ceylon the bloodbath of 1958 could have been avoided?”
    – Emergency ’58 – The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots, Tarzi Vittachi (1958)

    (* ”President Rajapakse for once in a lifetime spoke the truth. “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, 13A Plus, Minus, Divided or Subtracted, it will be curtains for me” – Sri Lanka: Indian Delegates go Home Empty Handed, Kumar David, 15 June 2011 – http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers46/paper4558.html

  • Mohideen

    Dear President

    ”The defeat of the LTTE has provided President Rajapakse a golden opportunity to settle the problems of the Tamils once and for all. His current popularity among the Sinhalese could make them accept whatever solution he puts forward to the problem saying that it is the need of the hour to bring about lasting peace and prosperity to the country… If he misses this opportunity, the problems of the Tamil will remain a festering wound in the body politic of this country and would necessitate the maintenance of an oversized military force which the country can hardly afford, due to fears of the defeated forces rising from their graves, persisting” – http://groundviews.org/2010/05/23/opportunities-and-challenges-facing-post-war-sri-lanka/

  • kusum

    Dear President
    You have ignored the reports of a few commissions you appointed. But please don’t ignore LLRC recommendations. Please implement them and walk towards the people slowly and steadily. They will make you a king.

  • huck

    our money his wishes and people think hes benevolent and get their egos pumped…. how sad