Groundviews

Wishes for a peaceful and a happy New Year from the President

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.”