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Is our country really independent?

by Milinda Rajasekera

Human beings are different. They possess a sense of judgement to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice.  And they seek to protect, promote and pursue these freedoms and rights individually, collectively and politically. An individual or a nation is said to be free when circumstances permit that particular person or the nation to act according to their wishes for their own good. 
(February 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Independence, freedom, liberty are terms and concepts that are close to the hearts and minds of all living beings. Obviously, animals are also included. Some people, of course, tend to think that animals do not desire or need these freedoms generally regarded as those concerning human beings. That is why some of these animals are domesticated, caged, chained, tethered or cabined ignoring their growling, howling or screaming. However, since they lack ability for collective forms of resistance they are condemned to states of subjugation. Cruelty to animals arises from this situation.

Human beings are different. They possess a sense of judgement to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice. And they seek to protect, promote and pursue these freedoms and rights individually, collectively and politically. An individual or a nation is said to be free when circumstances permit that particular person or the nation to act according to their wishes for their own good.

Freedom from want and freedom from fear, freedom from disease are some basic freedoms that most hanker after. Those who lack money, wealth or other sources of income cannot enjoy real fruits of independence and freedom because they have to depend on the assistance or charity of others for obtaining their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Having first depended on parents they have to seek avenues of acquiring these needs. More often, if not always, it is by bartering freedom and liberty that these needs are obtained. The alternative left for them is to sink in the mire of poverty sans freedoms, rights and opportunities to lead fruitful lives.

Poverty, as it is well known, is a great hindrance to human welfare and a cause of widespread resentment and social unrest. Despite all human efforts to eliminate or alleviate poverty, millions of people around the world today are deprived of their basic needs, far from attaining much desired fruits of liberty that human spirit hankers after. Apart from poverty that saps them of their rights and freedoms, oppressive laws and measures adopted in certain countries rob millions others of their basic rights. The right to freedom of expression which is the basis of all other rights and freedoms is denied to them. They are thus deprived even of the opportunity of expressing their grievances.

A country that lacks resources or ability to develop the resources it possesses, and become self-reliant and self-sufficient, is similarly condemned to a situation of poverty and dependence. True, even developed nations today have to depend on other countries for their progress in the present context of global interdependence. The ideal of complete independence and self-reliance is an unattainable objective today. No amount of patriotism could make this dream a reality. Any country, however, has the potential to reduce the degree of dependence on others. With the right effort and perseverance any nation could utilize its resources to emerge from their parlous conditions.

It is abundantly evident that our own country, Sri Lanka, which had great potential to emerge as a prosperous nation after gaining independence, has failed to utilize the country’s ample human, natural and material resources to achieve the desired objectives. It would be useful to reflect on what caused this failure as we reach the 63rd independence anniversary. This country quite rightly accepted the concept of democracy as its method of governance and established various systems and institutions for its fructification. But it is evident that these systems and institutions have not succeeded in playing their roles effectively over the years to take the country to progress and prosperity. A redeeming feature of democracy sustained over the years, however, was the conduct of periodic elections though most were scarred by corruption and malpractices.

A major reason for this failure, as we look back, was the transplanting here of the Westminster model, lock, stock and barrel without giving adequate thought to the true state of the country and requirements of the people. As a result, the solving of national problems was thwarted and the country’s march towards progress was greatly obstructed. The country was pushed into political, economic and social turmoil. Periodic upheavals also punctuated the country’s history. One such disruption was the armed struggle launched by the LTTE which caused a major setback to the country’s progress.

A glimmer of hope appeared with the elimination of the curse of terrorism that plagued the country for several decades. An opportunity was created for the political and other leaders to unite and solve the national problems and work for peace, progress and prosperity of the country. But subsequent developments shattered this expectation of the people. Division and disunity among political parties and leaders became more accentuated as the rulers became more interested in pursuing their narrow and selfish objectives than in promoting national goals. They collectively failed to pursue the objective of formulating a lasting solution to the national problem through urgently required constitutional and electoral reforms and to promote principles and features of good governance. The country appears to be driven more and more into dependence rather than to full independence.

(The writer can be reached by mrajasekera@gmail.com)

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