2018: aspirations, hopes | Sunday Observer

2018: aspirations, hopes

For the new year ahead, some people look for predictions, others simply aspire. The ‘predictions’ are by analysts - both astrological and social scientific. ‘Aspirations’ are the stuff of human hopes and are based on real social needs and interests.

We leave the predictions to the analysts, since, as a Sunday newspaper, our duty is a weekly moment’s reflection on the people’s condition and action needed. In this final week of 2017 and a dawning 2018, we must assess the state of the nation and clearly indicate the contingencies to be met and desired actions to deal with them.

Politically speaking, as a nation recovering from a devastating 35-year ethnic-secessionist war, we look forward and, aspire to, building the peace. We all know that while the actual military fighting may have ended in 2009, the conflict between ethnic communities continues. Indeed, we are regularly reminded of this continued conflict of interests between communities by the continuing outbreaks of communal violence that target the smaller ethnic groups.

In fact, if the long-drawn-out secessionist insurgency essentially reflected the animosity and rivalry between Sinhalese and Tamils, the regular outbursts of communal violence since the defeat of the insurgency have actually widened the conflict to involve Muslims and Christians as well. 2017 saw a repetition of the sporadic ethnic violence that occurred in 2016 and in the years previously.

2018 stretches ahead with the unfinished business of post-war peace building and reconciliation. The language equality issue, the original cause of the ethnic conflict, still remains unresolved: the full use of the Tamil language across the country in official work, day-to-day transactions and in public notifications is yet to be implemented.

Ironically, the private sector is leading in multilingualism while the public sector lags behind. For example, private hospitals now make announcements in all three national languages while the public railway system does not. In the banking sector, documentation and notices are trilingual, but the State bureaucracy doggedly remains monolingual – sometimes even in ‘Danger’ notices.

The exercise of constitution-making will also occupy our political horizon in the new year and require the attention and participation of all citizens, if not in action, at least in positive thought and, when opportunity arises, a positive vote.

Economically speaking, the government faces the unenviable task of meeting mounting debt repayments while trying to curb inflation. If, indeed, there has been gigantic plunder of public monies by past governments, it is up to the government to unearth these finances and recover the billions of rupees of loot to be put to public use.

The several massive wasteful projects launched by the Rajapaksa regime that need rehabilitation and adjustment for viability – Mattala Airport, Hambantota Harbour, Colombo Port City, Uma Oya are but the tip of the iceberg. And new infrastructure projects launched by the current government also need careful monitoring during 2018 to avoid those same corruption and inefficiency problems. Only firm convictions in the corruption cases will convince the citizenry that the new government is serious on corruption.

A third task in the economic sphere is the attraction of foreign direct investment. Sri Lanka lagged far behind other emerging economies in FDI in 2017 and, the government needs to focus on this goal in the new year. At the same time, the national business community also needs to generate far more capital investment within the country. While investments abroad by Sri Lankan firms may make good headlines, there is no guarantee that the profits made elsewhere will come home and not be re-invested elsewhere.

The natural environment must also be a priority concern in 2018, by the government, the business community and civil society. The global climate crisis is real and we, too, are beginning to experience its dire symptoms. On the one hand, more long and intermediate term policy measures need to be put in place if Sri Lanka is to meet targets for reducing gas emissions, atmospheric heat and tackling toxic waste. On the other, the country’s disaster mitigation and response systems need urgent fine tuning if landslides and floods are not to remain major killers and livelihood destroyers.

In all, there are many aspirations and hoped-for tasks to be achieved in 2018. The Sunday Observer joins all Sri Lankans in looking to the new year with hope.

Sri Lanka’s UN vote

If the proverbial ‘loss of a horse-shoe nail’ saw the loss of a whole kingdom, that same logic does not apply to Sri Lanka’s ‘yes’ vote supporting the UN General Assembly Resolution that rejected and condemned the United States’ formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital. A single vote does not invite disaster in the form of US ‘vengeance’.

Sri Lanka’s vote was in line with this country’s compliance with numerous previous UN resolutions, adopted policies and protocols. In joining the other 128 countries that voted in favour of that resolution, Sri Lanka can congratulate itself for its dutiful compliance with UN norms and standards – for once. After all, Israel’s forced military occupation of the whole of Jerusalem city continues to remain an act of naked aggression against another country, namely Jordan, which held West Jerusalem as a ‘protectorate’. Israeli military occupation of that holy city and the rest of the Palestinian territory is illegal and is in violation of numerous UN resolutions. Its treatment of the population of these occupied territories is also in constant violation of UN laws.

Sri Lanka’s vote was not an act of hostility against either the US or Israel but, rather, an action to remind these two fellow-UN member states of their own duty to comply with international law and human decency. This country remains firmly in solidarity with the Israeli people and their right of nationhood in direct parity with the right of fully restored nationhood of the Palestinian people.