Towards a prosperous future | Sunday Observer

Towards a prosperous future

22 November, 2020

On the first anniversary of his ascension to the Presidency, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made an impassioned appeal to all Sri Lankans to join together to defeat their enemy number one – the Coronavirus.

During his wide-ranging address to the Nation on Wednesday, President Rajapaksa said that the pandemic can be contained only if the public cooperates fully with the health measures and guidelines in place. This is a moot point that he has stressed several times previously. President Rajapaksa said the Government has made all efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country based on a viable plan and has succeeded.

All should heed the President’s call at this crucial juncture and support the Government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. Some of the measures that we have to follow are rather simple and cost next to nothing such as washing hands frequently, maintaining social distancing, wearing a face mask and staying indoors as much as possible. Furthermore, to alleviate the suffering of the people and to keep the wheels of the economy moving, the President has opted for targeted lockdowns and isolations rather than opting for an islandwide curfew. Now we have to do our part if the country is to emerge relatively unscathed from this predicament.

Sri Lanka won the support and praise of the international community for its deft handling of the pandemic. This time too, the World Health Organisation and many other countries have pledged to assist us, the former by giving us access to the vaccines that are likely to be made available by next year. Indeed, the health authorities must use the goodwill generated by these efforts to secure enough supplies of the vaccines for our entire population. Two vaccine candidates are already available while two more are likely to come to the market by mid-next year.

The key here is having good relations with the rest of the world. Indeed, the President has stressed time and again that Sri Lanka will be following a non-partisan, non-aligned foreign policy. “We have once again shown the world our position as a proud, sovereign country, ready to maintain friendly relations with all the nations, non-aligned, non- partisan in conflicts between powerful nations. This is the reason today why we receive due respect from regional powers as well as global powers,” he said.

It is vital to maintain this stance to prevent any interference in our internal affairs by foreign powers in the present geopolitical context. As President Rajapaksa said his Government has succeeded in ending an era of betraying war heroes at international forums, selling national assets and willingness to accept any deal for short-term gains which allowed foreign forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.

In this instance, it is also vital to enhance our national security capabilities and to fortify our Constitution against any attempts by foreign forces to interfere in our affairs. Hence, the President’s determination to formulate an entirely new Constitution that takes into consideration new and future local and global challenges.

Talking of the future, a better-equipped future generation will be essential as we march forward. Education will play a big role in this transformation. Touching on educational reforms, the President said that two task forces have been established for the implementation of educational reforms to meet the demands of the modern world. There are plans afoot to build City Universities centering the cities in ten selected districts which do not have higher education institutes, he added.

Moreover, for the first time in history the Government will take steps to make it mandatory for university students to learn the subjects of English language and Information Technology, without a sound knowledge of which one cannot hope to have a career path in the future.

The President is very much focused on the future. As they say, politicians think of the next election while statesmen think of the next generation. It is to the latter category that the President belongs, with his far-sighted Saubhagyaye Dekma (Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) Policy Statement, which was endorsed by the majority of this country in both Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.

The President has taken cognizance of the future challenges in areas such as education, energy, agriculture and food security, environment and ecosystems, transport, health and a variety of other fields. The Government has already announced plans to construct several coal and LNG power plants and also solar and wind power plants. In fact, more than 80 percent of our electricity requirements will come from renewable sources by 2035. We feel that when import restrictions are lifted, the Government should give priority for the import of fully electric vehicles with a view to phasing out fossil fuel powered vehicles at least by 2040.

The climate crisis is an existential threat to humanity and it is time that our authorities formulated an action plan to reduce emissions by way of examples such as renewable energy and electric vehicles. It was also enlightening to see that the concept of national security now encompasses environmental and food security as well. Sri Lanka will need to grow more to feed more mouths in line with a rising population. This is where the President’s drive for local production of all important food items comes in.

The President’s Address to the Nation offered a glimpse of a prosperous future, which would be impossible without public cooperation all the way. Our first priority should be controlling the pandemic and implementing the rest of the plans for the future will not be that difficult afterwards.