Public perspective, economy and health precautions | Sunday Observer

Public perspective, economy and health precautions

21 November, 2021

Since the inception of the pandemic breakdown nearly two years back, most people in the world were compelled to cope with the restrictions and lockdowns, leading them into fear, insecurity, and isolation. On the other hand, due to the unplanned extra time available, most of the people underwent new experiences in essentials in life and perhaps more consciously considered a new way of thinking.

In Sri Lanka, the entire citizenry came together as one to combat the pandemic. In unison, the general public not only followed the health restrictions and guidelines but also assisted the Government’s efforts in every possible way. Positive public response was common during the three successive lockdowns. That was the praiseworthy common positive attitude of the Sri Lankan community, historically prevailed during any national crisis.

The word ‘attitude’ is described by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this”. Also, the British statesman, writer, and historian Sir Winston Churchill said that “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”.


Attitudes are often the results of upbringing or experience that has a powerful influence on the individual response to emotions towards a particular object, person, thing, or event. Hence, the positive public attitude during the Covid-19 can be cited as the best example where success was achieved in controlling the spread. This example is a clear indication that if the general public stands together with a positive viewpoint on national issues, the country can resolve many problems.

What are the main obstacles that hinder the unity of the Sri Lankans in important national issues? The most appropriate answer is the existence of multi-party politics. It is a fact that a democratic country is governed by the representatives elected by the people in that country.

Nevertheless, throughout the post-independence period, the elected representatives were more interested in votes in the oncoming elections rather than genuinely supporting the policy framework or development efforts. Every politician wants to get re-elected.

Particularly, during the past five decades, the opposition politicians, regardless of their political ideologies, have not backed the ruling Government on common issues. Customarily, they oppose whenever a Government comes out with any type of proposal. Specifically, whenever a ruling party proposes a radical change aiming at the country’s development or progress, the opposition either paints a negative public picture or goes into trade union action.

For example, the achievements through public unity on the Covid-19 battle could be easily marred by the ongoing seemingly politically motivated public protests organised by farmers on chemical fertilizer, teachers & principals unions on salary anomalies, and others.

No doubt that the reasons for most of the protests are justifiable, yet the time chosen is extremely volatile because of the new daily increases in Covid-19 cases the public gatherings are not appropriate. However, those who organise protests know this health threat, yet provoke situations. The intention of the backers of the protests evidently is not public wellbeing, but political gains.

Indeed, healthy democratic politics depends importantly on the free flow of information among citizens, groups, political parties, and the Government. Hence, the public must be allowed to express their displeasure by way of protests.

However, the information about the controversial circumstances must be truthful, based on genuine facts, and can be substantiated. In Sri Lanka, with the availability of unregulated free social media platforms, misinformation and disinformation flow is immense. Misinformation and distorted facts spread by the people with vested interests deteriorate the situation further and threaten the general health situation more.

Even Government ministers and parliamentary members make contradictory public statements against their colleagues, in support of protesters. Seemingly, they concentrate on their vote bases rather than the overall benefit to the country. Most often, politicians, both Government and the opposition are not prepared to risk their votes in the oncoming elections. Hence, politicians, typically known as gold diggers, always strive to swim with the tide.

Foremost priority

The truth is that the general public is aware of this fact. Nevertheless, due to various reasons most of the time they keep sending the same set of politicians to the parliament to make policies. Historically, the suitability of whom to vote is decided more on personal perspective than facts.

The first and foremost priority is the public need. In reality, the important factor that should be considered is not who does, but what is being done. When the whole world is rapidly changing towards development after the suppression of Covid-19, in Sri Lanka, political parties and trade unions irrationally obstruct every positive attempt taken by the Government. Most often these obstructions are politically influenced and it is not genuine widespread public opinion.

The habitual attitude of the political Opposition is described by several cartoonists on the day of the budget speech on November 12. Sri Lankan cartoonists, considered extremely talented, have indicated that even before the presentation, the opposition is holding a placard stating that the budget is an utter failure, without even knowing the contents.

On the other hand, the Government benches keep making statements that the oncoming budget is tremendously successful. Unfortunately, this was the commonest phenomenon for the past seventy years on parliamentary budget presentations.

Regrettably, in Sri Lanka, private investments meet with resistance by opposition politicians. The public attitude and opinion are forcefully changed constantly by some of the political parties whenever the private sector involvement is announced on a privately funded development project or investment.

Particularly, a so-called leftist party that has no substantial vote base or parliamentary representation ever supports, encourages, or promotes foreign investments that are a dire requirement to the progress of any country including rich nations. They intend to disrupt and destroy Governments.

Not only do they never propose alternatives but also their opposition to the private sector engagement is unfathomable. It is purely political hypocrisy and opportunistic political application, merely targeting votes. This political party seems to oppose the successful private sector presence that contributes heavily to the country’s economy.

The country is in dire need of foreign revenue. The major sectors that earned foreign revenue have not recovered from the downturn in full as yet. Except perhaps revenues from apparel and traditional exports, other vital sectors, including foreign employment and tourism will take considerably more time to get back to at least what it was before the pandemic.

Therefore, foreign direct investments are treated throughout the world as a short-term remedy to increase foreign revenue. However, the Government’s recent efforts to bring in foreign investment were disrupted almost entirely by these dubious elements.

Public opinion

On the other hand, the Government has not been sufficiently successful in addressing the general public to change their perspective on these foreign and local investments. Public opinion is an extremely vital element for successful governance. Similarly, the public must be properly made aware of the real-time situation and the importance of commercially viable projects.

The public must be told about the successes achieved by institutions such as Sri Lanka Telecom, Sri Lanka Insurance, state banks, Lotteries Board, and many other such profit-making state-owned enterprises. These institutions together with the general public keep funding loss-making institutions and Sri Lanka’s over-stretched public sector.

The country is in an economic crisis at this juncture. The lost two years due to the pandemic and the colossal public funds spent is unrecoverable. Hence, public opinion must be directed to the revival efforts without any further delay. In order to achieve success in altering public standpoint, a consensual effort from all political parties, both the ruling and opposition, is an absolute necessity.

Since the independence, petty political differences and divisions in public viewpoint made Sri Lanka regress from financial prosperity. Controversial political decisions, negative policies, continuous negative political influence on public opinion, political hypocrisy, and opportunism have stopped the country’s overall progress.