Another New Year will dawn on the world tomorrow. This happens to be a leap year (when February has 29 days), so we have a whole 24 hours more to do whatever we like to do.
For many people, a new year means an opportunity to try out new things. These are called New Year Resolutions – in other words, goals that we resolve to accomplish within a given year. These resolutions can be determined at individual, collective or national levels.
The next year, 2024, will be a challenging year for Sri Lanka, whose leaders are committed to continuing the challenging path undertaken in the face of the biggest economic crisis faced by the country since gaining Independence in 1948. Although the queues are gone, there is a long road ahead to traverse until we are economically emancipated.
In the face of the acute crisis, Sri Lanka sought and received the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and countries such as India. President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Government are acutely aware that as part of the IMF process, there are difficult decisions and challenges ahead in 2024 and even beyond.
Some of these decisions are unlikely to be popular with the electorate in what is deemed to be an election year, though it is still not clear which election will come first.
Achieving peace and reconciliation, accelerating development, rebuilding the economy, consolidating the democratic gains already achieved and building a truly Sri Lankan identity are among the myriad challenges faced by the nation. Accordingly, the President has already announced the setting up of an independent Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation (CTUR) through an Act introduced in Sri Lanka’s Parliament.
The Government has said that the CTUR is intended to “ensure an inclusive process in developing legislation that strengthens and safeguards national unity through truth, transitional justice, reconciliation, reparation and social cohesion.” The CTUR will also aim to prevent any conflict between various ethnic groups.
It will be possible to go ahead with many, if not all of the stalled development projects in 2024 once debt restructuring takes place and funds are again unlocked by foreign donors. We hope that projects such as the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) expansion project and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project will recommence as part of this initiative.
But tasks such as building a truly Sri Lankan identity cannot be fulfilled by the Government alone. The citizenry must necessarily be a part of this wide-ranging exercise in a robust democracy such as ours. Hence, we should collectively resolve as a nation to participate in these noble endeavours in every way we can. That should be the number one New Year Resolution for all Sri Lankans here and abroad.
These do not have to be difficult or big steps. For example, if we all think as Sri Lankans instead of identifying ourselves as Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher the task of nation building will be much easier. The next time someone asks you about your ethnicity, just proudly say you are a Sri Lankan. Then our divisions and differences will automatically disappear, uniting us under the flag of Mother Lanka and paving the way for greater reconciliation.
There are other minor steps that can ultimately have a big impact on the country as a whole. In the New Year, if you follow road rules and maintain discipline on the road and if, most others think similarly, there will be fewer traffic offenders and accidents. Such a ripple effect will benefit the entire country. We can also resolve to save fuel and energy in the New Year.
Moreover, you can resolve to stay away from vices such as giving bribes – if everyone refrains from such illegal and immoral acts, bribery and corruption can easily be eliminated from society. These resolutions do not cost anything at all to implement, but the results are priceless.
As a nation and as individuals, this year should be about re-instilling age-old moral values in our minds. The wider society should take part of the blame for the moral degradation currently witnessed in society, since we are all engaged in a rat race to make more money at the expense of cherished values in a highly commercialised world. Spiritual uplift should thus be among our top New Year Resolutions. We should get closer to the religious teachings that we believe in and follow their advice.
Helping others who are less privileged than us must be a priority in the New Year. If you can spare some time to be with someone who has given up on hope, you can brighten their lives.
Hope is the one thing that drives the world. But we should not wait till hope finds us – rather, we should go in search of it. We should hope for a better world next year, sans discord and conflict. But we should work for it and home is the best place to start this journey in the New Year. Family harmony does radiate outwards to embrace the society we live in. It is the ultimate New Year Resolution that can change the world.