SL was supposed to do the best in this region, but where did we go wrong? – Mangala Samaraweera

SL was supposed to do the best in this region, but where did we go wrong?

– Mangala Samaraweera


Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera appealed to the youth to be wary of disruptive forces and not to fall prey to the machinations of extremist elements.

He was speaking at a ceremony to lay the foundation for a new swimming pool in honor of Kumar Anandan, who swam the Palk Strait at this very spot at Velvettiturai in Jaffna 57 years ago.

At that time, Sri Lanka was a prosperous, peaceful country. In fact, when Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948, 69 years ago, those who have read Lee Kuan Yew, the late Prime Minister of Singapore’s memoirs would have seen him calling Sri Lanka a model Commonwealth country, the minister noted.

“Ceylon, as it was called then, had some of the best universities in Asia. We had some of the best government servants in this part of the world. Believe it or not, we had one of the most disciplined police forces in South Asia. And of course our GDP was much higher than many other countries in this region”, he said.

Continuing, the minister said: “We remember when we were young, we used to call slum areas ‘Koriyawa’, meaning that we consider Korea as a poor country. When presenting the first budget of independent Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew had mentioned that his ambition was to surpass Ceylon’s growth rate in the first five years. Unfortunately 69 years later, if we genuinely do some soul searching, we can see that we are still at the bottom of the ladder. And it’s time. In a few more months on the 4th of February 2018, Sri Lanka will be celebrating its 70th birthday. And I think it’s time that we, as a country, did some serious soul-searching and really find out where we went wrong.

“The most promising country in Asia. The country which was supposed to do the best in our part of the world. Where did we go wrong? That is the question we should be asking ourselves. I believe that where we went wrong was the fact that we could not as a country after independence, come to terms with the diversity of our country. We were not able to celebrate our diversity and instead we became victims of different philosophies of extremism. Our youth became victims of extremists, both in the South and in the North.

“In the South during these 69 years, we had two youth insurrections and in the North, a problem that most probably could have been solved easily, finally turned into a bitter and brutal war where innocent people from both sides of the divide had to suffer. So the time has come to say never again, and that is why President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are doing their best to implement certain policies which will ensure non-recurrence of the tragedies which our country had to face over and over again over the years.

“Even though some of these changes and reforms may not take place at the pace many of us would like to see, we are committed to these changes, we are committed to democracy, we are committed to non-recurrence and, of course, we are

committed to rapid development. Especially the rapid development of the North and the East is very high on the agenda of our country. President Sirisena has visited the North, I believe by now, around 14 times. That I would say is a clear indication of the importance that we attach to the development of your area and to make sure that all grievances of the past are addressed”.

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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