A wish-list for the New Year
Posted on December 31st, 2022

Malinda Seneviratne

Landmark days, like the 1st of January and, more importantly for us in Sri Lanka, the Aluth Avurudda in the month of Bak (that’s April), are about renewal, discarding of hang-ups and errors, and a fresh page.  We are now done with 2015.  The year 2016 is ours to inhabit, revel in and decorate.  It is ours to mess up too.

Landmark days, like today, are made of kiribath, some decorations, greeting cards and everyone wishing everyone else makes for good cheer.   That’s all nice but in the end is but thin cover that other imperatives dissolve and pretty fast too. 

The year that left us or which we left, like all years, was yet another endorsement of the ata lo dahama.  Individuals, collectives and institutions were all subjected to the perennial vicissitudes; profit-loss, joy-sorry, praise-blame, and fame- obscurity.  It is unlikely that things will be any different in 2016, except for the shape and wrapping these things arrive in. 

Still, it is as good a moment as any to take stock, jot down some home-truths and make a few recommendations.

TO THE POLITICIAN:‘You are required to represent those who voted for you and not those who funded your campaign or are ready to give you commissions for favours wrought from power-abuse.  Those among you who are in government do not own this country, her resources, heritage, labour-power and culture, but are only temporary custodians.  Those in the opposition are required to point out flaw, offer constructive criticism and alternatives and mobilize people towards correction.  Your internal squabbles are boring.  All of you would do well to reflect now and then on your mortality. 

TO THE PUBLIC SERVANT:‘Your salaries are paid by the people and not the politician, even if the largesse” of the latter can impact, positively or negatively, your spending capacity and job-frill.  You may not be getting the salary you deserve but you are required to produce value equivalent to what you do get.  We understand that you probably have a family to look after, but urge you to take the long view, Sansaric if you will or, if you believe in a hereafter of divine make, then recommend reflection on Judgment Day. In short, we suggest that conscience” is of greater worth than the urge to maximize benefit.  Politicians come and go but the public remain.  We salute those of you who do your job, unmoved by brickbats and bouquets, carrying the deadweight that is the incompetence, arrogance and theft-intent of your colleagues.  We hope they become more responsible.  In any event, we are watching them.  They too are mortal.’

TO THE PROFESSIONALS: You are doing a thankless job and we appreciate.  We deplore, however, those of you who prey on the miseries, impoverishment and ignorance of those who seek your professional help.  There are those among you who deserve the tag ‘itu deviya’ but there are also others who are like Shylock and worse, like Antonio and Portia extracting far worse than a pound of flesh in the name of ‘justice’ or necessary service. We journalists belong to the same tribe called ‘Professionals’.  We are conscious of our mortality.’

TO THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY‘We do understand and appreciate the role you play in providing goods and services. We do understand that profit is an important driver.  We are not unaware that in all sectors you operate, there are those among you who engage in white collar crime, who are aware of and are not shy about slipping through legal and other loopholes and are willing and able to grease palms when convenient.  We know you have things to sell and know that not all things you sell are necessary and not all things do what they claim to be.  We applaud your enterprising spirit, but implore you to act like the responsible corporate citizen you claim to be in your annual reports.  You are mortal and moreover, will not take your bucks to the hereafter.     

TO THE BIKKHU, THE AYER, THE MAULAVI, THE PASTOR ETC‘With all due respect, live the word you speak, administer to the non-material needs of your respective flocks, take inspiration from the lives of your teachers and be worthy of respect and veneration.  All this, not on account of the garb you wear or the temple you reside in but the fact of embodying to the best of ability or your karmic endowment, the word you speak. 

TO THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION:‘This country is yours and if it is flawed in leader and institution that is partly reflection of your inadequacies, including apathy, lack of courage and sloth.  This country is yours in both its making and breaking, its slippages and renewal.  Spit on it and you spit on yourself.  It is yours to make fragrant, yours to defile.   This nation is yours.  This nation is you. 

Let 2016 be a year where we take concrete steps towards becoming a society based on community (including workplace) accountability, all united to protect our lands, airs and seas, and most importantly, the sweat of our labor!

*’This is a appropriately changed version of ‘The Nation’ editorial, January 1, 2011

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