The most complicated word in the world is …….

Ceylon Today Editorial

In what has come to be identified as the quintessence of his political and moral correctness, sobriety and humility, President Maithripala Sirisena in his address to the nation at yesterday’s Independence Day celebrations at the Galle Face esplanade underscored the characteristics of the rebirth of the spirit of the ways of a culture, an era if you may, a community, a refinement to which he has been appealing ever since he sought office in the 2015 Presidential election.

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He underscored that appeal once again but within a broader canvass, going to the extent of shaming not just his political rivals but enemies of this new society to the creation of which he has committed himself saying: “Some political rivals with hopes of capturing power are giving false interpretations to mislead the people about the government’s process of implementing these resolutions.” He was referring to his government’s plans and programmes to establishing the foundations of the sort of tangible freedom, democracy and reconciliation about which, he said his, “political rivals and various extremists are carrying out disinformation campaigns to implant wrong ideas to create unrest in the minds of the members of the security forces. He said he would hence especially appeal to his political rivals, “to commit themselves to fulfil their national responsibilities”.

Tracing factors which led to today’s apparent impasse in forging ethno-religious, communal rapport, harmony or whatever adjective one might use to define it, President Sirisena said successive governments since Independence, had given priority to develop physical resources and building of the economy. But if we (meaning those governments) had fulfilled the task to forge unity, reconciliation, brotherhood and friendship instead, we wouldn’t have faced the barbaric terrorism that lasted for 26 years “.

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He hence appealed to political social leaders to “understand the natures of the cultures, religions and languages of the country” so that the nation could together play a united role now in establishing these facets of real independence “in unity, irrespective of religion, race or caste” because “we have to ask our conscience whether we have solved the problems left unsolved by our forebears” which were “left behind for us to solve by those who invaded our country”.

He explained that this was why “we need to adapt to change because it is essential to carry out our governance collectively in unity with everybody in order to be successful in overcoming new social changes for the common good.

He added that “considering all this, we need to take a new look at the meaning of the freedom, and find new meaning in it for all sections of society”.

He added that “the most complicated word to define in this world is ‘freedom’. It has a wide range of meanings with expanded definitions. The meaning of the word, ‘freedom’ has been expanded in its scope. He was of course referring to the socio-political and economic contexts within which freedom can have – or not have – any meaningful relevance to the individual who does not feel free.

He added, “when we look at the new world and new ideas through our value systems and heritages of civilization, the word freedom has a comprehensive meaning. It is considered by the leaders and everybody as a challenging task. I would like to strongly emphasize that we should recall with honour the courage, self-confidence and determination of the Armed Forces, Police, Civil Security Department, Public Service, political leadership as well as the general public to achieve peace and freedom for our country defeating that brutal terrorism”.

He said progressive “new generations and a transformed political and cultural/communal ethos far advanced in comparison with those of 1948 when we gained independence are marked with new thinking and aspirations, attitudes, determinations and objectives. That should be understood by us as the main difference between the generations of the 1930s, 40s and 50s and the “advanced child of 2016 in this 21st century”.

In what some analysts saw as an oblique reference to the immediately preceding era of governance he said “we are not living in an era of the reigns of the kings”. He ended renewing his pledge to forge “peace, reconciliation and religious harmony…I pledge and assure you as the first public servant, Commander-in-Chief of the Security Forces and President, that we will fulfil all these responsibilities while safeguarding the independence and the territorial integrity, strengthening of the reconciliation process in the country as well as protecting the dignity of the government, security forces and the people. The passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to safeguard the democracy and the freedom of the people in this country is a major victory achieved by the new government”. “That was for you, the people,” he added.