One of history’s great lessons is that there is power in unity — the power to face any personal crisis, social or national crisis. When religious or racial diversity also comes in, more power is manifested. It is with such insights and reflection that we tomorrow celebrate the National New Year where Sri Lanka’s two major communities and indeed others also come together in a spirit of unity to celebrate what is largely a cultural festival linked to the movement of the sun, though special religious events are also held. We need to reflect and even take National New Year resolutions on some priority issues that go beyond petty party politics and are for the common good of all the people of our country whatever their religion or race and whatever their social status though obviously more attention needs to be given to the impoverished or oppressed people.
The first of these issues, now being tackled by the national unity government, is poverty alleviation mainly by bringing about a more equitable distribution of wealth or resources providing nourishing locally-grown food to the people, equal educational opportunities and productive or creative jobs especially for the rural youth.
In 2016 President Maithripala Sirisena personally launched the mission to provide nourishing and non-toxic locally grown food — grains, vegetables and fruits — to the people. At present Sri Lanka is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to import junk food, processed rubbish or in the latest Donald Trump terminology, fake food. For instance most people are aware that imported powdered milk is to a large extent artificial milk with flavour enhancing substances and preservatives added. Boiling fresh milk and letting it overflow is a traditional custom for the National New Year. We hope the people will make a resolution to use fresh milk in the New Year and the years to come. This could also be a practical step towards national reconciliation where in the South and the North incentives are given for dairy farmers to revive the fresh milk industry and market it with refrigeration facilities. Another vital aspect of national food production and poverty alleviation is to encourage the people to produce and eat “wasa wisa nethi” or poison-free food mainly by using organic fertiliser which we could again produce locally at a low cost.
The second vital area where people of all races and religions could come together is the battle against climate change or global warming and the mission to discover eco-friendly solutions to this crisis. Tomorrow being the festival of the sun we need to remember in a special way this year, creative ways in which we could harness the sun’s power to give us solar energy. More incentives need to be given to institutions or households that agree to install solar energy panels so that in the coming years the sun will become our main source of power and energy. Sri Lanka as an island paradise has sunlight or sun power for almost 12 hours a day and everyday of the year. It is only the global climate change crisis that has prompted us to look to the sun for an co-friendly solution to the energy crisis. The sun provides its light, power and energy freely to all and we need to acknowledge that we have been blind or ignorant to this solution that is freely and readily available to us, whatever our race, religion or social status.
With the Middle East or Syria especially and the Korean Peninsula on the brink of a potential catastrophe because of war and violence, we need to also make a National New Year decision to commit ourselves to the peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and unity in diversity among people of all races or religions. In this way we hope that while we enjoy our Kevum and Kokis we will also go beyond and reflect on the food for thought to bring about lasting reconciliation, a just society and peace.