One year on… | Daily News

One year on…

One year is not the ideal yardstick, whereby, a fair assessment could be made on the record of a leader in delivering the goods to his countrymen. Particularly, if that leader is someone who is a stranger to politics and its machinations. However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa can be reasonably happy of what he has achieved during his first year in office in a situation where progress has been blighted by a deadly pandemic that has brought leading world economies to their knees.

Extraordinary

From the very outset it was clear to all that here was a leader who was not cast in the traditional mould of politicians the Sri Lankan public have come to know, but a leader who was infused with a different outlook and looked at things differently from that viewed by the archetypal politician. He demonstrated this from the first day in office by ordering the removal of his portraits and images from the walls of all state institutions and Government Departments. He also dispensed with the large security detail hitherto deployed in the Presidential guard, settling instead for the bare minimum and also expecting his Ministers to follow suit.

In the past, the public were made to endure much hardship and inconvenience due to Government red tape personified by the unwieldy ARs and FRs – a legacy of our colonial masters -which to say the least not only drove the ordinary public from pillar to post to get even a small matter attended to but also placed obstacles towards attainment of larger State goals such as attracting foreign investments.

One of the first tasks of President Rajapaksa, on assuming duties, was to simplify methods and systems making it convenient for the public to obtain redress without let or hindrance. In fact the President even took the extreme step of prevailing on the public not to be hemmed in by Government circulars but to act on his solemn word to have their matters attended to without hassle. To ensure everything was in order he also frequently visited the rural out-backs coming into close contact with the villages and solving their problems on the spot, as it were. Ministers and senior Government officials were also required to present their record of work periodically to ensure that follow up action was taken in pursuance of his instructions.

Delivering election promises

The Coronavirus pandemic was in no way an impediment to the President in delivering on his election promises which would have certainly baulked leaders before him given the magnitude of the crisis that, needless to say, precipitated a drain on the Treasury. Certainly, no leader in a poor country such as ours would have taken the extraordinary step of providing instant relief to a whole community, hemmed in by curfews and lockdowns with financial handouts and material relief in view of the huge financial burden this would entail on an economy already in the doldrums. The pandemic was also no obstacle to President Rajapaksa in creating employment opportunities to 100,000 youths including those without qualifications – a segment which was ignored and left to fend for themselves under past Governments, that was a contributory factor to youth frustration and social unrest. Not stopping at that, the President has also ordered the construction of over 35, 000 housing units for low income families to be completed before completion of his first term.

Since assuming office exactly one year ago, President Rajapaksa took several measures to right the many wrongs and neglect of the previous dispensation and addressed a host of issues that impacted on the country’s identity and cultural heritage .President Rajapaksa lost no time drawing up plans to protect and develop the country’s archeological sites that were allowed to lay waste during and after the war years ,and ,what is more, reclaim the sites and monuments that were in dispute and restore them into the rightful hands. He has appointed a Special Task Force to identify and demarcate all archeological sites in the North and East in order to wrest them back to where they belong, while at the same time ensuring that the cultural rights and historical monuments of others are not disturbed.

Combating underworld crime

One of the most standout election pledges of President Rajapaksa was his professed resolve to effectively combat underworld crime and eliminate the narcotics trade from the face of the soil. Even his critic will have to concede that the President had lived up to his word in this regard.

Today, not only have all the big names in the narcotics business and the underworld been apprehended and their networks crippled but also the dragnet had been thrown far and wide with view to a identifying the behind -the scene players such as Banks and Government departments that were in cahoots with the drug lords, thus raising hopes that the narcotics trade in this country is in its death throes, though understandably it will be premature indeed to entertain such hopes given the over-arching nature and the dimensions assumed by the global narcotics trade.

During the election campaign, and thereafter, the President had also right along been a firm advocate for changing the county’s education system to make it employment oriented and in keeping with the changing world and modern trends. His vision was for pride of place given to technocracy in achieving results .With this vision in view he has proposed a change in the general education curriculums and a shift in the University course studies and higher education as a whole .A Special Task Force is presently studying the necessary changes that will be recommended to overhaul the country’s education system to bring it on par with world standards.

Non-Aligned Foreign Policy

On the foreign front policy front, President Rajapaksa is sticking to the Bandaranaike policy of Non-Alignment He has claimed that he will not has hitch his star to any one of the Super Powers , although he would welcome investment from any quarter for the benefit of Sri Lanka. The President had repeatedly made his stance known to the world leaders he had met during the first year in office.Many development projects are already underway with Chinese investment dating back to the earlier regimes such as the Colombo Port City project which stands out as the Jewel in the Crown of all mega development projects hitherto undertaken that promises to take Sri Lanka to new levels of prosperity.