Looking forward with optimism | Daily News

Looking forward with optimism

The dawn of every New Year usually brings with it new hopes and aspirations. However the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, will see a marked departure from the traditional wishes of the people associated with a New Year. Instead, every hope and prayer would centre on the prospect of the release of the world from the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic that is gobbling up thousands of lives each day across the planet and for a speedy return to normality in all aspects.

Such an effort will definitely require the cooperation and resourcefulness of not only the leaders of the countries currently under siege from the pandemic and health experts who are now striving to put together an effective response to counter the threat, but also the people who will have to redouble their efforts in following the strict health guidelines especially in the wake of the advent of several strains of the virus that are said to be much more potent and dangerous.

Here in Sri Lanka too, 2021 is not going to begin auspiciously with more COVID-19 afflicted cases being detected each day in alarming numbers. While a vaccine is on the way to the country, hopefully by March, according to the authorities, the emphasis should be to see through the intervening three-month period with strict adherence to health guidelines. The people hope for a better New Year than the one that dealt a blow to the economy at a time it was on the cusp of recovery.

Of course measures are being taken by all concerned to devise ways and means of containing the virus, beginning at State level, with all available financial resources being mustered towards this end. However at the same time the country cannot lie in hibernation allowing the Coronavirus to rule over the State and our lives.

If 2020 was spent in suspense and inactivity for the most part, the beginning of 2021 has generated much hope and optimism for restarting the country in earnest with measures already put in place to reactivate several sectors that were lying dormant for a nearly one year.               

Beginning today, all cinemas will reopen following the green light given by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, albeit for a limited audience, while the groundwork has been completed for the arrival of tourists to the country after a year-long hiatus which paralysed this vital sector of the country’s economy, throwing tens of thousands out of their jobs.

Schools too are to reopen in the second week of this month which hopefully would end the “on-off” cycle that marked school academic life for nearly one year disrupting the education of the young.

As we mentioned in these spaces yesterday, the people are gradually adapting themselves to the New Normal concept that sprung from the Coronavirus in respect to their work and general routines and hopefully would resolve themselves to observe the health guidelines in the strictest terms in the New Year not giving in to lapses that were frequently observed by sections of the public in the recent past.

The New Year is bound see many changes in policy decisions of the Government given the prevailing circumstances thrown up by the Coronavirus and also much debate can be expected on the political front towards the end of the year when the proposed new Constitution sees the light of day.

The process towards the formulation of the new Constitution has already commenced with public and expert opinion still being gathered and presented to the drafting panel headed by an eminent President’s Counsel.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not wish to rush to bring in a new Constitution before giving ear to all shades of opinion since a Constitution automatically becomes a fait accompli once enacted and what is done could not be undone. True, the Government commands a two-thirds majority in Parliament enabling it to bring in vital amendments should the necessity arise. But all aspects should be considered given past experiences.

With no elections on the horizon (the Provincial Council polls have been put off indefinitely amidst the pandemic) and no other distractions apart from COVID-19 to contend with, the coast therefore is clear for the Government to concentrate on rebuilding the economy, and, importantly, delivering on its promises.            

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will also have to deal with a myriad of issues ranging from finding solutions to the human–elephant conflict that is getting worse each day, attending to the problems of the farmers, devising measures to increase export revenue, relieving the country of the enormous debt burden and also exploring avenues of relief to the thousands afflicted by a shrunken economy hit by COVID-19.

In that respect 2021 could well be a challenging year for Sri Lankans, as with the populations elsewhere in the world, where the pandemic has exacted a heavy toll.