Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
13 October 2012. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Thursday that we live in a country where the naked demonstration of the abuse of power, the shameless indulgence in corruption and nepotism, the violation of human rights and the rule of law had become the order of the day. Speaking at the United Nations Day celebrations held at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, she said, “The sudden and accelerated onslaught of the free-market economy, the capitalist system dumped upon the existing ancient, rural and feudal socio-economic, cultural structures, sent shock waves which could not be absorbed soon enough by the existing systems.” “The traditional societies where caring for each other as equal as well as between the elites and those who served them was burst asunder, without a credible, acceptable set of social practices to replace it.” “The absolutist powers bestowed on the Executive Presidency and the abrogation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution have no doubt compounded the situation,” Ms. Kumaratunge said. Freedom is one of the several eternal values cherished by humans. Democracy is founded on the belief in Freedom. Many are the battles and wars fought in the name of Freedom. Freedom is composed of the right to think freely, to talk and express one’s thoughts freely, to practise one’s beliefs – religious or political freely, to have free access to Justice and the Law. It also implies respect for the freedom of the “other”. I am deeply disturbed to find that a considerable number of people talk about their rights, while refusing steadfastly to accept that the “others” have rights too. They seem to believe that their rights must be guaranteed at the expense of the rights of others. We do not realize the one obvious truth that our Freedom becomes a full and lasting one, only when the Freedom and Rights of others are secured. If this is not so, the “others” will rise up and fight for their dues and by that very act hamper and negate our Freedom. When we let respect for Freedom and Democratic Governance disappear, we will have laid the foundation for autocracy and dictatorship. I say all this, to emphatically underscore the responsibilities that fall upon religious leaders and educational institutions. In this context, your responsibility is a sacred one.