The homily of Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith last Sunday at the Tewatte Shrine of Our Lady has stirred the political pot. It is because some people thought it was out of context at a crucial religious event held as a healing service.

Analysts are trying to dichotomize the merits of his discourse and the temperament he displayed during the sermon.

Many people opined that he should have delivered his message within religious confines rather than dabbling in politics.

There is an onus on the Archbishop to speak about the Easter Sunday attack and what steps the government should take. He should have used the forum to exert pressure on the government by demanding an international investigation which would have been more appropriate and.  Showed him in a better light.

It inevitably falls within the scope of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop to seek justice for the victims of terror, who are primarily Catholic devotees.

Talking about the land bridge that connects India and Sri Lanka is out of context as far as political analysts see it.

The Archbishop should focus on the victims of the attack, not political issues. Seeking justice for the victims of the attack should be a priority for the Archbishop.

The Indo-Lanka Land Bridge is only an idea conceived in the minds of policymakers and needs to go through a myriad of technicalities before it becomes a reality on the ground.

Some people will support the idea, while others will oppose it for many reasons that may be political. The Archbishop ostensibly expressed his opposition when he called for a referendum to determine the people’s choice on this crucial matter. It may be a good idea to hold a referendum on important national issues, but can Sri Lanka afford such practicalities despite the constitution providing for it? The country has to look at the problem pragmatically before embarking on an expensive exercise. The economy is such that the government is unable to feed the poor and those below the poverty line. The economic catastrophe has virtually wiped out the country’s lower middle-class groups and dragged them down to abject poverty.

The addition to the adjudication of the Archbishop that ancient Sinhalese kings only dealt with India on matters of trade and commerce is a statement that calls for isolation and protectionism against the outer world.

Is the Archbishop not open to change and will not move with the times to ensure a better future for his flock or the people? The Catholic Church itself has moved along with the times and shed the more stringent canon laws that were part and parcel of its existence in the olden days and oppressed the people. The Catholic Church has also adopted more modern practices, such as allowing priests to celebrate mass in different languages. They have also become more open to dialogue with other faiths and people of different backgrounds, and innovative and novel methods are in place to interact with the laity and keep the flock intact.

Connecting Sri Lanka with India via a land bridge is purely the prerogative of the political leadership. The opposition in Parliament could take up such issues more comprehensively and with additional vigour, leaving the clergy to engage in spiritual work. Some think the government should prioritise this project and ensure its expeditious completion. It should also provide adequate funding for the necessary infrastructure. Monitoring the onward movement of the project is critical to ensuring that it is completed on time and within budgetary limitations. Unquestionably, some pros and cons should be discussed openly in political forums before reaching a final decision. Land connectivity will enhance the tourist influx and facilitate trade between the two countries with great ease. It will also provide employment opportunities and boost the local economy. Furthermore, the project will help foster a sense of unity between the two countries. It can also increase the frequency of smuggling attempts between the two countries and, hence, needs stringent security arrangements to arrest the high volume of misdemeanours.

The Archbishop also referred to the open economy as the reason for the present economic crisis. If we kept our doors closed to the external world, we could have missed out on economic opportunities and economic growth. Hence, there should be a driving force to take advantage of the current global situation to promote tourism and trade. It is up to the government in power to explore technological advancement without harping on the outdated machinery donated by some socialist country. With obsolete machinery, it would be a compelling task to compete with other countries in the global market.

In these circumstances, the open economy was the most convenient vehicle to lead the country towards novel technological innovations that would benefit it in the long run. The nation should focus on investing in modern machinery and technology that may help it gain a competitive edge in the global market. In addition, the government should provide incentives to encourage research and development in technology. Finally, the government should ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to support the implementation of the latest technologies.

As a step towards accomplishing those objectives and moving forward in the global arena, the closed economy opened up gradually to achieve those objectives; therefore, the open economy cannot fall within the category of a flawed misdemeanour, but people are concerned about the mismanagement of the economy, which has been exceedingly rampant since 2005. The open economy has allowed for more foreign investment, which has given additional impetus to economic growth and enhanced job prospects for the people. However, this has also led to an inequality of social status, as some people have benefited from it more than others. The government needs to ensure that the benefits of the economy are shared equitably and that the infrastructure and latest technologies are in place sustainably. Various political analysts have argued that an open economy would not have resulted in such economic misery as mismanagement could have.

Religious leaders could constructively get involved to stem the ever-rising streak of criminal activity through the country. The rising splurge of felonies and criminality have claimed many lives within a short period, and the government is under increasing pressure to take rigorous measures to suppress criminality by directing the security forces to open fire when necessary to bring criminal activity under control.

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country, while other faiths such as Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are also effectively practiced with equal intensity in temples, churches, and mosques. But despite all of that, what we see today is an ever-increasing trend in criminality that needs the immediate involvement of religious dignitaries to correct the failing and diminishing ethos of society.

In the meantime, the Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka has issued a statement urging the government to relieve the misery of the poor.

The Bishops’ Conference called upon the government to stop unnecessary rhetoric about the government and put an end to the relentlessly unfolding political drama that would not bring any benefit to the people. They insisted that the government should instead focus on addressing the nation’s most pressing economic and social issues. They called for a renewed effort to foster national unity and reconciliation.

They have pointed out the escalating effect of the cost of living, and that people are not able to keep the home fires burning. Children are being deprived of their right to education and logistical facilities are scarce as far as they are concerned. People are without food, surviving on one paltry meal a day, and the country’s law and order situation is deteriorating by the day.

The government should take cognizance of the warnings issued by the Bishop’s Conference and provide urgent relief to the needy.

In Sri Lanka, politics takes precedence over anything else. Every step the government takes is immersed in self-serving politics withgovernance put on the back burner.  It has made the current political atmosphere volatile as never before. The opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has pooh-poohed speculation that his party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, and the United National Party would go together to face the next presidential election. Premadasa hasdeclared his intentions to contest, and so has the Jathika Jana Balawegaya leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, despite the efforts of the ruling party rebels in the Dallas Allahpperuma group to find a common candidate. The common candidate always puts the third-strongest political party on the back burner. This was a common occurrence in the two presidentialelections in 2010 and 2015.

In 2010, it was Sarath Fonseka, and in 2015, Maithripala Sirisena carried the mantle of the opposition political entities. However, it looks quite different on this occasion if all the candidates representing the UNP, SJB, SLPP, and JJB come forward to be in the fray. There may be backroom discussions in progress with the SLPP trying to field a hitherto unknown candidate for the presidency, virtually giving up presidential stakes to keep their party intact and secure the main role in the opposition. In the meantime, the incumbent president is trying to woo a sizable group from the SJB to make his dream a reality. With all this political drama unfolding in the centre stage, everybody’s guess is who will be the next president of Sri Lanka who could salvage the country from the deep economic precipice.