Partnerships made in heaven

The Sri Lankan 5-0 whitewash of the English cricketers in the one-day series that ended on Friday must go down as one of the worst defeats of all time for England. Adding insult to injury, it was a double-tragedy last Friday: the England team also crashed out of the World Cup, losing the quarterfinals to Portugal in a penalty shoot-out.

Consider this: the fifth one-day game saw a massive 286-run partnership between Lankan openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga — both scoring centuries — to hand out England’s worst ever defeat even after the hosts had run up an imposing 321 runs in 50 overs. The cricket that we saw in England was all to do with partnerships and teamwork — an ingredient sorely missing in the political arena in Sri Lanka, especially on the peace front.

There were some fine examples to go by on the other hand. For example, the business world was agog with the news last week that Warren Buffet, the world’s second richest man, had donated most of his wealth to a philanthropy foundation set up by Bill Gates, the richest man. Any lessons for Sri Lanka? Many but here’s one, at least: An American billionaire giving away his wealth to the world’s poor and through another charity when he could have easily set up his own foundation and basked in the glory of publicity, and as a do-gooder. Instead he chose to give it to an organisation he believed has lived up to its name. Can we match the sincerity of the Buffet-Gates duo in coming together for a common cause, each one making sure the other is thrust into the spotlight?

In another bold move — unthinkable in our society where we hang on to positions till we get very, very old — Gates, just 50 years, said he was withdrawing from an active role in the company, handing over power to another senior executive and working full-time for his foundation. It’s rare to see that kind of connection here, though partnerships and affiliations for a common cause do exist. For example, when Hiran Cooray of the Jetwing Group and Abbas Esufally of the Hemas Group, two large business groups involved in tourism, addressed a meeting last week on the challenges for tourism, they spoke with one voice. Instead of making two separate presentations, Hiran and Abbas went through a 20-30 minute presentation sharing the same mike and standing by the side of the other at the podium.

They said there was a good future for tourism despite the conflict and noted that the new investment level in this industry was high. These drivers of the tourist industry plus the Buffet-Gates combination could provide a lesson or two for our leaders — President Mahinda Rajapaksa and main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe — in coming together for a common cause.

There is little doubt that the two parties these leaders represent can easily take this country forward, together, if there is a willingness to make sacrifices and some give-and-take. Civil society has pleaded for such a marriage. Partnerships like these are made in heaven. If Ranil and Mahinda are astute and interested in the long-term future of this country, Sri Lanka will be on the path to progress.

Samath, a freelancer, wri-tes for THT from Colombo