“Liberals Must Stand Up”
The program was guided by defined objectives: Gordon Mackay, the Secretary General of Liberal International (LI), came to India and Sri Lanka to get a better understanding of the state of liberalism in this part of the world and discuss possibilities for establishing sustainable relations in the region.
Liberal International is the world federation of liberal political parties. With member parties in all parts of the globe, it is an “anomaly” that the group has no established partnerships in South Asia, and particularly in India, the biggest democracy on earth, said the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s (FNF) Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus.
“Coming from South Africa, India for us is an important reference point”, said Mr. Mackay, a former Member of Parliament from South Africa, in a discussion forum with leading members of India’s most prominent liberal organizations.
Among the tangible results of this and other meetings is the intention of the LI Secretary General to include liberal influencers and civil leaders to join international liberal activities.
Introducing Mr. Gordon to the Foundation’s partners Regional Director Dr. Meinardus highlighted the closeness of FNF and LI: “We are united by a common objective to promote liberalism in the world”, he said. “Call us allies, and you’re right.”
Multitude of Challenges
Apart from New Delhi, where he delivered the keynote speech on the occasion of the Foundation’s 60 years’ anniversary celebrations, Mr. Mackay visited Bangalore and Colombo.
At a well-attended debate forum in Bangalore, also known as “India’s Silicon Valley”, Mr. Mackay addressed a multitude of challenges facing liberalism today. Among these topics was also migration which has become a contentious issue in many countries around the world.
Here, as in other matters, our guest was categorical: “Migration benefits the receiving nation”, he said. “Not enough political leadership is offered on this topic. We as liberals must stand up.”
Probably the most contentious point in programmatic political debates is the “freedom versus equality” topic. Also here, Mr. Mackay, who emphasized that in his view the social components of liberalism are essential, was clear: “Having the freedom and not be able to use it is useless”, he argued. “How do we address the losers who suffer from market failure?”, he asked. “How do we make markets work for the totality of society?”
The discussants were not left alone with these queries. Gordon Mackay delved into the recently adopted programmatic Manifesto of Liberal International, which provides liberal answers to all the points raised.
Innovative and effective
Among the highlights of the one-week program was the 18th Dudley Senanayake Memorial Lecture which Mr. Gordon delivered in Colombo. In his programmatic speech, the guest from South Africa impressed the audience when he said that the Sri Lankan leader has had a strong impact on his own political thinking: “Dudley Senanayake played a critical role in shaping my thinking and subsequent development as a liberal.”
The visit could hardly have ended on a better note. “Super inspired by the innovative and effective work done by @fnfsouthasia”, Mr. Mackay wrote on his Facebook Page. He goes on to praise the “intellectual capacity and real ability” of our partners to shape societal discourse in the absence of a formal liberal political party. This, the Secretary General of the world federation of liberal parties concludes, “provides an interesting model for engagement between Liberal International and Liberals where no formal party structures exist.”