Friday, March 6, 2009

Winds of change

Winds of change are taking place across the South Asian region. After thirty years in government President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was defeated by young freedom activist who was kept in prison by the pervious regime. Widower of late Benazir Buttho, Asif All Zardari was elected to the post of President in Pakistan after sudden and unexpected step down by the President Parvesh Musharaf. Mountainous challenges are ahead of President Zardari of which the foremost is to restore the democracy and rule of law in the country. Bangladesh just elected a new prime minister after going through a struggle to combat with corruption, and bad governance though the democratic process in is danger to some extent due to continues postponement of the general election. Long lasted monarch came to an end in Nepal paving the way for one time militant leader Prachanda to obtain a massive landslide election victory and become the Prime Minister of the country. The immediate challenge for new Nepali government is to draft a constitution with democratic values and norms in order to take the poverty stricken country towards development. Though India and Sri Lanka have democratically elected regimes, both countries are struggling to combat with the elements of bad governance, terrorism, rule of law and democracy.

Apart from those mentioned changes, a daunting challenge is imposed by the global economic crisis in South Asian Region, which affects not only the economic stability, but also to the very foundation of the steadily growing democracies in the region. The high fuel costs, soaring commodity prices together with fears of global recession are destabilizing the economies of the region. Unlike the west, South Asian countries has not suffered subprime mortgage crisis which caused the downfall of many financial institutions in west. The rapid growth and wealth creation in recent years lead to enormous foreign investment in South Asia, mostly from the West. Wherefore, this region as in the rest of Asia is vulnerably exposed to the problems stemming from West in this global economic crisis. Under this circumstance, many argue the failure of the capitalism and open market economy is the main cause for the projecting this global crisis and came up with various alternative systems to address the issue. Among these arguments, the two prominent arguments are

i. Chinese model economic system where economic development is dominated over democracy and other social requirements. In this aspect, they state that the influence of US is losing as she happened to be the most vulnerable country in the crisis, and the voice and muscles of the china will dominate the formation of the new global economic order to address the crisis.
ii. Chavez model, nationalization of the property and industries and central control over everything.

As mention above, the South Asian society is in a transition process toward democracy with many years of struggle to achieve it. The vulnerability of gaining popularity of those two socialist backed arguments is still prevail in South Asia, as already socialist backed nationalist elements are in the governments in Sri Lanka, Nepal. Therefore, the coming years could be really decisive for the shaping of South Asian politics, its future and also its position in the world affairs which is unprecedented than before.
By Thushara Rajasinghe

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Educated Citizens

There is no necessity to justify as to how important education is regardless of the context in which it is discussed. It has been proven on its own the value addition that both education per se and educated citizens in a country can do to make both the social and economical conditions better. All though the normal perception that society has is that only individuals who are educated benefit society also benefits immensely by having educated citizens. It is absolutely necessary to have a robust education system in a country with a long term vision to manage the human capital. It has also been accepted and upheld by the constitutions of all most all the countries that every child who is at the age of schooling has to get the opportunity of being educated without any deprival due to their sex, cast and race. Most developed countries in the world have invested heavily in their education systems initially to ensure the smooth supply of appropriate human capital in terms of the right knowledge, attitude and skills.

The entire world is at a critical stage in the social transformational process and right now we are in the so called knowledge era where knowledge is far more important than never before. Knowledgeable society could clone its success over the years and individuals as a part of the economy have taken a considerable amount of attention and interest in knowledge workers. In a journey of creating a common future for south Asian counties it is paramount to have a common understanding and approach to address the related issues as a network by learning from each other.

Although, it is not possible to quantify the benefits generated by the education and educated citizens in a country always, it can be categorized into three broader areas as mentioned below.

Social benefits

Educated citizens are more likely to get into high income jobs so that they can lead better healthy lives which also include happy and leisure time. It has been proven by the researches carried out in this area that the quality of life and the life expectancy are more likely to go high in a society where there are educated individuals. Also in return they can indirectly contribute to reduce the public expenditure in the areas of health, social awareness, and food. It is also observed that healthier individuals as a result of being educated are more likely to have healthier children and likelihood of them continuing to educate their children is also very high. They are also less likely to contribute to illegitimate birth and become victims of sexually transmitted deceases. Educated citizens are more likely to uphold the common social value and respect the norms of their cultures and as a result of that a society with law and order can be maintained.

The rapid changes in technology, the changing nature of work and the demographic changes also affect the society at large. In this context education should be able to produce citizens with interpersonal skills, who can work collaboratively in ethically and culturally diverse environments. Researches in the areas of interpersonal, psychological and broader behavioral qualities have shown that there is a less tendency towards authoritarianism, dogmatism, and ethnocentrisms and also growth in principled moral reasoning. Further, in a society of educated citizens, they are interested in current affairs and foreign politics according to the researches. Moreover, education can make a huge impact on the personal behavior displayed by individuals and they tend to display traits such as active thinking, being proactive, assertive communication with a broad range of intellectual and academic skills. Educated citizens are more sensitive to the social issues and likely to get involved in activities that affect society and political structure and community services. Educated citizens could easily be more productive and engaged as the tend to be more tolerant towards cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, believing more in common values that cut across such boundaries.

Economical benefits

Still there is a tendency for certain people to think that being educated is something personal and only individuals can benefit out of it. Today, there is a considerable number of youth investing in higher studies both locally and internationally. Even though both social and economical benefits are not easy to quantify due to its qualitative nature, economic benefits of educated citizens are quite visible and easy to quantify as there is correlation between the education level of citizens and national productivity. When there is an uneducated workforce their employability is low and therefore, their value addition to the national economy of a country in terms of production levels is not considerable. High unemployment is not a healthy indicator in any economy and that would put more burdens onto the governments in terms of public expenditure. Research has shown that an educated citizen in many countries earn more than what an average citizen would earn by doing odd jobs. Educated citizens tend to get into more value adding and white collar jobs according to their qualifications. When a country/economy has an educated workforce they could earn both locally and internationally and that will in return increase the national production of the economy. When a country has more educated and skilled workforce investors are willing to make substantial investments to launch new business. For us in South Asia, it is crucial to attract foreign direct investment. Having a healthier and productive economy is in return gives the opportunity to any government to invest in the basic infrastructures so that country could be developed and dependency on the lending nations could be minimized. Educated citizens also can play a vital role in tax system in any country as they understand the rationale behind it and making it a compelling reason to pay their tax promptly knowing that they can reap the benefits of it in terms of country’s development.

Political benefits

Unlike the both social and economical benefits that can be generated by educated citizens political benefits of same is not easily quantifiable and also no comprehensive researches have been carried out. In Asia, we have an emotional attachment with regard to political interest. Politics in most of south Asian countries are linked to and associated with power. Unlike other decisions, most of us take political decisions emotionally, with no rational justification based on facts and figures. Most of the people who have the voting power are not politically mature, but are generally inspired by the personalities of politicians based on our individual likes and dislikes. It has been seen throughout that we take politics personally and have a tendency to ignore aggression and violence that go hand in hand with politics. It is only a few individuals who are willing to express their political ideology openly and honestly. We can hope that at least the educated citizens will take the lead to transform this behavior into a more meaningful affair. The time has come for educated youth to join politics and take on political office, especially with regard to planning and implementation of conflict transformation, good governance and free market principles.
We should as a country invest in the vision of a better future that envisages higher & healthier living standards, clean & safe environment and above all, respect for human dignity by having a clear direction with regard to our education system.

Written by Shan Yahampath,
Secretary General,
LYG Sri Lanka

In the Vacuum of Visionary & Respected Politicians (In Sri Lankan context)

The island that was once recognized by the world in its history as the “pearl of the Indian Ocean” is today struggling in all aspects to retain even a semblance of its old glory. In order to achieve this what is needed is a strong political will and commitment from county’s political leaders who are willing and able to restructure the political system with true vision based on liberal policies rather than practicing politics of promises as the only measure of political survival.

Sri Lanka being a country that is well located geographically ensuring maximum protection from all natural disasters. It’s also has its fair share of natural recourses and a resourceful population.. The monarchial history of the country witnessed to the prosperity enjoyed by the people of that era as a result of their strong desire, commitment and hard work towards making their dream of a “Self–Sufficient Country” in to a reality. However, like most of other countries in the Asian region, Sri Lanka too had to face many a set back and hardship during the colonial rule that hampered the progress of the country and peoples aspirations.

Gaining Political freedom and aftermath

With the demise of the monarchy after the British captured the county completely in 1815, the people had to engage in various patriotic struggles in order to regain the lost autonomy of the land. This struggle for political and economic freedom was continued for over a century of years. All people who were living in the country during that period had made their maximum sacrifices towards the freedom struggle irrespective of the religion, language or ethnicity they belonged. . As a result of the prolonged struggle of the people, the British rulers ultimately came in to an agreement to grant Sri Lanka (Then Ceylon) the political freedom having reserved for themselves limited control. Accordingly, on 04th of February 1948 Sri Lanka was granted the dominion status by the British. This re-gained political freedom caused to make a fresh breath of enthusiasm in the aspiration of the people towards leading the country towards sovereignty and prosperity.

However, in the aftermath of gaining independence from the British rule, and while processing the re-establishment of country’s democratic political structure, various political crisis had arisen among the leaders of local political parties. The majority of these crisis were based on ethnic, nationalistic and religious elements. Especially in electing political representatives, the Sinhala and Tamil leaders were engaged in a tug- a - war to secure their majority based on ethnic lines. This situation adversely affected on the smooth establishment of democratic principles in the political system of the country. Hence, such confrontations influenced the mind set of the people from the expectations of peaceful existence of pluralistic Sri Lankan society. As a result, the unity and good will maintained by all the communities until gaining political freedom for the country started deteorating day by day in the face of these political disagreements. Further efforts made by the leaders of that era representing both main political parties, the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to enter in to a negotiated settlement with the Tamil political leaders in order to resolve these political crisis in a peaceful manner failed due to large scale protests led by the said political parties when ever they represented the opposition in rotation. Ultimately, instead leading the country towards its sovereignty and economic prosperity with a clear political vision, the political arena of the country was opened to play an endless struggle between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.

Political Mishaps and Birth of LTTE

The continuous political negotiations made between the past governments and the political leaders of the Tamil community in order to resolve their issues mainly related to recognition of Tamil language as a state language, and to get their job quota ensured in providing government jobs depending on the percentage of Tamil community, came to an end with no result as none of the parties was ready to make sacrifices due to their extremist ideologies. Therefore, all the opportunities available to work out a peaceful solution to these issues were missed by making a huge crack in the confidence and trust maintained through out centuries between these two communities i.e Sinhalese and Tamils.

This situation became further adverse in 1956 after declaring “Sinhala only” as the state language by the then SLFP government formed under the premiership of late S.W.R.D Bandaranayake. This political mishap created a clear gap between Tamil community and Sinhala people. The end result was, a creation of a battle between these communities as the minority and the majority.

In 1983, the Tamil minority rights issue developed in to an armed struggle for which the leadership was provided by various extremists in the form of liberation movements and ultimately the LTTE (Liberation Tamil Tigers for Elam) became the most powerful and violent armed group that has been involved in an armed struggle for over 25 years to date fighting for a separate Tamil State. More than two hundred thousand people including civilians, political leaders, and armed personnel have scarified their lives so far due to this civil war situation in the country.

Liberal approaches made in 1977

In 1977, the UNP came in to power recording a victory of five Sixth (5/6) majority in the General Election held under the leadership of late J.R. Jayawardane. During the UNP regime lead by J.R. Jayawardene who was instrumental in introducing a new Constitution to Sri Lanka that embodied an Executive Presidential system of governance. Under this new Constitution J.R. Jayawardene became the First Executive President of Sri Lanka. During the presidency of J.R. Jayawardene he made several efforts to introduce more liberal policies in to the political and economic system of the country. Introduction of decentralizing power under the 13th amendment to the Constitution and the open economy can be identified as major liberal principles upon which he kept faith in finding solutions to the issues related to the prolonged Tamil minority struggle and gaining economic prosperity to the country.

Accordingly, administrative system of the country was divided in to nine (09) Provincial Councils and decentralized the powers of the central government providing wider opportunities to the minorities and the people to participate in the administrative system of the country. Further during this regime several rounds of talks were held with the LTTE in order to enter into a negotiated settlement, However LTTE did not accept the decentralizing of power and the Provincial Council system as a solution to their struggle; instead continued their fighting for a separate State. The continuous refusal of LTTE for a negotiated settlement pushed the government too towards military action to control LTTE.

At the end J.R Jayawardene’s regime his successor late Ranasinghe Premadasa was elected as the Second Executive president of Sri Lanka. During his regime President Premadasa too kept a strong belief in resolving the Tamil armed struggle through political discussion. President Premadasa was able to initiate face to face talks with the LTTE hierarchy. However, his efforts to find a peaceful solution to this struggle came to an end after he was assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber on 01st May 1993.

Peace or War ???

In 1994, after 17 years of UNP regime, SLFP affiliated United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) came to power under the leadership of Chandrika Bandaranayaka Kumaranatunga and she was elected the President at the presidential election held later that year. There was much expectations among the Tamil community as well as among the Sinhala people that this change of government will make a different and effective approach to find a permanent solution to the long drawn civil war. President Kumaranatunga made arrangements to send a delegation to Jaffna to meet LTTE representatives as an initial mission to draw up a proper plan to re commence political negotiations. President Kumaranatunga received the support of the opposition (UNP) as well as of the international community especially of the Norwegian Government , to carry out her peace mission. This situation was very favourable to her to make a genuine attempt to bring peace. However, after few months of negotiations, the situation took a different turn.. Her slogan was subsequently changed to “War for Peace”. This change of positions by the Head of State caused to kindle disbelief among the Tamil community once again, and as a result, the expectations of the entire nation for a peaceful solution were dashed.

Cease fire Agreement

The UNP under the leadership of Ranil Wickramasinghe came to power again in 2002 having won the General Election held under the Presidency of UPFA President Kumaranatunga. This change of power opened a new path to re-commence the negotiations with LTTE for a peaceful solution. The UNP re-commenced the negotiation from where the President Kumaranatunaga failed with the facilitation of Norwegian peace envoys. Ranil Wickramasinghe as the Prime Minister was able to negotiate a Cease Fire Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE in order to cease hostilities on both sides as a token of initiating peace negotiations. However, it should be mentioned that Presedent Kumaranatunga’s party(in Opposition) and other chauvinist and extreme Marxist parties did not extend any support to the Prime Minister Ranil Wikramasinghe in his peace effort. After signing of Cease Fire Agreement, the first talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE were held in Thailand under the facilitation of the Norwegian Government. Expectations among both Sinhala and Tamil communities on this on going peace process was at a high degree and there were considerable opportunities created to re -build the confidence between these two communities after the opening A9 land route allowing civilian movement between the North and the South.

However, it was that observed on numerous occasions LTTE had breached the Cease Fire Agreement. This situation again caused the change of mentality of the majority singhalese against the LTTE. Seizing the opprtunity, President Kumaranatunga prematurely dissolved the Parliament using her Executive Powers and her Alliance which constituted of various chauvinist/nationalist parties as well as extreme leftists won the subsequent General Election and established the UPFA government of 2004, defeating the UNP. All hopes of a negotiated peace settlement collapsed once again.

War as an ultimate solution

At the end of the term of President Kumaranatunaga, the next Presidential Election was held in 2005 in a political environment where the majority of people have been heavily convinced by chauvinist/nationalist and left-Marxist parties that the LTTE could be militarily defeated if UPFA Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksha is elected as the president. Accordingly, Mahinda Rajapaksha was elected as the President of the country. However, on assuming of duties President Rajapaksha made an open invitation to the LTTE for re-commencing the peace process which was initiated under the former premiership of Ranil Wickramasinghe. Accordingly the first round of talks with LTTE were held in Oslo and there the LTTE refused to continue talks with the Government of Sri Lanka and re commenced their attacks on government forces. This LTTE action opened a path to the government of President Rajapaksha to launch military operations as a last resort to defeat the LTTE terrorism and re- capture the LTTE held Northern and Eastern parts of the country back in to the control the Government of Sri Lanka. By mid 2008 the military were able to re-capture the Eastern Part of the country from the LTTE grip and the government held the Provincial Council elections and managed to get the LTTE defector Chandrakanthan elected as the Chief Minister of the Province.

The Military is presently engaged in an operation to re capture the Kilinochchi district in the Northern part of the country where the main LTTE controlled area is located.

War as a shield to cover up inefficiency, mismanagement & corruptions of the Government

Even though the military operations against the LTTE are being successfully carried out, the government is s not in the position to find a proper political solution to the crisis of the Tamil people in order to re-store permanent and lasting peace in the county. The All Party Conference which was called under the leadership of President Rajapaksha has so far failed to arrive at any concrete solution to the political issues of the Tamil community.

On the other hand, the government is heavily involved in marketing the war as a shield to cover up its inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption. However, in the present scenario the majority of the people too have become immune to economic hardships, corruption among politicians and inefficiency of administration and live in hope till the government wins the war. Inefficiency and mal functions of the government is evident by the number of legal cases pending before the courts of law seeking the guidance of court with regard to the decisions taken by the Government.

Liberal Policies being a path way to a Peaceful solution and Economical prosperity

All what was discussed herein show the sequential failures and mishaps of the political decision making system of the country, and the situation remains unchanged even now. The political parties and their leaders of are engaged in an endless race to build up their party popularity and personal images to gain power instead of making an honest effort to concentrate on the national issues. The need of the country today is a respected and visionary leadership with a well renowned Statesmanship that could introduce a national policy where all the citizens of the country could have a common identity as Sri Lankan which could result in the defeat of the raciest elements of various extremist politicians and steer the country in the path of progress.

Commitments of IDL /LYGs to the Goal

So far there has been no significant effort made by any political party of the country to develop such a national plan based on liberal policies.
IDL was set up in 1997 by a team of intellectuals and professionals who have a liberal background and committed to educate and motivate the civil society to create a voice and make a bottoms up approach to develop such national efforts commencing from the grass root level. In this worthy cause IDL has been able to gain considerable success in the past decade. One of IDL’s main objectives is to encourage youth leadership to enter into the democratic decision making system. This has been achieved by having two members of the LYG, namely Buddhika Pathirana and Manusha Nanayakkara being elected members of the Southern Provincial Council.

IDL introduced two new projects i.e the “Liberal Village” and “Liberal Academy of Political Leadership” in March 2008 to strengthen its future commitments further. All the plans have been finalized to initiate these two projects in November 2008 to open up more opportunities to the civil society and youth Leaders of the country to get effectively involved in practicing liberal values at their respective levels.

LYSA as a Forum of Yong Liberals and Politicians

IDL /LYG being the founder member of LYSA have actively participate in its activities for promoting liberal values in the country even before the formation of LYSA. The celebration of 3rd Anniversary of LYSA together with the South Asian Youth Summit is a great achievement of all its endeavors so far made in networking youth of South Asia under the umbrella of Liberalism. While extending our sincere appreciation to all the present and past members of the LYSA board and respective members countries, we wish all success to LYSA to grow up with all its potential to play a vital role in its future as a well committed forum of South Asian Young Liberals and Politicians.

Written by Mr. Sunil Witharanage
Attorney - at-Law
Director -IDL

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


LYG Sri Lanka was announced as the proud host of AGM of LYSA – 2009 by the executive committee of LYSA by considering the bidding proposals forwarded by the member organizations. LYSA will also conduct its very first workshop in 2009 for its members from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan on Global Financial Crisis: Chances and Challenges for Liberalism. Initial concept of the workshop was also drafted and presented by LYG Sri Lanka as a part of the bidding that was submitted and the majority of LYSA and the activities of its member countries in this year will be based on the same theme. Workshop followed by the AGM is scheduled from 24th to 28th March, 2009 and the venue is yet to be finalized. With the objective of being truly a regional organization LYSA has extended its invitation to Maldives to take part in the AGM in order to explore the possibilities of being part of LYSA and the process is facilitated by LYG Sri Lanka with its regional rapport that it has built up over the years.

LYG Sri Lanka and the organizing committee of AGM of LYSA are exited to welcome all the delegates to Sri Lanka, “A country like No other”.


LYG Sri Lanka held its Annual General Meeting last week at the Sri Lankan Foundation Institute in Colombo. Prior to the AGM the officials of local chapters participated in a three day workshop on ‘How to Run a Successful Liberal Youth Organization’ with the objective of strengthening their capabilities to manage their respective organizations effectively and efficiently in the up coming year by taking the ground realities into consideration. Other than the structured training sessions that were mostly facilitated by the executive committee members of LYG, IDL and FNF the participants took time off to critically evaluate their contribution to the development of LYG as a national youth movement and to craft and draft strategies for the up coming year.

With the end in mind in terms of the Annual Strategic Plan the participants elected the new executive committee members in order to steer LYG Sri Lanka towards its vision. Mr. Manusha Nanayakkara who is an executive committee member of Liberal Youth South Asia (LYSA) and a council member of southern provincial council was unanimously elected as the National President for the next two years whilst Mr. Shan Yahampath who was the Vice President – International Relations of the previous Executive Committee was elected as the Secretary General .

The felicitation to the outgoing president Mr. Buddhika Patirana was also took place at the AGM.