Know your political and social responsibility | Sunday Observer

Know your political and social responsibility

With the General Election just a few days from today, Youth Magazine spoke to a few young, dynamic and community influencers who have worked in various fields creating awareness in political and social responsibility.

Krystle Reid Wijesuriya

Co-founder, Enable Lanka Foundation, Traveller, sports enthusiast and history buff

Q: What do you expect from the candidate you vote for?

A: Someone with a practical mechanism to revitalize an inclusive education and strengthen our economy through accountability, integrity and a commitment for social cohesiveness be it race, religion, disability and/or gender.

Q:  Is the youth of the country politically and socially aware and what should the youth be aware of related to these subjects?

A: The youth today are much more aware and stand for their right to access accurate and trustworthy information all the time. With better access to technology, social media and platforms like Manthri.lk, wrong-doers can no longer escape and there is always someone demanding for what is right and just. However, there is still a need to understand and be aware of economic crisis, political stability, constitutional and other legal reforms while ensuring facts are checked and validated.

Q: It’s a few days for the election, what advice would you give the youth?

A: Read and understand your candidate’s manifestoes, verify if they have walked their talks, check if their values resonate with our country’s vision and the impactful change you want to see as the youth of this country and while you exercise your universal suffrage please do not forget to take the right safety measures adhering to health guidelines during this pandemic.

 Q: How best is it to engage youth in political and social awareness in the future?

A: Create accessible platforms for all youth by political parties irrespective of their background, ability/disability, gender and support them to enter the political arena. It is equally important to train and guide them by senior members of the parties and  experts of various fields on problem-solving and, critical thinking,

Q: Whichever party comes to power as a citizen, what do you expect for the country and the youth?

A: Good-governance, economic and social inclusion, equity and dignity and respect for human rights leaving no one behind.


N. K. Ashokbharan

Attorney-at-Law in active practice in Colombo. Constitutional law enthusiast, political analyst, commentator, columnist, avid reader and traveller

Q: What do you expect from the candidate you vote for?

A: For me, for starters, an ideal candidate must not align with the despicable racist agenda and must accept and appreciate the plurinational democracy of Sri Lanka and think on the lines of building a plurinational state.

Economic growth is quintessential for a country’s development. For me, an ideal candidate would have a clear and practicable vision, mission, and plan for the country. This doesn’t mean a person who promises milk and honey flowing down the roads, but someone more realistic than fantastic.

Q: Is the youth of the country politically and socially aware and what should the youth be aware of related to these subjects?

A: I think the youth of this country are politically and socially aware. This is evident by the constant political and social interactions that take place on the social media space. However, it is also shocking and saddening that a considerable portion of youngsters are embraced by racists, and ethno-nationalist hegemonic ideologies, and thereby spread hate.

Q:  It’s a few days for the election, what advice woud you give the youth?

A: Please vote. Please exercise your sovereign right of franchise. Please also vote for the party and persons whom you believe is the right choice. Be honest and truthful to yourself.

 Q: Whichever party comes to power, as a citizen what do you expect for the country and the youth?

A: It is high time Sri Lankans accepted and appreciated the fact that Sri Lanka consists of plurinational demo, and thus we are evidently and inevitably a plurinational state. Accepting this reality would diffuse the despicable racist and ethno-nationalist politics, and pave way for ‘good politics’. As George Santayana remarked, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let us learn from the bitter past, and be committed not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and confidently strive to make a better future. This is my expectation.


Vraie Balthazaar

Activist, media personality, aspirational female candidate, mother

Q: What do you expect from the candidate you vote for?

A: Honesty, integrity, to be devoid of allegations of corruption and bribery (which should incidentally be a given but sadly now necessary to state), to have a track record of having worked for the people, and the willingness to do right by the people and not oneself.

 Q: Is the youth of the country politically and socially aware and what should the youth be aware of related to these subjects?

A: The youth of this country is politically conscious. However due to the polarization of politics, and how the youth in engaged in the political system, the youth is seldom given the opportunity, especially through education, to expand on their analytical skills that will help them better educate themselves on the kinds of politics that we require to grow as a nation. This is something we need to change.

Q: It’s a few days for the election, what advice would you give the youth?

A: We need to understand a few things — that voting is important but at the same time only one portion of our role as citizens. We have to engage with politics and in decision making processes so that we ensure our voices, and our needs are represented in places of power.

So we must vote — but let that be only one part of our engagement with the government. Politics is more than a defined space — it’s essentially our everyday. We need to find ways to not only criticize it, but also contribute through engaging with it.

Q: How best is it to engage youth in political and social awareness in the future?

A: Education - sadly too little is taught through our education system about voting and civic duty. A better understanding of our need to engage as citizens, is what will eventually lead to changing our mindsets about what’s right (and wrong) within our structures of governance and power.

Q: Whichever party comes to power, as a citizen what do you expect for the country and the youth?

A: My aspiration is that the youth will find their voice. The youth needs to be given the space and tools to forge the future they desire. And as a citizen, I want to see structures that will truly and sincerely support this, whilst addressing the many issues that are specific to the youth.


Parami Fernando

Consultant, Communication and Media Management, UNDP Sri Lanka, aspiring diplomat, solo traveller, and adventurer

Q: What do you expect from the candidate you vote for?

A: great spirit of service to their community and honesty.

Q:  Is the youth of the country politically and socially aware and what should the youth be aware of related to these subjects?

A: For a certain extent yes they are aware but the majority of them aren’t, mainly due to the perception that speaking of politics is pointless but as the next generation who’s going to lead the country or decide its future leaders it’s vital to be politically and socially aware to make the correct decision.

Q:  It’s a few days for the election, what advice would you give the youth?

A: Please cast your vote. If you don’t know your candidates do some research and get to know them. It might not be appealing but it’s a necessity.

Also, this time the setting is different due to the ongoing pandemic and one might not have the motivation to go through the precautionary process and vote thinking it’s just one vote or there might not be a deserving candidate to vote but it’s one of your fundamental rights as a citizen and a personal responsibility of yours, so please do vote.

Q:  How best is it to engage youth in political and social awareness in the future?

A: First of all, there is a huge misconception that to be in politics or speak about it you have to be of a certain age, I think we have to start with breaking that misconception. Also as Mahatma Gandhi said, change starts with you. We are so busy with our day to day lives, but we have to make the conscious decision to be politically and socially literate. It should start from home where parents must create awareness on the importance of knowing what’s going on in the country. In today’s world, we have access to so many information channels and being informed isn’t that hard.

 Q: Whichever party comes to power, as citizens what do you expect for the country and the youth?

A: One law, one country, everyone should be treated equally and sustainable economic policies favourable for local productions that will not die when governments change.

Also, an effective mechanism to develop the skills of school dropouts especially in the rural areas who lack awareness and accessibility to opportunities.


Aritha Wickramasinghe

Solicitor, England and Wales, activist and fan of the Spice Girls

Q: What do you expect from the candidate you vote for?

A: To deliver what they have promised.

Q:  Is the youth of the country politically and socially aware and what should the youth be aware of related to these subjects?

A: The youth are politically conscious, but I don’t think there is enough understanding of the complexity of our issues. Many youths are being caught up by the ideas of nationalism, religion and patriotism but are often given a toxic version of these things. There is also a high level of disillusionment with democracy, a misunderstanding that the flawed system we have is true democracy.

 Q: It’s a few days for the election, what advice would you give the youth?

A: Elect candidates who understand and are able to take our country to the future. Electing candidates who have kept promising a new country for the last 40 to 50 years, are not going to give us that new country now. Choose younger, more diverse candidates.

 Q: How best is it to engage youth in political and social awareness in the future?

A: Very important. Across history, it is the youth that has led political movements and caused revolutions. Their engagement is priority No.1.

 Q: Whichever party comes to power, as a citizen what do you expect for the country and the youth?

A: I expect a government that understands and respects the people. I expect a government that protects, nurtures and strengthens our democratic institutions. I expect a Government that can set in motion a country and a system that will outlive their personal petty political agendas and personalities.

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