Making Sri Lanka a better place | Sunday Observer

Making Sri Lanka a better place

22 May, 2022

The Youth Observer spoke to young artists and experts in various sectors to find out their views for progressive reforms to rebuild Sri Lanka for a better tomorrow.

Education system needs change

Nipuni Sharada Pathirage (Actor / Probationary Lecturer)

“Apart from the structural changes in the political system and economy in Sri Lanka that we all expect, I think that our education system should be reformed in order to make Sri Lanka a better country.

“We have all learnt through free education and we admire the fact that education is free of charge and that it is for anyone and everyone. But for quite a time we have been referring to memory capacity as education.

“The examination system assesses how much you can memorize; how much and how fast you can write within 2-3 hours. The system has made education a competition; hence this education doesn’t develop a citizen with critical thinking and creativity. We already have educated people in Sri Lanka, but what we lack is critical thinking minds, intellectual and creative people.

“This education system has to be abolished. Traditional teaching-learning methods and outdated curriculum have to be changed. Our true history has to be taught in schools to learn from the past to stop history from repeating itself. I believe that the education system in Sri Lanka should be restructured in order to produce better rulers as well as better citizens for a better tomorrow.”


Equality for languages

King Ratnam (Film Director / Actor)

“I expect reforms that encourage decentralization of power. Also reforms that are common to all races and religions, not just uplifting a certain race or a religion. And another reform should include space for suitable minority members to represent the country; not just in Parliament, but in every ministry: for example, sports and education.

“Reforms should pave a path for the minorities to in a way lead the country if they are suitable. And most importantly, I would like to see equality for all languages and official use of especially Tamil and Sinhala in equal terms.”


Constitutional changes an urgent need

Kasun Kalhara (Singer / Musician / Vocal Coach / Record Producer)

“The ruling class of our country has deceived the people for a long time. They are using various tactics such as myth and racism for that. It is a very dangerous situation. The number of ministers in the parliament should be kept to a minimum and they should not be given houses, vehicles, fuel and other luxurious benefits out of public money.

“I believe that the people now have an understanding of what kind of people’s representatives should be sent back to Parliament. We have to meet the daily needs of the people. Those responsible must be compelled to take steps and make constitutional changes urgently. As Comrade Chulananda Samaranayake said, “the struggle can be non-partisan. But cannot be apolitical.” The people are fulfilling their responsibility to continue to work for that.”


National policy framework, a vital need

Achala Samaradiwakara (Social Entrepreneur)

“As we are all well aware, the foreign exchange crisis is the major reason for the present economic crisis in the country. Sri Lankan people have many ways to build their own economy. Services within Sri Lanka are already larger as a percent of GDP than in other South Asian countries and the country has the highest share of service workers in manufacturing.

“Although the island nation’s predicament was in the making for almost 70 years, unfortunately we still do not have a national policy framework to uplift our economy. Consecutive governments since Independence have failed to successfully implement policies to deliver economic growth and better living standards.

“Increasing sources of government revenue, re-prioritising government expenditure, limiting intervention, relying on markets and recognizing the vitality of trade in a globalised economy is Sri Lanka’s road to prosperity.

“It will not be easy or painless, the accumulated policy mistakes of the past two decades require some very hard reforms but it is the only sustainable way out of the current mess. The time for reform is now. I hope the nation will be poised to turn challenge into opportunity, emerging stronger and ultimately victorious in this economic crisis.”


People demanding system change

Ishara M. Jayasena (Lawyer / Social Activist / Visiting lecturer / Co-founder of Northern Law Movement)

“Sri Lanka is a free, Sovereign, Independent and Democratic Socialist Republic country and that sovereignty lives within the people. Freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, association and movement are fundamental rights which are assured by the Supreme Law of Sri Lanka.

“Hence, exercising their fundamental rights in a peaceful manner is never an offence. Whichever government is in power, it’s their responsibility to protect the lives of the citizens and of all the constitutional and rule of law in the country.

“People are demanding a system change with an equitable governance system through independent institutions, commissions, progressive amendment to constitutions and appropriate laws to eradicate corruption, whilst respecting religions, ethnic and cultural diversity of people in the country.

“In order to restore political and economic stability in the country, the new interim government should immediately pass the 21st Amendment to the Constitution by repealing the 20th Amendment and restoring an improved version of the 19th Amendment.

“I believe that the Constitutional Council and the Independent Commissions should be reestablished. The interim government should abolish the Executive Presidency as early as possible and I believe that it should be replaced by a parliamentary democracy, where the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Minister are accountable to Parliament.

“Progressive laws such as the Campaign Finance Act and Recovery of State Assets should be passed within the time of the interim government. I also believe that the time duration of the interim government should not exceed 15 months and at its conclusion there needs to be a free and fair general election in order to get a clear and fresh mandate from the people of Sri Lanka.”


19A should be brought back

Senel Wanniarachchi (Author / Co-founder and Director of Hashtag Generation)

“Protests in the past few weeks have brought together a whole host of demands from different quarters; related to the economy, environment, policies, human rights, minority rights, peace building and many more.

“The 19th Amendment should be brought back to ensure that there are checks and balances. The office of the Executive President is a complication and this crisis has demonstrated that. We also need to reduce the powers of the Executive President through the 19th Amendment. And steps need to be taken to address the economic crisis which will make structural changes to our economy further on, but these need to be done in a way that centers the lives of the well-being and the most marginalized and the poorest segments of our society.

“There should also be accountability for all allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement as well as accountability for broader crimes including violence. Meaningful aspects of peace building and bringing the people of this country together, since for a long time, especially politicians have used ethnicity, religion, and language tools to separate people, however in some ways the struggle has brought people together today.

“That also includes, looking back at our past and taking assets for our transitional justice too. Finally, I think immediate steps need to be taken to address the economic and the political crisis. But many of these issues require long term citizen and political engagement, political will, social, legal and cultural changes as well. We should really use this moment to embark on a long-term journey for a change that would benefit the economy, society and even the culture.”