The Sacred Vote
We visited a community of Northern Displaced IDPs in Puttlam recently. This was part of our Peace and Governance initiative, an effort to improve cohesion between youth and the entity we call Governance.
We had 3 discussions in course of our visit; the first was with a group of youth, the second with a young provincial council member elected to Jaffna and the last was with a few officials and community representatives from the Community Trust Fund.
Their problems are complex and community discourse has reached a fever pitch with the war ending and the possibilities of relocating to their old homes becoming a reality.
But we found yet another issue that mainly was faced by the youth; young people are facing an inability to act upon their right to vote. Most youngsters who have left the territories before the age of being eligible to vote have not received their voting registration forms yet.
So we got together with a bunch of other young people and wrote a letter to the Elections Commissioner about it. A lot of much more useful work has been done in this regard of course by organizations like CPA and CTF. We heard that the elections commissioner was due to release a circular enabling them to vote during this election, but are yet to find out what came of it.
A casual report on our discussion with the IDP youth can be viewed here.
On Youth, Youth Policies and Conflict
K. Guruparan — a BB-ite, father of the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament and well-known youth activist, spoke at a regional youth conference on youth organized by International Alert, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Youth.
Below is a synopsis of the comments he made as reported on the Bottomline newspaper.
The disillusionment of the youth in the North on the promises made by the moderate Tamil leadership led to the insurgency in the North while the disillusionment of the youth in the South on the promises made by the Old Left led to the insurgency in the 1970s, Sri Lanka Youth Parliament Member and Youth Activist K. Guruparan stated.
“No one can say that the current militia in both regions have a ‘youthful’ element, but it is undeniable that their origins were born out of youth unrest,” he said adding that in the North and the East, the ‘normalisation’ of war where the abnormal (eg; the killing of five in a village) is a normal day to day process, is very worrying. “We must work towards getting them out of this mentality. We must give the youth in the North and the East to come out and speak. To silence them is to suppress them and weaken them.”
Speaking of the state of the youth in the North and the East, Guruparan explained that the unemployment rates in the North and the East are 13% and 15.9% respectively, much higher than the national average. “While the national average of those who prefer work in the public sector is 53.4%, in the North and East it’s as much as 75%.”
He also pointed out that in the South now, most of the income coming into the region to the rural poor came from army recruitment and compensation. “We need a National Youth Policy, but we understand that the current draft does not refer to the ‘conflict’ in the country at all,” he informed, “And as a representative of the youth, we want the Policy to be more than just a piece of paper. We request a legislation to be enacted that holds individuals accountable to implement the Policy for the betterment of the youth.”
He stated that the recent Presidential Commission on Youth called for one third of the nominations in the Provincial Council to be represented by the Youth, but that the youth are then allocated to seats that the party does not win. “The most pressing need now is to have the ethnic conflict resolved and have civil society actively work towards the future of this country.” [bottomline]
The article covers comments made by other speakers at the event.
More about youth policies on this blog includes posts titled, “young people are the future” and other nonsense, Principles of meaningful youth participation, Youth Participation and Democracy and How to make youth policy in three steps.
‘Machan, the sooner this ends, the better’
‘Personally, I think it’ll last only a few more months’
‘They wont go down passively though’
‘After so many years? Of course not’
A soldier rubs the sores on his shoulder
And trudges on
That his fate is being decided
By armchair revolutionaries
In white collar shirts
Over rice and curry
Originally done by The Gutterflower here. Gutter is a sleepaholic who is a friend of a friend of Beyond Borders. Yes, we’ve asked her numerous times to join.
6 Reviews on Censored
The forum theatre we did couple of weeks ago seems to have generated some discussion both from the blogs and couple of pieces in the mainstream media.
and from the blogs:
- Censored, uncensored — Sanjana Hattotuwa.
- How the hypocrites change the coast of life — Deco
- Freedom of expression at a time of war — Dhanushka Bandara
- Censored; an insider’s view of an outsider’s sentiments — Halik Azeez, BB-ite.
Update : the 7th Review on the DailyMirror
We thank everyone for the reviews: the positive, negative and the in between. Some Pictures of the performance are here.
Censored, a forum theatre performance by Beyond Borders in association with the British Council will take place on Thursday from 6.30 PM onwards at the British Council Hall, Colombo.
There are still a few tickets at the British Council, grab them before they run out. Update : The event is sold out.
The Sunday Times last week carried an article giving out a few details about the event. The storyline was sparked by a true incident. Some pictures of the practice sessions is on our flickr, some more available on our Facebook events page.
For more info about the whole thing, see the previous blog post. Here’s the event poster.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother dear?
Shall we make some for you and me?
We haven’t eaten it since the New Year,
And I’ve been pining for some, you see.
What milk-rice? Oh child, what a pity!
Did you not hear what the townsfolk said?
Old Uncle Raja went to the city-
No one knows why he was shot in the head.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother sweet?
I promise I’ll scrape the coconuts and all,
For my birthday, it’d be such a treat,
To have some milk-rice with sambol.
Milk-rice? Girl, what rubbish you talk!
Your cousin Pasan-remember him?
He went alone to the woods for a walk-
Stepped on a landmine and lost his limb.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother fair?
For I shall be married in a week or two,
And before I go, I should so care,
To learn how to make milk-rice from you.
Oh, child, speak no more of milk-rice!
It’ll be a while ere you become a wife,
For the captain your husband-to-be made his choice,
And for his cause,laid down his life.
— Shavini Somawardhana
Shavini is a new BBite. She’s just getting the hang on things, and learning the how the fragile eco-system that is Beyond Borders. She has a low carbon footprint.
“Myth Vs Reality” – East
Recently, In August visited the eastern province (Ampara and Batticoloa), on a work assignment for four days. Since most people tend to say that “the east is very volatile and it’s not safe to travel”, etc, I thought I will write a short post about the myth Vs reality on the east.
Speaking about Ampara, I would say it is a very calm and peaceful place to than ever to live in. For those who don’t know where Ampara is, it’s surrounded by Batticoloa, Monaragala and Hambantota and does not have a link in the national railway line. The A11 main road runs across Ampara linking Monaragala, Ampara, Batticoloa and right up to Trincomalee. Ampara having a population of over 600, 000 (source) has a growth rate of 0.5% and the most amazing statistic is that the population density being 145 persons per square kilo meter. The administration is being looked after through 20 divisional secretariats in Ampara. More information is in the site linked above.
Ampara being a huge area has only two main check points along the A11 main road (the only check points visible at the time of the visit). Having an urban population of over 20% Ampara has a relatively large and busy town (as busy like fort). Except for the fact that Ampara doesn’t have a very strong ADSL network (which I guess is not very important) every thing in this large town is sufficient to live a peaceful life. The farming infrastructure is massive in here. They use machinery than any thing else to work on fields.
Shops tend to operate from 7 in the morning till around 9 in the night without any hindrance. Ampara also being a hub for certain bus routes, have its own area with huge service canters at one end of the town. Ampara also is the stop of most of the NGOs and INGOs travelling and working in Batticoloa as it has the facilities for most of their needs (lodging, food, shopping, etc.). Most of the UN regional offices are also housed in Ampara. Ampara is also equipped with a huge library facility and a huge ground right in the centre of the town.
You would actually find people moving very freely every where in Ampara with out any issue or being stopped at check points asking for the national id and etc.
Speaking about Batticoloa is a little bit different from Ampara. Bordering Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa and Ampara is having a population over 500,000 with a growth rate of 1.7% and a population density of 198 persons per square kilo meter.
Batti is very much different from Ampara. Having check points at every entrance of the different divisions (mind you guys there are 14 divisional secretariats). Batticoloa having a urban population of 25% you will still never find people on the streets after 7 in the evening. Shops normally open around 10 in the morning and go on until a maximum of 7 in the evening. So basically the streets are empty after 7.
As I said yes, there are a lot of check points, but most of them are there for the sake of having them. The police is very powerless in terms of civil engagements. So it’s the STF who does handle stuff in Batti. Having said that I recall seeing different types of uniformed people having had weapons with them. You would find the police in their regular uniforms, then the village security officers in maroon, then the STF (well there are two groups of them, serving two different parties. One is the government and I assume that you guys know the other party whom I referring to), the army, the navy and the civillian forces with weapons (I assume that you guys know whom I referring to).
Having had all of them, they still do not have regular checks and all, but still you have the liberty of travelling from one end to the other even here. One thing I would say is to be cautious of the motor bike riders. It’s like the mosquitoes in the evening. So many bikes riding at very high speeds levels without helmets (I honestly don’t know what will happen in case of an accident) is seriously something you need to be very careful of.
There are different types of traditional and local food available here. You would actually love the food here. Well most of them are non-vegetarian stuff, but you could actually find a lot of vegetarian food as well. I also got the chance to visit few of the places of interest such as the Batticoloa Light House (this was rebuilt after the tsunami by the USAID), some beach (I actually can’t recall its name) and some food joints.
Being in Ampara and Batti gave me a totally different experience, which I will never forget in my life. For those who have not been to these places, my advise is to go visit them before its too late.
– Nooranie Muthaliph
Nooranie is the General Secretary of Beyond Borders and blogs at “the ultimate change” The views expressed here are that of the author, not of Beyond Borders.
Observations about “History” [video]
Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri and Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe both from the faculty of arts at the University of Colombo spoke at a Beyond Borders study circle in Colombo on how we interpret the construct called “history”. Following are some excerpts from their remarks.
Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri on the relationship between the past and the present :
Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe on the objectivity of history writing :
Our apologies to Prof.Wickramasinghe and Dr.Dewasiri for the incompleteness of the videos and (at times) wobbly camera work. More about the BB study circle is here.
A Study Circle on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka
Beyond Borders kicked off the inaugural session of a series of a study circle meetings on the ethnic conflict for young people who are interested in the issues related to the ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka.
The Colombo study circle is part of a larger initiative by Beyond Borders which aims to strengthen youth voices in the discourse of the ethnic conflict by creating safe spaces for youth to freely talk about these issues. BB hopes to hold regional youth forums, study circles and create a reader on youth responses to the ethnic conflict which can be used as a lobbying tool, research resource for interested parties.
The first session focused on the role of our understanding of history has played in shaping the ethnic conflict. The speakers included Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe and Dr. Nirmal R. Dewasiri from the University of Colombo. Some pictures from the study circle is on our flickr. Watch this space for more updates on the Study Circles discussions.
Participation for the study circle is by invitation only. If you are between the ages of 18 to 29 and like to be part of the study circle drop us an email to info[at]beyondborders.lk with your name, age and a brief description as to why you’d like to be part of the study circle.
Through the looking glass, I heard music, saw laughter and color pass by.. Life is a whirlwind of joyous moments. Then, I opened my eyes…
BB India presents.. Conversations