Our Perspective


Atonement: will youth be bound by this?

by

Waking up to the sounds of birds chirping and vehicles speeding along, I realised a new day has dawned; not just a new day for me, but a new day for the entire country. This particular day of significance was the 17th of August, 2015. Before I went to work, I decided to first cast my vote, as I was eager to head towards the polling booth and do my part in the hope of making a positive change. With my National Identity Card in hand, I walked to the polling booth and exercised my franchise. 

On the 18th of August, I woke up to the sounds of people talking in the hall. I jumped out of the bed and rushed to see what it was all about, to find the television on, broadcasting the latest developments in the results. Until that evening, a proper decision seemed to have not been made, but slowly, a clear winner emerged - the people of Sri Lanka had decided.

While being grateful to our leaders who ended the gruesome thirty year long war, it is apparent that the majority of the youth in this country realised that the time has come to move forward if we are to see real growth. Real growth, which not only caters to the physical development of the country, but human development as well. In my opinion, the core of human development lies in the minds and body of youth. It is then the task of the newly elected government to not pander to, but impress the 4.4 million of youth in this country in order to restore faith in them.

Since only about 11 million out of nearly 15 million electors decided to exercise their right to vote, we were not able to secure a firm government that could run the country in the next five years. So, are we now heading towards political chaos? Will the elected national unity government defy the legislature? Will they abide by the Nineteenth Amendment? Who will be appointed as the final list of Cabinet/State and Deputy Ministers? Will they be the right candidates to run their respective portfolios? So many questions, which will hopefully be answered in the month of September, 2015 once and for all.

But the need of the hour, takes my mind to the Sri Lanka National Human Development Report 2014 on Youth and Development: Towards a More Inclusive Future (NHDR), which illustrates what the youth of Sri Lanka need in terms of development. The current political situation in the country does not appear to have a solid direction. So what will the future bring us? This rhetorical question filled with uncertainty will no doubt instigate more and more apathy among youth.

As the report suggests, the National Youth Survey 2013 (NYS) identified “several sources of apathy such as escalating corruption, politicization, violence and crime, inability to speak openly or meet in groups and increasing male-dominated environment”. Among the survey respondents, “37 percent said that escalating corruption prevents their participation in civic and political matters”. Apart from these issues, I believe the uncertainty of the current political environment in the country has also caused apathy among youth. The current politicians are said to be enthralled in their hunt to secure ministerial portfolios, which, as past experiences tell us, will help them feed their immediate and extended families, thus forgetting the need to feed the common masses or most importantly the youth.

A closer look at the needs of today’s youth and the instability of the country, given the country’s weak internal political and economic institutions, can diminish all hope of youth, leaving them no option but to migrate, either legally or illegally.

It is fundamental to note that, as the NHDR 2014 states, if youth are given the right opportunities and freedom, they will have a strong will to participate in civic and political matters. But this will not stand for long if uncertainty prevails in the political environment of the country like a heavy cloud on the horizon. The inability to carry out the newly established national unity government’s possible Five Point Plan for a new country in sixty months could potentially lead to youth migrating for good. The question then is, what will keep Sri Lankan youth happy and bound to the country they were born in? Will it be atonement or will it be development in its true sense?

I still remember the night of the 18th of August. I went to sleep, content in the hope that we have begun a new era. Today, I ask myself - what will the future hold for the youth of this country? Before I tuck myself in, I scribble these words.

 

Atonement

Do you hear me? Do you hear me?

Your mother cries; our mother cries

She bleeds in pain, she is ageing

Yet her bosom holds us dearly

 

Do you hear me? Do you hear me?

When tomorrow comes

She will open her arms

Still loving me, though I loved her not

 

Do you hear me? Do you hear me?

We dream of other love

Not hers; but those of richer love

And walk away from her silently

 

Do you hear me? Do you hear me?

We ploughed her heart for years

Time has come to set the seeds

Before we fly away from hers

 

Do you hear me? Do you hear me?

Do you hear my words?

Blood runs its way down my throat

My voice gone, thrusting my words

 

My beloved, I thrust them onto you

Pass it around to all you love

We must look after her

For she is my mother and your country.

Youth Asia & the Pacific Sri Lanka

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