Futility, disappointment and 'essential' politics
Ruhanie Perera finds out what the youth of Sri Lanka think about
the upcoming elections
As the youth of this country, we have what seems
like a rather long life stretching ahead of us.
If our present is not the most promising of times, what can we expect
of the future?
With the elections round the corner most of us are doing some serious
thinking as to what we want from our leaders, for our future.
But one can't help wondering if they ever think of what they can give
us. With numerous posters being splashed about, loudspeakers blaring music,
and many a promise being thrown around, one can't help wondering if our
representatives are missing the point.
As youth, what do we want?
Do we have that 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' feeling, are we
disillusioned - or is there hope...?
"My future, as well as the future of this country depends on the people
who come into power," says 21-year-old Anushika who firmly believes that
if the people in power do pay attention to the correct things they could
make a difference. The upcoming election creates for her, "not a very good
"I don't feel that there really is anyone who is good", but as she points
out when it comes to voting there is no choice. Either you do it, or someone
else does it for you. Her policy is to identify the best out of the bad
"I am worried though," she stresses. "There is a big potential for violence
and although personally I may not be affected there are lots of young people
who are actively involved in political campaigns who will be. In addition
to that we will be affected as a community."
As a youth, Anushika doesn't feel represented, the reason for this being
that she feels today's politics revolve around immaterial issues like what
the "other side has or has not done".
"They are too preoccupied with their problems to productively address
the issues that involve the youth of this country like unemployment, education,
etc. Whatever system they have put forward so far is not successful, because
our concerns are not their concerns."
Listen to us
A first-time voter Ravindra (19) says, "The youth are the unused resources
of a country and they should be used so as to extract the maximum from
them." In his opinion the best way to do that is by listening to the youth
and formulating policies based on their needs. "Election time is when you
learn the aspirations of your people and they in turn learn the aspirations
of their leaders. That obviously has not happened." He also refers to the
fact that those his age, make up the "new" votes. These "new' votes, says
Ravindra, can prove to be the deciding factor in an election in a situation
where there is a deadlock between parties, but no one has even considered
"What are my aspirations? For starters that we have honest politicians
and can live in a law-abiding society where all basic necessities are met
and the cost of living is low." Sounds a trifle idealistic, don't you think?
His very next statement proves that he is aware of that. "I am a realist,
and so although I aspire for that, I don't expect it. I just hope that
while politicians make their money some of it flows to us, 'the voters'."
"I am not represented!" which seems to be the opinion of the youth,
is given voice to by 20-year-old Hasitha. Explaining his statement, he
stresses that although political parties are under the impression that
they know the 'pulse' of the people, they don't, although they make their
manifestos under this delusion. "So let alone my needs at this time as
an individual, the common needs of the youth at large are not even thought
about." These concerns, states Hasitha, are two pronged. Firstly the basic
needs of the youth, like their rights, should be met. In addition to that
their special concerns as 'youth' must be looked into.
Confusion reigns in Anika's (22) world. "This election business is so
mind boggling. I have no clear idea of what is happening. Everything changes
overnight and I don't know whether a single person who has come forward
deserves my vote. I mean I put them in parliament because I feel they stand
for what I believe in...but somehow I don't get that feeling and I just
don't know what to do."
Having voted for sometime now, Naren (24) is more familiar with what
he states is "the futility of the whole practice". He accepts that the
upcoming elections are important for Sri Lanka because they will decide
the fate of this country. But the issues being discussed ("or should I
say not discussed"), the violence and overall mud-slinging have reduced
it to the level of "a third grade, low budget soap opera".
"My future," he states, rather cynically, "is fairly bleak and that's
not just my future...it's ours." However, he believes that the youth of
this country will some day be the leaders and in that thought there is
hope. "Most of us are fed up with the present political culture and I think
we've hit rock bottom. Who knows, the change we need so badly may not be
that far away."
But, at the same time, there are those who see no problem with the existing
system and Jagath (23) is one of them. "I know whom to vote for. The whole
process is actually rather straightforward. I don't see what the fuss is
all about," says Jagath.
"I think politics is very important and sometimes leaders have to take
certain decisions and you just have to trust them. It's not mud-slinging
but something necessary to defend their stance.
"And maybe because of that they can't devote themselves to all the issues
we want them to. They are human beings and we can't expect perfection from
them. They merely react within the demands of the system. The only decision
you have to take is: do their policies run on the same lines as your aspirations."
Realist, idealist, cynic, everyone of us will make our aspirations clear
when we mark the cross for the future we want.
A time to care
Lanka's cricket captain Sanath Jayasuriya took time off from his busy schedule
to visit 'We are family', an exhibition highlighting the talents and skills
of the disabled.
Organised by Hameedias, this very successful event was held at the Hotel
Taj Samudra's North Lawn last month.