Democracy, good governance, corruption, violence, and unemployment are the main concerns of those voting for the first time at the Presidential Election. Some 700,000 first-time voters are expected at the polling booths on Tuesday.
Sahan Suranga (21), an Arts Faculty student at the University of Colombo, said it was now time for Sri Lanka to once again show the world that it was a fully democratic country, with all the features of good governance.
Suranga, a resident of Matara, said corruption and violence were rampant and that all politicians should share the blame should the election not be free and fair. “It’s embarrassing the way our politicians are behaving in front of the media,” Suranga said. “Their antics would be funny if they weren’t such a disgrace and embarrassment to the country. It’s time for change. People shouldn’t be blindly following political parties.”
|Pix by Sanka Vidanagama
Suranga said the war was over and what the country now needed was a focus on the economy, education and the people’s welfare. “The poor people should be given self-employment facilities and training. This aspect of helping the needy has been neglected for years, and is the main reason for the country’s slow development,” he said.
Auto-mechanic Kanchana Wedikkara (24) of Colombo said the opportunities for higher education were limited, especially in the field of engineering. “Those who don’t score high marks at the Advanced Levels don’t have higher education opportunities, unlike in other countries,” he said.
Kanchana was also concerned about the high cost of living. He said taxes on consumer goods should be reduced. “The war is over. The money that would be otherwise going for military expenditure should now be used to give the people some financial relief,” he said.
Danusha Kuruparan (21) of Dehiwela commented on the high level of enthusiasm for the election seen among Tamil youth. This kind of enthusiasm was not seen in the Tamil community at previous elections. “Young Tamils are confident that they will get more recognition now, especially with the war over,” he said. “We have more freedom, now that there’s peace in the country.”
Danusha added that the next elected President should address the high cost of living, a rankling issue with most voters.
Rifthi Ali (22) of Kalmunai said he expected good governance under the next elected leader, and that promises of economic and educational development should be fulfilled.
“A lot needs to be done to ensure our aspiring young people get a higher education,” Rifthi said. “Our young people need job opportunities, but they also need a tertiary education. More tertiary education institutions should be opened, so our youth can get a complete education.”
Sutharni (22), a student living in Wellawatte, said the young people expected genuine leadership under the next regime. “We want clean, not dirty, politics,” she said.
Shibly Ahmed (24) of Nuwara-Eliya said the laws of the country should be upheld and justice meted out fairly. He said the rights of the minorities should be protected, and that all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnic background, should be treated as equals.
Chanaka (20) of Wattala said thousands of Advanced Level students left school and end up among the unemployed.
“Even the vocational training institutes, where A-Level dropouts hope to get some kind of skills training, demand paper qualifications to admit students,” he said. “There are thousands of students wanting a higher education who are unable to enter the universities. Something should be done to help them.”