20 October, 2017

An Open Letter To YPLF On Reconciliation

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

To: Vasantha Senanayake MP, Raghu Balachandran MP, Shehan Semasinghe MP, Hunais Farook MP, Niroshan Perera MP, Harin Fernando MP, and others.

I write this letter to appreciate your statement on behalf of the Young Political Leaders Forum (YPLF) in remembrance of the dreadful events of July 1983 and to mark your determination not to allow or prevent another July 83 in the future. You are quite right in calling for ‘active social engagement of youth both in Sri Lanka and within the Diaspora in the reconciliation process.’ I also appreciate your bipartisan approach on this matter. However, the main task before all of us is to walk the talk.

It is my view that the long term reconciliation in the country should begin in schools and in this context that you may have a role to play in intervening or lobbying in reforming the school curricular, teacher training and allocation of resources for ‘reconciliation education’ that should include multiculturalism, plurality, language training and most importantly human rights. Human rights education in schools is a neglected area in the recent past and you may pay attention to resurrect or rescue it.

Both from a long term and a present-day perspective, universities are equally or more important. As young MPs, you may have a direct rapport with the university students. However, the reconciliation efforts or activities might not be workable without a sympathetic eye for the students’ grievances in other areas. The teachers/academics are also important. The universities did have an admirable reconciliation program sometime back but unfortunately this has become neglected in the ensuing euphoria of war victory. It might be very easy for you to encourage resurrecting this effort with the association, for example, of FUTA. More interactions between universities in the North, South and the East are important.

While your determination to prevent the recurrence of July 83 is laudable we all have to admit that similar events did happen this June at Aluthgama against a different minority community. Most unfortunately many of the rioters were youth. Perhaps the awareness about minority rights or religious tolerance is abysmal among at least some of the youth. How to correct this? You may have to take a stand against the perpetrators.

Let me relate some experiences in respect of general education and building awareness. The Peace Building Project (under the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs) conducted a popular Subharathi (Sinhala and Tamil) radio program and the results were extremely positive. There were many simply written publications. The PBP staff traversed the country to educate the youth and conduct programs, of course within certain financial limitations. These and many more effective programs might be necessary to educate the youth today.

Let me delve on a broader matter. It is my view that the question of reconciliation cannot be divorced from other matters of social justice, human rights and democratization. Unless we voice the grievances of the poor and deal with them, they are the most vulnerable for antagonistic politics on ethnic/religious or other lines. Instigators are usually the opportunistic leaders. Dealing with reconciliation in isolation will fail. There should be a holistic view. Therefore, I would like to encourage you to deal with broader justice issues including fighting against corruption.

At last but not least. You have correctly identified the Diaspora as an important arena where reconciliation is necessary and important. I am now part of Diaspora. I belonged to the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, NSW, and the SLRF is giving much emphasis on encouraging youth for reconciliation. Although I cannot speak formerly on behalf of the SLRF, I am sure that any of you intend to visit this part of the world, down under, the SLRF would be most happy to accord an opportunity to address the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims living here who are in essence not that antagonistic like back home in my view and experience.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

PS. I have also noticed that among your Young Leaders there are no Young women. I won’t ask you why, but wish you to pay attention to this matter as well.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    Education… Education… This is the only answer, no short term long lasting solutions… But as I heard, minister of Education in SL is ex Tuition Master… Most of Child Care centre’s in cities say “English Medium”… What CW Kannangara would say if he was told that 2~3 year old children thought in English medium which is not their home language … As I heard, Kannangara (Irriyagolla ?) was the person who promoted SiyaBasa and he argued that if a child does not learn in his “Home Language”, they loose creativity, creative thinking… Sounds very logical to me..

    • 3
      0

      Yes, the key is education. However, the bigger question is what sort of education? Is what is taught and imparted in our schools and universities education? Does our society as a whole set the example from which children can learn? Does our media educate our children and us? Ultimately, what is the definition of the education we are talking about? Making a child learn to think and become a thinking and questioning person has to be the primary goal of education. Education is the combined outcome of knowledge, culture and wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience imbibed from practical application of knowledge and culture in day to day life and from the life experiences of others who are with us and around us. Culture is of course refinement of mind, morals and taste. This refinement should transcend our communal and religious identities. Does our education system provide it?

      Our education system is mass producing stuffed sausages incapable of thinking and asking questions. ‘Educere’ the Latin root of the word education means ‘ to stand up’. Our education system makes us cow down and swallow all the muck thrown at us, instead! Our country is where it is now because of poor quality of our so-called education system, that locks our minds, without opening up our individual potentialities. Literacy is not education.

      Recently, I read a story of a fish, a fowl, an elephant, a lizard and a lion being lined up in a class to be educated on the same syllabus, because it would be easy to evaluate them fairly on that basis. At the examination all were asked to climb a tree. Those who could not, failed! This is the type of mass, examination oriented knowledge stuffing we are engaged in the name education, regardless of the inherent capabilities, incapabilities and individual talents in our youngsters. We thus do not produce great persons anymore. Hence we do not have great leaders either.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • 0
        0

        Dr. Narendra, that is perfectly true. What has the present education system produced in profusion, trishaw drivers, bus drivers, security guards, Middle East labour forces such as House aids. Where are the English educated Accountants, Software Engineers, Doctors, Engineers and the likes. If at all there were any, they probably have left the shores already for lucrative posts overseas. What remains behind are mostly those who had early years swabasha educated. Most successful would have come through the International School education stream. Politicians have truly messed up education in our country, not only education but have been instrumental in lowering the disciplinary standards too. The rule should be education and sports must be left to the professionals to mold the characters of the young students, with the objective of raising the bar to be on par with the best in International standards. What is certain is that our wretched government will never support to reach such lofty heights, as they are too busy supporting the inducing of communal tension through racial hate speech, in order to divide the people, and distract attention to their own failings. What a waste of an entire generation, or possibly two generations of youthful talent.

        • 0
          0

          Quite right Marwan!

          We need to discuss ROLE MODELS as key players in education and character building for the younger generation as well. But look at the leaders of the country and the politicians who wield power who are with a few exceptions, corrupt crooks and thugs.

          Today’s youth have awful role models starting with the clowns who are ministers of education and higher Ed, and of course the Jarapassa family and its cronies that the the leaders of the Sinhala Modayas..

    • 1
      0

      Before we worry about the language of instruction, we must remove parts that instigate hatred of the ‘other’ in textbooks – otherwise we are all pouring water into a pot with a hole at the bottom:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/211491454/Peacebuilding-in-Sri-Lanka-Needs-UNESCO-to-Supervise-Revision-of-School-Textbooks

      • 0
        0

        Silly goats creating disharmony in public is a very frequent sight in Sri Lanka. When so called religious leaders are up to this how can we expect anything better from others. This is the problem.

  • 0
    0

    1.I haven’t heard these young parliamentarians criticise injustice, discrimination, oppression, corruption, suppression of media, appointing commissions without releasing the reports(LLRC was an exception that it was released but the recommendations remain unimplemented), etc that trample the people with politicised judiciary, politicised police, impunity to armed forces.
    Have they ever raised their voices at the way the ethnic minorities
    have been treated from independence till today. Saying something about 1983 riot is cosmetic as though before and after the riot things were OK. Of course during the riots people are killed by mobs. But political, economic, cultural, environmental and psychological oppression is really much worse – it kills whole generations:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/104705097/Conscientious-Sinhalese-Tell-LLRC

    2.I’m glad that the author has said:”There should be a holistic view.”

    3. If the people inside the country are treated well, diaspora will shut up. Most of them only want justice for all citizens. But there are deadly racist elements among the diaspora too. But they can’t do anything if the successive governments treat all the citizens decently.

    • 0
      0

      Actually the author explains the various aspects of the holistic view throughout the article.

    • 0
      0

      This President is a bad influence on youngsters:
      1.For a long time he has been telling different people different things.
      2. Now he says:
      Do as I say, not as I do:
      After the Aluthgama riot he told a meeting: some elements are unnecessarily internationalising our problems. We all know that he has recently started tweeting regularly. Do his tweets stay inside Sri Lanka?

    • 0
      0

      Jaffna University is also very much under the control of the army and the ruling party. They are not developing to realise their potential.

  • 0
    0

    if you ask me i would say all these are already in the curriculum-human rights, language training, multiculturalism, peace education etc-. pl. contact the national institute of education .they have a lot to tell you and they can listen to you. but pl. note schools have a multiplicity of functions; teach basic knowledge pertaining to languages, science, maths, history and other social sciences, aesthetics, phy. education, religion. now we have several literacies and preparing the students for the world of work. there are skills for the 21st century. in addition schools have to socialize the children.then we come to the matters you have mentioned. some educationists feel that the schools are burdened with too many tasks and objectives.there are separate agencies to deal with human rights and ethnic issues.they are remaining idle. do you think school are capable or possess the necessary human resources to teach the areas mentioned by you.schools are finding it difficult to enhance the proficiency of students in basic subjects. at bottom level they are capable of providing only that kind of proficiency for all social evils.. school is not panacia
    dr, your well meaning suggestions are clear. but take my viewpoint also into consideration.

    • 1
      0

      Ms/Mr Sundaram,

      I do have seen some NIE teacher manuals on ‘national integration’ and as you say some are quite commendable. But in actual teaching most of these are neglected or overwhelmed by other objectives of ‘education.’ I am saying this from my experience on evaluating some on the issues of human rights education during 2003/4 through some researchers for a project of HURIGHTS – Osaka. I myself visited some schools and talked to teachers. Of course this is a decade ago. Do you think the things have changed? I hardly believe. What I was asking in my Open Letter for this Young Turks to look into these matters if they are serious.

      I don’t know who you are or where you are based. But look at what you say? You are asking me to “note schools have multiplicity of functions.” You also say “there are separate agencies to deal with human rights.” These are just excuses. If these are the attitudes of educationists or education administrators (I am not saying you alone), then it is obvious the programs are not running properly. I don’t deny that schools have to prepare skills for the 21st century. But what do we mean? Do we mean preparing people like Dilanthe Withanage of BBS? Sorry to give you a concrete example by naming a person. However, as far as I can see, the basic misnomer is to start these value education at the secondary level and then drop for lack of time etc. I think they should be started at the primary level and should continue. When it comes to secondary level it could be nicely integrated into literary/language studies for example. I can remember my son at school in Australia had the reading text ‘Midnight Express’ and for an assignment he had questions to answer about ethnic relations and human rights.

    • 0
      0

      When the politicians forcefully distort history in textbooks and instigate hatred through textbooks in an authoritarian regime like Sri Lanka, schools are in a difficult position. That is where the young politicians can come in to raise their voices in the parliament:
      ”successive governments have messed up education and the minds of citizens in a vicious cycle and the country suffers. Let the future generation have a better life. Let us make a change. Let us have good governance in all government institutions. Let us do away with militarisation of institutions, including education”
      The government does anything to please the international community and after 5yrs of denial, the govt has agreed to investigate what happened in the war. It has to do the same thing with giving power to the elected Northern Provincial Council and to run all government institutions, including schools, democratically. Then we can produce good citizens and have peace in the plural society.

      • 0
        0

        Dear Young parliamentarians,
        1.Do we need this: one camouflages the other?
        Secretary Defence Joins ‘Ifthar’ Ceremony with MoD Officials, 24 July 2014, http://www.army.lk/detailed.php?NewsId=8219

        Cadet Training Course for SLAVF Professionals Begins, 24 July 2014, http://www.army.lk/detailed.php?NewsId=8222

        2.Reports by Commissions of Inquiry on corruption are not published by the President and corruption is not dealt with by the police, Bribery Commission is in trouble with the government, ….. but the army has a parallel government?

        MILITARY POLICE SURVEILLANCE TEAMS TO MINIMIZE MALPRACTICES, CORRUPTION & IRREGULARITIES, 19 July 2014, http://www.army.lk/detailed.php?NewsId=8200

    • 1
      0

      Dear Sundaram,

      Let us call a spade a spade. If we go to school to learn the three R’s that constitute literacy, it is not education. Religion should be only taught at homes and in the temples, churches, mosques and synagogues. Life skills should be taught in trade schools and technical training institutions. The schools should of course teach the fundamentals to reach out to this next step. History, geography, astronomy, literature, philosophy, science etc., should be taught to the extent that they stimulate a child’s interest. All these and more combined is not education. It is yet literacy. A child should be exposed to the world sufficiently in school, to begin the life long journey for self-education. The universities must be the temples where we stand up to ask questions and find leading roles in the society and world around them.

      The child should be taught to be curious of the world around him/her. The child should acquire discipline- mental, sensual and physical, while in school. The child should learn to be tolerant of those who are different while in school. The child of course should be taught by teachers who are worthy of worship. The school, the home and the community should come together to educate a child. This concept has been mutilated in Sri Lanka today. The school cannot educate a child on its own. It can only make a child literate and open his/her mind to the other aspects if education. Our universities cannot and should not continue to function as glorified high schools. The examination system crucifixes children today. Children cease to be children- who need to play and interact with their environment- and become mini-adults over burdened with the pressure to pass examinations, from a young age. They become victims of parental ambitions and do not have a chance to know what their potentials are. I would not want to be a child in this environment,

      Our education system distorts and deforms children. This results in a deformed society.

      Dr.RN

  • 0
    0

    The path to liberation of this Nation is to take off Religion from the school’s curriculum. I do not understand why the youth should be segregated, using Religion from the school level. If not for Religion all students could be mixed easily so that we will have a fully integrated society. If English could be made the medium of instruction it will help further to integrate this society. Religion is a personal issue and should be left for the Family to cultivate and need not be forced down the throats of a society to appease the Clergy of whatever denomination. What a Mockery the Clergy makes of Religion, believing the followers belong to them. Stupid Idiots!

  • 0
    0

    Have they questioned the parliament why the North (and to a less extent the East) is highly militarised occupying the land of the IDPs even after after the war was over and the occupying military interfere in the socio-economic-cultural-environmental matters with the deprivation of livelihood of the people so much that there are reports of increasing suicide.
    Have they, as parliamentarians, criticised the way the Governors of the North and the East are obstructing the work plans of the elected bodies of those two provinces and the representatives from the other provinces told a symposium on Provincial Councils held in February 2011 that their Governors don’t interfere with the plans of their elected Councillors.
    Aren’t they ashamed of the way the Muslims and mosques have been attacked in the last two years with shameless inaction of the police and the dangerous lack of condemnation by the President.
    Reconciliation before stopping oppression?
    There is only one way to stop the oppression: deal with the hatred-mongering textbooks. Teach the Sinhalese youth about the UN Charter.
    Reconciliation will flow from there without anyone even talking about it.
    It’s playground rule that you can’t reconcile with the people while you are trampling them.

  • 0
    0

    mr.gamini, making english as the medium of instruction is an impossible task. do you know we have 4 million school children.we cannot find teachers for that task.one we do not have qualified teachers to teach english as a second language. anyway some govt. schools are given permission to use bilingual method-some subjects in english medium- provided they have the facilities. even inter. schools are facing problems to recruit teachers to teach in eng. medium. sometimes english language teachers teach science and history simply repeating what is given in the text books. mother tongue has come to stay and that is advocated internationally.
    if someone can find any hatred in the sri lankan text books pl. inform the NIE, maharagama. this kind of material was removed in recent times.
    -sundaram

    • 0
      0

      Sundaram,
      If there is a will, then there is a way. English was learned by the natives at a time when no one at home spoke or understood English. Today many a household speak English and teaching English with many British who would volunteer, will fill the gap and should be not an issue.

  • 0
    0

    Very first thing, these people should take some action for beating up of VVT team Eagle in the unruly South, where 1983 July took place. They should be declared as winners. This how the Tamils were chased out of their jobs from 1948 to 1983, then JR finished the job completely. Let this YPLF guys to take up their first assignment. All Lanka preachers are good in political preaching.

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