As many as 30 youth organisations representing communities across the island met on Friday (31) to condemn the terror attacks of April 21, demand that the government conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents leading up to the attacks, and calling for more youth representation and inclusion in policymaking.
The youth, from the Sabaragamuwa, Central, North Central and other provinces, representing diverse groups, such as the Young Lawyers Association, the AFREIL Youth Network, the National Christian Council, Youth for Democracy, District Youth Federations From Jaffna and Batticaloa the Elpitiya Saviya Youth Organisation and the Karunya Foundation spoke about how the hopes they had pinned on the incumbent President and the government in 2015 were shattered by power-centric politics that has taken precedence, drawing business and religious leaders into swirling, toxic vortex.
“We request all religious leaders to refrain from contributing to the power-centric politics and we also urge political authorities to refrain from using religious leaders for political purposes,” the youth said.
They also asked that the reasons for terrorism to gain momentum in Sri Lanka be investigated, asking for both short-term and long-term measures to be implemented to resolve these issues. “Attacks on religious establishments must be probed efficiently, without any political interference and culprits must be brought before the court. We also request government authorities to refrain from protecting those who engaged in violence,” the youth representatives said.
Referring to those seeking political advantage by attempting to unleash violence on the Muslim community, the youth entreated the political parties and groups to put aside partisan politics and work for the betterment of the country.
Attorney-at-law Jayantha Dehiaththage questioned the degree to which the anti-Muslim attacks were coordinated and carried out on May 13. “This must be thoroughly investigated,” he said.
Meanwhile, the youth organizations said they intend to join hands with the Muslims, to defeat terrorism. “We urge all youth to use non-violent measures against all forms of violence,” they said.
AFRIEL Youth Network’s Ravindra de Silva said the youth of the North were determined and would do all it takes to ensure communal tensions propagated by a minority group of hardliners would not flame into a full-scale war. “None of the youth representing many organizations from the North who are present here right now are willing to enable or aid a war in any way,” he said.
“We hope the business community will also take the necessary steps to strengthen understanding and trust among themselves,” the youth organisations said. “Vicious propaganda aiming to destabilize a section of the business community will derail national peace and harmony. It is important to bring this sort of activity to an end,” they said.
The youth were also vocal about wanting more inclusion in policymaking, pointing to the fact that those operating at the grassroots level, such as themselves, were excluded from the process. “Since policy reforms fail to include the people’s opinions before implementation, communities are often unaware of new policies and their outcomes and are easily manipulated. by extremists and rumor-mongers,” they pointed out.