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What is the Samagi Balawegaya

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

For the past few weeks I have been asking people to join the Samagi Youth Corp, and rightly so many of them have asked me what exactly is the Samagi and what are the goals of the Samagi Youth.

I am taking this time to write a brief summary of what the Samagi is and how the youth corp will operate.

The Samagi Balawegaya (Force for Unity) is a coalition of civil society activists, trade unions, media groups, politicians and individuals who are concerned about and are dedicated to working towards a sustainable and all-inclusive future for Sri Lanka. The Samagi as a whole has agreed upon the ten principles detailed below: 

ONE 

Abolishing Executive Presidency 

TWO

Strengthening of Good Governance by re-installing the 17th Amendment to the constitution and removal of the obstructionist clauses under 18th Amendment

THREE

Affirming a united Sri Lankan identity by conserving the rights of every ethnic group in Sri Lanka’s diversity.

FOUR

Strengthening of Parliamentary democracy by repealing “Manaapaya” system

FIVE

Right to Information and Freedom Expression and Freedom

SIX

Re-affirming Rule of Law and Independence of Judiciary

SEVEN

Controlling Cost of Living and Implementing anti-corruption laws

EIGHT

Preservation and Strengthening of Universal Education and Healthcare benefits

NINE

Reducing the poverty and implementing a truly people-centric development plan for the country

TEN

Implementation of LLRC Recommendations

These ten principles will form the backbone of the Samagi as we continue to push the current government towards the change that the people of Sri Lanka are asking for.

What is the Samagi Youth Corp?

The Samagi Youth Corp is an arm of the Samagi that will work alongside the youth of this country who are committed to ensuring a future that we all agree upon. The main aim of the Youth corp is to demand from the government the necessary assistance in helping them build a future that is not only prosperous but also sustainable. 

Politics and politicians have, for too long, been allowed to sneak past the voters with the outdated populist methods. As the youth it is now our turn to take a step forward and start asking the hard questions and once again force the politicians to return to the role of being the representatives of the people. 

Asking the questions alone will not be enough, the Samagi youth will take upon itself the lead role. As we expand through the provinces, the corp will form a consensus among their peers over issues that our generation will be forced to inherit. The tough questions must be asked both of ourselves and the government. The traditional image of the role of the youth in society must be re-evaluated. 

While the demands are made of the government, we the youth must be prepared to work towards achieving the future that we want. 

The Samagi Youth Corp is throwing out an open invitation to all those who are interested to join up.

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Sri Lanka’s Shambolic Foreign Relations

With the focus in Sri Lanka directed at the domestic situation, namely the rising cost of living and political instability, the country’s foreign policy has been forgotten with continual blunders on the part of the government.

In March this year the country was faced with one of its biggest challenges on the international stage as they prepared for a vote on the adoption of a US resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC summit in Geneva. The resolution was designed at addressing growing human rights concerns in the country. It was a challenge that was poorly met as the Sri Lankan delegation, who was led by the Minister of Plantations, was unable to sway the vote in the country’s favour.

While sentiment remains high that the vote was a close affair and would have gone the way of Sri Lanka had India backed them (24 countries voted in favour of the resolution while 15 voted against and 8 abstained). It is clear that the delegation, or the government for that matter, did not have a clear strategy at tackling the situation. Success at the summit appeared to have depended on India’s support, and in turn the canvassing of other nations was done too little too late.

The countries who voted against the resolution are those who looked more likely to oppose US interference in the region than having specifically supported Sri Lanka (China and Pakistan). The extent of Sri Lanka’s poor international lobbying is the fact that India, who usually does not vote on country-specific resolutions, did so against its neighbour.

The Sri Lankan government expected India to either vote with them or at the very least abstain, they failed to lobby the Indian government and assure them of progress in regards to the issues being discussed.

India’s opposition to Sri Lanka at the summit was a sign of disapproval at the current state of affairs; the country has chosen to take the resolution as a personal slur and its government has not made any progress in rebuilding its relations with its neighbour.

In fact Sri Lanka went further and responded to this resolution by announcing that it would be closing several of its embassies in Europe, while opening new embassies in Africa. The decision was clearly based on anger with the Europeans and their decision to back such a resolution. Ironically, the proposed new embassies in Africa will be in those countries that supported Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka looks uninterested in pacifying the situation by addressing the issues brought up at the vote.

Last week a delegation led by the Minister of External Affairs visited the US to present an action-plan on the implementation of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report. However, such a plan had not been prepared in time for the visit and local media was abuzz with the news that the Minister would be travelling empty handed to the US.

Their meetings with US representatives appeared unfruitful as US media reported that their government was impatient with Sri Lanka’s lack of progress in addressing the human rights and reconciliation concerns.

Despite Hillary Clinton’s office stating that they were impressed with an action-plan that was presented, an action-plan which was a secret until now, it is clear that the delegation had not done enough. The meeting with members of the House of Representatives was an opportunity to impress upon them that the Sri Lankan government was serious in tackling these issues. The lack of clear planning in this regard was evident with the Minister choosing to repeat the sentiment they have continually expressed, without producing any hard evidence to support it.

With the US heading towards an election, it was of utmost importance that they satisfied all parties concerned.

As Sri Lanka faces mounting international pressure a focussed approach is lacking. The government will need to re-strategize if they are to avoid any further resolutions and opposition by its one time allies. Rebuilding of diplomatic ties must be on top of its agenda.