Canberra’s public transport system: First impressions of a migrant

Exactly a month ago I made my first ever visit to Canberra and that was as a skilled migrant. Both me and my husband had done our research and realised that we cannot live here with a three year old unless we have our own vehicle. However to our surprise the situation was much worse than expected. It was very different to, and much worse than where I was coming from and most third world countries I had travelled to. As a family who were settling in ACT the first thing we did was to collect our ATM cards from the Bank (luckily the accounts were opened prior to our arrival) and walked into a rent-a-car. We had to get a vehicle to ensure we were mobile. Although our initial plan was to purchase a vehicle about a week after our visit, two days in the capital territory we owned a car.

Canberra as the capital city of Australia and the best place to live according to OECD[1] is surprising do not have a public transport service that is definitely not in par with the rest of the capital cities in the world. Few days in this city, I realised there was a policy proposal by the ACT government to introduce a light rail system. This might take another decade or more, but the news was a console. Having read that I also figured out the negative comments listed against introducing such a policy have invaded media spaces more and I decided to share my thinking as a migrant.

Given Canberra has a very small population of only about 358,222 by 2010 according to, investing in a public transport system is seemed as a loss by  the ruling government of the country. However, I believe it is time to remind the wise policy makers that the growing population in the capital and frequent visitors to it will only increase over the years. We don’t make policies looking only of today, but they are for tomorrow, for the years to come. The strategy paper of the ACT government targeting this project to bring its full benefits by 2031 is indeed impressive in that sense.

If someone thinks that going to work, school drop-offs, after-work sports will steer people into cars instead of using public transport, it’s time for them to see how  people in London to Washington DC to New Delhi do the same. Having said that it is also imperative to get the fundamentals right. The public transport system all in all must be easy and convenient to use, fast, safe, clean and affordable. World Bank[2] shows that public transport systems are not only excellent in cities like London, Singapore and Hong Kong, but they are also excellent in smaller cities like Lyon in France, Curitiba in Brazil, Leon in Mexico, Pereira in Columbia, Lagos in Nigeria and Ahmedabad in India. I really don’t think Canberra wants to be behind all of them.

A key feature in these transport systems is that they integrate multiple technologies such as metros, light rail and bus services. A common ticket like the Oyster Card in London makes it easy for passengers to transfer from one mode to the other. Comprehensive passenger information systems will enable us to know when the next service is due and to understand the routes easily. This also reduces the hassle of long wait for the next bus or the train.

It is further argued that from an urban mobility perspective, public transport is far more efficient and environment friendly than personal motor vehicles in terms of the road space it uses up and the energy it consumes. If I am to take the advice given by most of my friends who have been living in Canberra, I need to target to buy the second vehicle (one for me and another for my husband) as soon as we start working, as normalcy is almost impossible without such an arrangement, specially with a kid around. The only exception is that both husband and wife start working either for the same company or nearby offices. If that logic is to be applied as a reality in the case of majority of 358,222 people living in Canberra, can one say that in reality there are about 600,000 vehicles on the road? Going a step beyond that, if the number of people in Canberra is believed to almost double its population during parliamentary sittings, will this reach more than 1,000,000? Although these numbers and assumptions are based on what I have heard as a brand new migrant, it’s worth researching on them further.

Looking back at the space and sustainability of the above argument, for example a bus carrying 40 passengers uses only 2.5 times more road space than a car carrying 1 or 2 people[3]. The same bus is estimated to consume only about 3 times as much fuel as a car. This will only reaffirm us that improving public transport system in Canberra undoubtedly is important and timely for improving sustainable mobility and it is the right approach to encourage low-carbon growth in the city as well.



[3] Ibid

IS is a brainchild of America: too innocent not to know?

My thesis on IS is that all the countries that have fully endorsed the US lead campaign against IS are obviously fully aware that Islamic state is a brainchild of the USA. Someone with very basic understanding on the international relations would know that Saudi Arabia and Qatar that have been financing and training the so called terrorists of the Islamic state are close allies of the US. Israel, another best friend of the US on the other hand is harbouring the Islamic state. NATO together with Turkey who have been recruiting and dispatching jihadist fighters to Syria since 2011 are integrated with west supported military advisers in Iraq.

Having planned all of this, US also brings UN Security Council Resolutions calling upon member states to suppress the recruiting, organising, transporting, equipping and financing of foreign terrorist fighters. Ironically, these are not “opposition freedom fighters” they are the people recruited and trained by themselves.

What is US trying to achieve out of this? Having experienced the decline of the US hegemonic power in the aftermath of the Cold War in 1990, Is US still trying to create its ‘other’ to regain its power?

Australia is one of the many states who is supporting the US in the so called fight against IS. Prime Minister Abbott yesterday (3rd October 2014) rationalised why Australia is joining the mission against the “murderous range of ISIL death cult” as he explained and why it has sent 6 war planes and 600 military personnel to the Middle East. Are we really ignorant and stupid to support the US in this? or are the leaders of these western countries so corrupt that US has successfully silent them?

The US lead political missions will reassure its political power, but will leave the world with hundreds and thousands of more victims that we cannot afford anymore. Australia is already feeling the pain of having to accept refugees and asylum seekers. The country will feel it more when we have to contribute economically to a warfare that brings us no victory, but more and more problems.

The world cannot be ignorant anymore. It is time to open your eyes! SAY NO TO WAR! THE WORLD CANT AFFORD MORE VICTIMS OF WAR!

Viva la peace.

Asylum seekers vs opportunists

The Australian government introduced a milestone bill on asylum seekers last week… It seeks to remove the already limited ability of the courts to evaluate Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with the international obligations and introduces an “Australian Version” of the international refugee definition. For the convenience of the state, the bills says the government could even remove people with no consideration of their risks of torture or other human rights violations[1].

At the same time, the government of Australia held a toast after signing to resettle refugees from Nauru in Cambodia. Australia has put $40 million on the table to ensure the success of this transaction. In fact, although the Minister of immigration is thinking about unlimited numbers to be resettled there, Cambodia seems to be looking at handful[2].

On the other hand, the Australian civil society is further concerned about the asylum seekers who were returned to Sri Lanka[3].

All these incidents, only leave us with the question “who is responsible for these asylum seekers?”

In the context of the above events, one may argue the fact that recently signed agreement to resettle some refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres will provide a path to settle and determine the future for the so called illegal maritime arrivals, rather than being in uncertainty in life over years.

However, most rights groups have criticised the agreement calling it as inhumane. Considering the human rights record of Cambodia they have further condemned relocating the vulnerable refugees there.

Whilst the arguments for and against are put through various forms, from a humanitarian point of view, asylum seekers are mostly a symbol of our turbulent times. As each new conflict erupts, the media is filled with pictures of masses on the move, fleeing from their own country. Those who eventually survive depend on the willingness of mostly developed states to open their borders and various humanitarian organisations to provide new arrivals with the basic needs. In fact, subsequently when the message goes back to the country of origin, it is always possible to use this international obligation of another state in an abusive manner.

In the case of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, even after 5 years since the end of the war we hear more and more boats coming to Australia. Irrespective of ethnic differences they are fleeing seeking for better opportunities and life prospects in the developed world. People smuggling is the real problem to be addressed in this regard. I have heard stories about smugglers attempting to pass on people through boats and at the time of failure, if they are returned they torture the people, expose them to media as the next step. If the governments reply they consider to be lucky. If not, the world turns its attention to another crisis and they are left behind in their usual routines back at home.

While we claim that asylum seekers are a responsibility of the entire world and it is imperative to ensure their human potentials are not wasted during their time in exile, providing them with the right solutions, it is also the responsibility of the people not to exploit these humanitarian laws.


[2] Ibid


යුද්ධය අවසන්ව වසර 5යි | ‘යුද්ධය අවසන් කිරිමට පෙර සිට අපි අහපු මේ ප්‍රශ්න අපිට තවමත් ප්‍රශ්න’

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මගේ මතකයේ ඇති කාලයක සිට 2009 මැයි මස වනතුරු යුද්ධයක් පැවති සමාජයක ජීවත් වුනා. මෙම තත්ත්වය මම ඇතුළු බොහොමයක් තරුණ තරුණියන් අත්විදපු දෙයක්. යුද්ධය අවසානයත් සමගම මා මෙන්ම මාගේ පරම්පරාවේ අය ජාතික සමගිය හා එක්සත්කම වෙනුවෙන් ලොකු ලොකු හීන දැක්කා. සමහරුන්ට මේ වන විට ඒ සිහින සැබෑවෙලා. අපිට දැන් යාපනයට මුලතිව් වලට කරදරයක් නැතුව යන්න එන්න පුළුවන්. බෝම්බ පුපුරාවීදෝ කියන බය තවදුරටත් නැහැ. මේකද අපි ජාතියක් විදිහට බලාපොරොත්තු වන සමගිය? එකමුතුකම?

ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් විදිහට අපි තිස් වසරක් පුරා දිග්ගැසුණු සන්නද්ධ අරගලය ඇතුළු අර්බුද මාලාවක ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙස අපේ ජීවිතවලට හා ජීවනෝපයන්ට සැලකිය යුතු හානියක් සිදු වී තිබෙන බව අවබෝධයක් තිබෙනවද යන්න මට ගැටළුවක්. එකී යුද්ධයේ ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙස ලංකාවේ වාසය කරන විවිධ ජනතාවන් අතර හා ජනයා තුළ අවිශ්වාසයන් හා අනාරක්ෂාවන් ඇති වු බව අපි නොදන්නා කාරණයක් නොවේ. ඒ අනුව 2009 මැයි මස සිට මේ දක්වාත්, අද සිට ඉදිරියටත් ලාංකේය සමාජයේ අපිට ඇති මුලික අවශ්‍යතාවය සාමූහික ලාංකික අනන්‍යතාවයක් ගොඩනැගීම බව මගේ විශ්වාසයයි. ලංකාවේ සියලු පුරවැසියන්ගේ සමානාත්මතාවය පිළි ගනිමින්, සියලු ජනතාවන්ට එක්සත් දේශයක් තුළ ගෞරවනීය අන්දමින් තම අනන්‍යතාවයන් ආරක්ෂා කර ගැනීමට තිබෙන අයිතිය තහවුරු කිරීමට හැකි වු දිනය සැබෑ සාමයේ දිනය වේවි.

ජන වර්ගයන් හා කණ්ඩායම් අතර සමීපතාවය සුහදත්වය ඇති, සමානාත්මතාවයේ සමාජ රිතිය පිළිපදින, තමන්ගේම භාෂාවට හා සංස්කෘතියට වඩා ඉඩකඩක් තිබිය යුතුය. තවද ආණ්ඩු පාලනය සඳහා සියලු ජනයාට එකග විය හැකි දේශපාලන ව්‍යූහයක් ගොඩනගා ගැනීම, ජාතික එකමුතුකමේ මුලික අංගයන් ලෙස අවබෝධ කර ගැනීමට හැකියා ඇත. ඒ තුළ ලංකාවේ අපට ජාතින්ගේ එක්සත්කම ලගා කරගන්නේ කෙසේද? මේ වනවිට ලංකාවේ ජාතික එක්සත්කම ගොඩනැංවී නැත්තේ ඇයි? ලංකාවේ ජාතින්ගේ එක්සත්කම උදෙසා ජය ගත යුතු බාධකයන් කවරේද? එම බාධකයන් ජය ගන්නේ කෙසේද? යුද්ධය අවසන් කිරිමට පෙර සිට අපි අහපු මේ ප්‍රශ්න අපිට තවමත් ප්‍රශ්න. අපිට මෙවට පිළිතුරු නැද්ද? නැතිනම් අපිට මේවා තවදුරටත් ප්‍රශ්න බව අමතකද? යන ගැටළු මට පැන නගිනවා.

යුද්ධය නිමවී වසර පහකට පසු අද දවසේ අප ඉදිරියේ ඇති අභියෝගය ජනතාවගේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී අනුමැතියෙන් සියලු ජාතීන් එකට එක්වී ජිවත් වන එකම දේශයක් ගොඩ නැංවීමයි. අද අපි දිනා ගත යුත්තේ එම එක්සත්කමයි. මෙම එක්සත්කම මගින් සිංහල – දෙමළ ද්විභාෂා පාලනයක් පිළිගැනීම හා එය පරිපුර්ණ ලෙස ක්‍රියාත්මක කරවා ගැනීම අත්‍යාවශ්‍ය කටයුත්තක් ලෙස සැලකිය යුතු වනවා. තවද ජාතීන්ගේ ඔවුන්ට ආවේනික වූ සංස්කෘතීන් හට ගෞරව කිරීමද අපගේ කාර්යයක් ලෙස සැලකීමද අත්‍යාවශ්‍ය කටයුත්තක් බවද මතක තබා ගත යුතුයි.

තවමත් නොවිසදී ඇති ගැටලුවක් වන අපේ පාලන ක්‍රමය කුමක් විය යුතුද යන්න පිළිබද දේශපාලන සංවාදය සියලු පාර්ශවයන්ගේ සහභාගිත්වයක් ඇතුව සිදුකිරීම තවමත් අපට අභියෝගයක් වි තිබෙනවා. අද වනවිට දෙමළ ජාතික සන්ධානය ඇතුළු ලංකාවේ වෙසෙන සියලු දෙමළ ජනයා නොබෙදුනු එක්සත් ලංකාවක් තුල උතුරු හා නැගෙනහිර දෙමළ ජනතාවට හා ඔවුන්ගේ නියෝජිතයන් හට යම් බලතල ඉල්ලා සිටින තත්ත්වයක් තුල ජාතික එක්සත්කමේ අනාගත විසඳුම අපට සොයා ගත හැකි දෙයකි. නමුත් ඒ සදහා වන දේශපාලන සාකච්ඡාව ඇරඹීම තව දුරටත් ප්‍රමාද කිරීමෙන් අපට මේ ලැබී ඇති මහගු අවස්ථාව නැතිවී විනාශ වී යාමට නොදීමට වග බලාගත යුතුයි. එහිදී ඓතිහාසිකව ලංකාව සමග එකට බැඳි සිටින අසල්වැසි ඉන්දිය රාජ්‍යයට අපට අනිවාර්යයෙන්ම උපකාර කළහැකි බව අපි මතක තබාගැනීම වැදගත් බව මගේ හැගීමයි.

වෙනම දෙමළ රාජ්‍යයක් දිවයින තුල පිහිටුවීමට එරෙහිව ශ්‍රී ලාංකික රාජ්‍යයද, නිදහස් දෙමළ රාජ්‍යයක් පිහිටුවිම සඳහා එල්.ටි.ටී.ඊ සංවිධානය ද මුහුණට මුහුණලා අවුරුදු 30ක් යුද්ධ කලා. එම යුද්ධය මීට අවුරුදු පහකට කලින් අවසන් වන කොට යුද්ධයකින් දෙමළ ජනයාට නිදහස දිනා ගැනීමට නොහැකි බවත්, යුද්ධයෙන් ලංකාව එක්සත් කල නොහැකි බවත් අපි දැනගත්තා. නමුත් දෙමළ හා දෙමළ කථා කරන ජනතාවගේ සහයෝගය නැතිව ලංකාව එක්සත් කල නොහැකි බව ද, සිංහල ජනතාවගේ සහයෝගය නැතිව දෙමළ ජනතාවට සිය නිදහස දිනා ගත නොහැකි බව යුද්ධයෙන් වසර පහකට පසුත් දේශපාලන අධිකාරිය අවබෝධ කර ගෙන ඇතිද යන්න ඇති ගැටළුවක්.

ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් වන අපි, ලාංකිකයන්ගේ අනාගතය වෙනුවෙන් ඇති වගකීමක් ලෙස සලකා ලංකාවේ විවිධත්වය තුළ එක්සත්කම අරක්ෂා කිරීමටත්, මානුෂිකත්වයේ හිමිකම් හා වටිනාකම් නඟා සිටුවීමටත්, සෑම ලාංකිකයකුට ම ගෞරවයෙන් හා විවිධත්වය කෙරෙහි ඇගයීමකින් යුක්තව ජීවත් වීමට තිබෙන අයිතිය පරිවර්තනය කිරීමටත්, කැපවීම තවදුරටත් ප්‍රමාද කල නොහැකි යුතුකමක් ලෙස සිහිගන්වා ගැනීමට මෙය කදිම අවස්ථාවක් ලෙස අවසාන වශයෙන් මතක් කර සිටිනවා.

Meaningful youth Participation in post-2015 Development Agenda: Beyond a youth focused approach

An article published in

Sri Lanka will be hosting the World Conference on Youth (WCY) in Colombo from 6th to 10th May 2014. The conference is expected to be a platform for expanding youth participation and strengthening the voices of youth in matters that concern them most. Internationally, the WCY is expected to look at a new post-2015 Agenda for Development and Sustainable Development Goals.

Ensuring meaningful youth participation in post-2015 remains and will continue to remain the key challenge at present and of the years to come. What is meant by meaningful youth participation? I recall a discussion of a group of young people on the same topic in 2007/8 where it was understood either as a collective bargaining tool for special privileges or as being part of consultative decision making processes to a better overall outcome for the young people. To explain this explicitly, we demanded to include more young people when the governments design policies or make decisions which affect young people. We claimed that young people have a right to be part of the decision-making on youth programs. As a youth activist few years ago, I understood meaningful youth participation as above and I see no significant difference in the discourse since then. In fact, re-thinking of what is meaningful youth participation for the post-2015 development, I strongly feel our continued youth-focused approach has to move to the next level: it need to be  based on  a relational approach to ensure meaningful youth participation.

A relational approach with regard to youth participation in a theoretical perspective is expected to see behaviour as functional, communicative and meaningful. It seeks to identify and understand the direct and hidden needs, see young people as voluntarily participating in a shared endeavour and promote personal responsibility, with high levels of accountability and support. It is broader and moves away from equating youth participation to consulting young people in policy making or in programmes, it examines the interplay between youth and other identity makers, such as gender, age, social class, sexuality, disability, ethnic or religious background, urban/rural setting.  It is vital at least to make WYC 2014 the platform for this discussion to move beyond the generic perceptions of youth participation as consultation, which is often an attempt by those who hold power to get their programmes and plans endorsed rather than a genuine opportunity to be involved in the design and shaping of the same.

Relational approach does not limit youth participation in policies which only affects young people, but their participation as key stakeholders in the society as a whole. Young people therefore should be able to provide input in all areas of policy formulation and often they can get passionate about issues that they see as unjust or wrong on an overall societal level rather than being overly concerned about youth specific issues or policies.  This approach although requires better researched interventions it can lead to more effective outcomes and make youth participation more meaningful.

Meaningful youth participation in a post 2015 development agenda should therefore focus on the following principles:

  1. Understanding the role of young people in the post 2015 development agenda: Every programme and policy on development requires the investment of time and resources to understand the background context to such an initiative. Understanding the role of young people as explained above will help  policy makers and others who are involved in developing programmes in identifying key stakeholders in a more appropriate way. In that regard, policy makers will understand the background and relations within that context to ensure meaningful participation of young people. Youth participation will become even more meaningful by comprehending how roles and relations of young people work in each particular context, how they influence a society, and to what  extend they make an impact. One also need to understand opportunities are needed to bring the change youth aspire for.


  1. Broad range of possible interventions by young people: This novel approach to youth participation not only enables us to identify the roles of young people but also of the society as a whole, particularly to identify the attitudes and practices that need to be changed and to design effective interventions. This allows policies and programmes to be more precisely targeted and thus more effectively implemented and evaluated. Most importantly, youth participation would not be limited to interventions that affects only young people, but it suggests a more meaningful participation of young people in initiatives that affect the society as a whole. This includes programmes to address other vulnerabilities (i.e. gender, disability) or societal attitudes that need to be changed, including attitudes towards young people. Universally, young people are viewed as the duty bearers of violent conflict, hence with more pro-violent attitudes. One may argue this is due to generational misunderstandings or that young people are anyway more aggressive due to lack of maturity or various other reasoning. In fact, moving beyond the youth focused approach would pave the way to understand and iron out these attitudes to ensure effective contribution of the future generation in today’s policy making that affects the society as a whole.


  1. Inclusivity, dialogue and empowerment: Rethinking the currently practiced approach towards youth means understanding how societal relations and identities of young people influence policy in a given context and facilitating transformational change based on that understanding. A positive transformation is possible through inclusivity, dialogue and empowerment. Inclusivity will ensure the participation not only of young people, but also women and men, old and middle aged, powerful and powerless, marginalised and empowered, urban and rural. This will capture a wide range of perspectives and knowledge where dialogue is used as the key methodology in designing, managing or implementing programmes. An inclusive dialogue with the participation of all key stakeholders in society, including young people at all spheres, will not only generate  effective policies but will also empower youth to become active citizenry. Sustainable change towards the post 2015 development will indeed strike out from there eventually assuring the efficiency of the implementation of such policies.

This World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka is expected to be the ideal platform to commence such dialogue as outlined above and will ensure a  meaningful youth participation in formulating a sustainable post-2015 development agenda. It is time to step beyond tokenism and consultation of young people and to make efforts of ensuring a more meaningful youth participation. Stepping beyond the youth focused approach and embracing them as the key stakeholders of the future in all sector with a broader understanding of their relations and identities is the only way forward.

Novelty or the change of existing state of affairs has been eternally resisted most of the time and will continue to be so. Hence, let’s make the World Conference on Youth the platform to give a serious thought about that human rationality and to propel such a resistance of novelty. Let’s rethink meaningful youth participation in the post-2015 development agenda beyond the youth focused approach !


Emotional Governance as a Challenge for peace-building in multi-ethnic, multi-religious states: Sri Lankan Case

Abstract Submitted to Young Scholar’s Conference on Asian Studies in a Globalized World to be held from 4th – 6th March, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand 


Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ hypothesis that has been revived in the wake of the 11 September 2001, explains that the causes for the contemporary conflicts in ‘New Nations’ are inevitably based on civilisation, ethnicity, religion or race (1998:13-30 ). Reiterating his argument and differentiating the ‘Old Wars’ and ‘New Wars’ dichotomy, scholar Mary Kaldor (1998: 69-89) further explains how ‘identity’ and ‘globalisation’ places significant influence on such conflicts. In these conflict situations, cultural identity therefore is one of the key concepts and is an ideological apparatus that is likely to be mobilized by political interests than as a social datum (Azard, 1990). Hence, it is believed that social movements in most such ‘New Nations’ are politically motivated to mobilize around racial, religious or ethnic identity for the purpose of claiming power (Kaldor, 1998:69-89). While communal discontent and deprivation of basic human rights as a result become key causes for such conflicts, it is important to note that weak structures within such state unavoidably make political capacity further preventing from responding to and meeting, the needs of various constituents in those ‘state-nations’ keeping such conflicts further live. (Azar, 1990:11).


It is believed that any government in general is involved in policy making and adopting good governance principles (based on seven attributes of good governance) to satisfy rational choices of its citizenry. However, this paper will argue that in a context where a state is experiencing these new type of conflicts based on culture, religion, ethnicity or race, where cultural identity is mobilized more by political interests than as a social datum and where social mobilisations are politically motivated around racial, religious or ethnic identity for the purpose of claiming power; deviates from rationale actions and adopts slander approaches that constitute emotional governance practices more strategically (Richards, 2007:5). Emotional governance therefore for the purpose of this study is identified as a deliberate and sophisticated attention through mass-mediated communications to the emotional dynamics of the general public by the politicians to gain petty objectives against another race, ethnicity, religion or culture.


Ethno-political conflict in Sri Lanka consequence due to lack of political consensus on the structure of the state since independence (De Silva, 2001: 437-469) that underwent many phases of a conflict will be taken as the case study to test the above context of emotional governance in multi-ethnic and multi-religious states that face ‘new wars’. In that regard, the most crucial period of the Sri Lankan conflict: 2006 to 2009 will be analysed in detail to understand how Journalism and Politics have been used as emotional labour in governance during the conflict in general and the last phase of the war in particular. As a result whether emotional governance can be identified a critical factor in intensifying the Sri Lankan war during 2006 to 2009 against the LTTE and in the conflict at present, falsifying the rational-choice making of the citizens in such conflict situations. Finally, it is understood that most ‘new nations’ which experience political conflicts based on ethnicity, race, religion or culture tend to be following the approach of emotional governance and consequence characterized by incompetent, parochial; fragile and authoritarian governments that fail to satisfy basic human needs of all the nationalities.

Sri Lanka is missing the 17th Amendment

An year ago, we had the funeral of the independence of the judiciary with the repeal of the 17th amendment to the Constitution and with the introduction of the 18th amendment. Present Chief Justice led bench gave that milestone judgement that was heavily criticized even in the Commonwealth law journal, when she was in the good books of the ruling coalition. Unfortunately or fortunately she is facing an impeachment led by the same coalition today. Judiciary was part of that killing of the 17th amendment and here we see its repercussions today.


This is the second best case study in the most recent history in Sri Lanka where the citizens have evidenced how Chief Justice has been shifting the interpretations of law based on the change of favorite position of the executive. Yet, the one who came to bench during these two, who was appointed due to seniority with no political favourations managed to preserve the independence of the judiciary.


Supporting or not-supporting the current impeachment for me will not make any change to ensure the independence of the judiciary in this country. The present government will pass this impeachment as they say ‘constitutionally’ with a 2/3 majority in Parliament. However, another political friend will fill in that position: within or outside the hierarchy. Irrespective of the seniority. This cycle will continue while the international community and the opposition will continue raising their concern at every appointment, at every favourable judgement and at every impeachment.


Once we were happy that we kept the ‘full stop’ to this vicious cycle. We kept a democratic step forward by adding a 17th amendment to our constitution where the political appointments by the executive was constrained believing the fact that an impartial and an apolitical person needs to be heading the judiciary to ensure its independence for the betterment of this country.


At this juncture, I personally do not want to stand with or against the impeachment against the CJ. The political power struggles are such the friends and enemies are never permanent. If she goes back to good books, we will become the jokers and she might even give a judgement against you and I.


I strongly believe that the ideal citizenry demand at this juncture therefore should be to bring back the 17th amendment into the constitutional framework and to the practice. Let the ones who play politics face the music as the independence of the judiciary cannot be maintained by making the Supreme Court a favourite of the politicians.  Therefore, in order to maintain the independence of the judiciary, it needs to be kept away from the political power struggle.


Im sure the citizenry of this country will continue missing the 17th amendment to the constitution every time the appointments are made and impeachments are brought it. Hence, the broader demand of each and every moment of this should be to bring the 17th amendment back to practice.





FUTA Strike to end on Thursday: What about the 6% for education?

Sri Lankan university system is dysfunctional since early July. The federation of university teachers associations (FUTA) is on a trade union action close to last three months. I can imagine the internal suffering of thousands of under-graduates in this country relating to the frustrations we had to go through due to time to time minor closures during our university life.


I assumed FUTA’s main demand that was fore front in every trade union action was an allocation of 6% o GDP for education, stop politicization of universities, ensure autonomy of universities, and to make sure the university system could function in its true spirit of intellectual capacity. In fact, today’s (09-10-2012) on Daily Mirror talks only about


“FUTA President Dr. Ranjith Dewasiri said they decided to call off the strike by Thursday following successful discussions with Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundare last evening. He said both parties reached consensus on the salary issues and the Treasury Secretary had pledged to give them written assurances on the matter soon. After receiving the written document, containing the method of the salary increase, the strike would be called off, he said.” (


What happened to the demand in the front line?


“FUTA would not back down until its demands were met though it was willing to compromise on the request for a six per cent increase in government spending on education which was one of FUTA’s primary demands.” (Ibid)
Does it mean the strike will not come to an end on the coming Thursday?
“Dr. Dewasiri said the government had made it clear it could not increase government spending on education to six per cent of the GDP but said a significant increase in spending was expected by the union.” (Ibid)


What if the government agreement was the other way around? Increase the allocation of 6% for the education and to maintain the salaries at the same level in order to maintain recurrent expenditure at a lower level?


Will you still stop your trade union action, saying “we will call the strike off, but will continue to fight for our salary increments”?


The bitter truth behind the FUTA action is mere salary increments, scape-goating the innocent Sri Lankan youth. If FUTA ever had any affectionate towards the Sri Lankan education system, would they ever delay the academic calendar by another semester? Did any of the lecturers who were to leave the country on scholarships/sabbatical leave stayed back because they were on strike?


Before you demand for salary hikes, did you ever think whether you have been able to deliver your duties to date? When Sasanka Perera from the University of Colombo says he suffers from intellectual poverty within the university system what do you have to say in response?


How many of the so called ‘academics’ have produced at least two papers during the past 12 months for the university you are serving for? How many of you have instead re-produced the western oriented knowledge in our university system just like that with less of an attempt?


Universities in Sri Lanka have been mere structures and university teachers are the individuals who maintain these structures to ensure their mere existence. At the end of the day, how do you legitimise what you do to your consciousness? What if it’s your daughter who is studying in the University? What if it’s your son has to wait to finish his final LLB paper in order to sit the Law College Finals over months and delays entering his professional work by another 6 months or more?


You have been no different to politicians who mislead the people and enrich their pockets. You mislead an entire nation by putting a 6% for education to the forefront. Your salary hikes will silent you and your demands in hours. You will go back to your comfort shell of ‘local universities’ to maintain the structures, until you will have the need for a pay hike again.


Handful of Elitist NGOs in Sri Lanka comprising of a ‘civil society’ hinders democracy

The dominant western theories constantly support the existence of civil society as the most crucial aspect of a democratic society. It is accepted that the contribution of civil society organisations in general to democratic well-being is significant. Civil society organisations are further assigned with a mission of counter-hegemonic action for a better democratic consolidation (Gramsci, 1971).


In fact, in the context of Sri Lanka a small fraction of elitist society engaged in non-government organisations is understood as the ‘civil society’. Consolidation of power in a handful of elitist people actually damages the democracy in this way. This is a reality in the absence of the civic consciousness of the people in the state.


Michels (Michels, 1971) points out the elitist critique is still a significant concern about civil society because the oligarchic tendencies are latent within almost all of the organizations and the renowned jeopardy still exists because certain organizations may find the chance to consolidate power, increase their popularity and start to damage the ongoing democracy, when tend to be a latent but potent characteristic of civil society. In that sense, it is interesting to know that both of the controversies that civil society in Sri Lanka undergoes at the moment are rather institutional issues than the ideological ones where the so called demise of ideology lacks the ability to overcome them.

I would personally see these as controversies of civic consciousness, which could be identified as the understanding to live with other(s), where the other is assumed to represent a subject position defined in terms of culture (Bilgin, 2004). I assume that the lack of civic consciousness accelerate the apathetic culture in Sri Lanka, and decline the modernist belief in the self. We might live without a civil society of this nature, than having for the name sake and threaten the democratic structure of the state.

Informal Education, Culture and Social Integration

Informal education, similar to the formal one enables each and every child to maximize their potential and to become contributing members of a society. It is a fact that intensive, significant and culturally sensitive efforts are needed to allow the children to attain the achievements they need to integrate successfully into the society. Culture is a key discipline that is nurtured mainly via informal educational settings and during the socialisation process.


Therefore, a culture is socially learned. To say that culture is socially learned is to say that individuals acquire it in the process of growing up in the society or some other kind of group. Enculturisation generally happens as a normal part of one’s childhood. This denies the fact that culture is transferred genetically by biologically reproduction but something the people born into that group acquire with growing up among other members.


When the process of social learning over many generations continues, knowledge will be developed and accumulated. Ideal democratic scenario will suggest that people live today off the cultural knowledge transmitted by the previous generations and will transfer to the next generations together with the new knowledge acquired from the modern society as well. This further paves the way for the development of one’s culture as well.


In a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic society like Sri Lanka enculturisation process needs to address the principles of social cohesion that encourages social integration. Hence, the first lessons that come from home should encourage the process of building the values and relations within an individual. Such constructs however are essential to respect another person for who he/she is, irrespective of the language spoken, colour of the skin, gender, age or any other factors. Most importantly, our children should be taught that respecting one’s culture does not hinder us being part of ours.
Human behaviour in this regard varies from culture to culture. Even the two kids in the same family who are brought-up in the same culture differ in their behaviours. The behaviour of individuals varies for several reasons. First, individuals have different social identities: males and females, old and young, rich and poor, parents and children and so forth. Moreover people act and behave differently based on the context and situation as well. Cultural standards for and expectations of behaviour of people therefore are not always clear. It is therefore a mistake to think that all people will behave in the same manner within cultural borders.


Informal education is the best platform for our children to learn these differences, to understand the diversity among us: as people of the same culture and from different ones. To understand that the society we live in is for all. We take responsibility to build democratic values and healthy relations among our students as essential for the creation of such an equitable and dynamic society, where all individuals regardless of their race, sex, language, religion, can fully exercise their rights and responsibilities on an equal basis with others and contribute to a cohesive Sri Lanka. As parents and responsible citizens of present, we are to invest for an inclusive society for our children of tomorrow.