Pumping young blood into politics (Part VII)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy

Today, in our seventh segment of ‘Pumping Young Blood into Politics’, we shall discuss the responsibility of Sri Lanka’s senior politicians and well-established politicians to take measures to make sure the youth has a clear path to enter into national politics. However, sadly, we see that Sri Lankan politicians have ignored this responsibility and it seems that they have a fear of the rise of the youth and a fear that the youth will be politically literate. Thus, steps are taken by them to crush the dreams of the youth and to discourage them from entering politics. One reason for this could be that they are insecure about the more skilled, educated, and promising youth of the country and that they will impose a threat on their own children and family members for whom they are busy paving paths. 

Another example of family politics

Recently, after the sudden death of the State Minister Sanath Nishantha, it was reported on the news that his wife is considering contesting in the upcoming General Election to fill the void left by her late husband. In our previous articles of the series, we have discussed this worrying trend in Sri Lankan politics in detail and we question if Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s political arena is the heirloom of these political families and how these people continue to exploit Sri Lanka further. 

To further discuss this, Ceylon Today contacted young political activist Nipun Mudalige who is also a scholar in law and holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Hons degree from the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. Mudalige is also the Minister of Justice, Public Administration, and Digital Government in the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament. 

“We all know that the current political regime in Sri Lanka does not comprise even a significant portion of the youth. We emphasised this point in our previous segments,” started Mudalige. 

He said that pumping young blood into politics is not something that only the youth can do. For that, the senior politicians in the current political system have the same responsibility as the youth to pump young blood into politics.

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” 

—John Steinbeck

Power hunger; a main concern 

“People are greedy for different things, but all human beings are greedy for power. However, a real political leader cannot act greedily like that. A mature political leader with a good vision should be a selfless person who does not think twice about handing over the baton of his leadership to the next leader at the ‘appropriate’ time,” Mudalige emphasised. 

“As I mentioned in an earlier article, it can be seen that senior politicians do not encourage young people to leadership positions even in municipalities, Pradeshiya Sabha, which is the smallest political administration unit in Sri Lanka,” reiterated Mudalige. 

“The problem I have is whether or not we have senior visionary political leaders. Due to selfish political leaders, the dreams of young people who are interested in politics in ordinary families were blurred for many years. What should have been done was to bring the young people who love the country and love the politics of ordinary families into politics, but the selfish political leaders only promoted nepotism.”

Mudalige emphasised that “As far as I see it, the leadership of a country is like a relay race. One person starts, another person runs in the middle, and another person finishes at the end. A good visionary leader should have planned from the beginning to whom I will pass this baton next. Is that ‘someone’ I know? Or is that one the ‘most suitable’ person?”

Personal conflicts work against the youth 

It doesn’t matter how talented a young person in a village is or how many leadership qualities he shows, if the senior political leader of that area takes a personal dislike to this young person, there is a high possibility that the political journey of that young person will end there. Is that what we should expect from a politician? In many cases, due to personal conflicts with the local political leader, it is common to see that the leader cuts off the young leaders who have emerged from among the people and appoints someone he wants; his relative or his friend.

The heavy responsibility of pumping young blood into politics lies largely with the current politicians. They are the ones who should explain the importance of politics to the youth. They should make it clear that in the current complex society, nothing exists without politics, and politics is the solution to every problem in this society, they should make the young people who are interested in politics in ordinary families oriented towards politics.

“In the political system handed down from father to son, the son never tries to empower the youth politically. That son is always trying to keep the youth as political henchmen just like his father. Yes, that is the political system they learned. According to them, that method is the correct method. According to them, the young man is sometimes a free hand out distributor during the election, a free worker in his party’s polling office, or sometimes just someone who walks with him in the background when he goes to a certain place. Unfortunately, the youth of the village were thus political pawns for years.”

What should be done? 

Providing mentorship and guidance is vital in this endeavour. Senior politicians should offer mentorship and guidance to upcoming young political leaders from ordinary families sharing their experiences and expertise to help nurture the next generation of politicians. For this, there should be a good internal arrangement by the parties. For this, it is necessary to give practical political education to young people.

For this, political parties should make resource allocation. They should understand that this is a political investment. They should allocate resources, including funding and campaign support to the youth. As a party, one of their aims should be to create young leaders who have the right ideas and deliver them to the national political arena. 

“As political parties, this is an action that should start happening, if not now, at least in the future, because it is very difficult to find leaders with futuristic ideas in a country from the same political family,” Mudalige concluded. 

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