Pumping young blood into politics (Part VIII)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy

For weeks, Ceylon Today has been discussing the role of youth in Sri Lankan politics in our series ‘Pumping Young Blood into Politics’, discussing various possibilities of Sri Lankan youth in national politics. In our previous seven segments, we have discussed this topic in detail with relevant examples. 

Youth-led movements and civil society organisations have played a pivotal role in mobilising young people and amplifying their voices on issues ranging from environmental conservation to social justice and human rights. These movements leverage social media platforms, organise peaceful protests, and engage in advocacy campaigns to demand meaningful change and hold political leaders accountable.

Despite these encouraging trends, barriers to youth participation in Sri Lankan politics persist. Structural challenges such as unemployment, limited access to quality education, and political polarisation hinder the full realisation of young people’s potential as active citizens and leaders. Many young Sri Lankans face systemic barriers to entry into politics, including; nepotism, patronage networks, and entrenched power dynamics within established political parties.

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. 

Power of civil activists and organisations 

Mudalige said that a large group of civil activists are actively working in Sri Lanka. 

“I have seen them looking into various social problems and applying necessary remedies for them. Working in national civil organisations makes it easier to enter national politics, so young people from ordinary families show a strong inclination to work in national civil organisations.” Following the news of the remanding of the former Health Minister, many civil organisations were seen gathering evidence in support of the allegations levelled against the former minister and according to Mudalige, this shows the strength of national civil organisations.

“In the presence of Aragalaya, I saw the emergence of various types of national civil organisations on a very large scale,” Mudalige said. 

 Reputed figures joining civil organisations 

He also said that various famous people started to create national organisations. Some of them were artists, some of them were former retired politicians, some of them were retired government officials, and sometimes there were retired army officers in such organisations formed like this. 

“National civil organisations are formed for a reason as mentioned earlier. Some of the civil organisations created by social media stars came to an end even before the Aragalaya was over.

“Those organisations disappeared, losing the youth who had no political knowledge who had gathered around them. After everything was over, those young people realised that they were just political pawns. As mentioned earlier, some organisations ended during the Aragalaya era itself, and social media stars were even accused of money fraud later. However, I am not talking about that kind of national civil organisation. I am talking about organisations that are created to do real services to the country and its people,” Mudalige explained. 

Next we discussed with Mudalige the youth contribution of national civil organisations established with the right purpose.

“What I have seen is that in politics as well as here, giving opportunities to young people is very rare. The leader, secretary, and national organiser of some national civil organisations is one person who holds all these positions. As I see it, national civil organisation leaders and senior politicians are desperate for leadership. They don’t allow the next leadership. They forget that they are in a relay race. They think they are in a sprint, they think they are the start and finish. They end the chapter as an organisation without any kind of future.”

The nationalistic movement in Sri Lanka

The nationalist political wing has always consisted of a large number of national organisations. They have a great influence on the country’s electoral opinion. Maithripala Sirisena became the President in 2015 and Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President in 2019 because of the support of the nationalist organisations at that time. 

“However, today, the situation is completely different. Today, the nationalist camp is divided into different parts. You can see the rift between the divided leaders. It was possible to see some organisations being publicly disbanded by the official boards of those organisations. Today, various problems are escalating because there is no unity in the nationalist camp,” Mudalige observed. 

“Youth from ordinary families are not allowed to become leaders in some of these organisations”, Mudalige expressed his concern. The reasons for this were discussed in detail in a previous article of the, ‘Pumping Young Blood into Politics’ series which discussed scepticism regarding the youth participation in Sri Lankan politics. In the same token, sceptic opinions are spread about the youth in civil organisations doubting their potential, experience, and resilience or rather lack thereof. 

“Can the youth be trusted in this kind of work? Can young people do this? Do the youth have experience? They raise such questions. Therefore, since the ‘80s, some organisations have been led by the same people. When they finish the life race, the organisation ends with them,” concluded Mudalige. 

The post Pumping young blood into politics (Part VIII) appeared first on Ceylon Today.