Demonstrating the growing unity of Sri Lankans abroad, a group of UK based Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim expatriates met on Thursday at the home of the British government to debate the future of Sri Lanka.
The meeting held in the House of Commons in London concluded with all community representatives saying they wanted to work together in partnership to help the future of Sri Lanka.
Former secretary-general of the Peace Secretariat Professor Rajiva Wijesinha MP, Raslingham Jayadevan from the Association for Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (APRSL) and Mohamed Marzook of the Islamic Forum debated a range of issues relating to reconciliation.
The event was hosted by Dai Liyanage, a former mayor of Medway in England. He opened the debate by praising the government of Sri Lanka for successfully bringing an end to terrorism and for achieving peace on the island after a 26 year long bitter conflict.
The representatives from the three communities lamented policies of previous governments as the root cause of the conflict between the groups, particularly in terms of education. They also agreed that their expectations for the government are high; hoping that President Rajapaksa and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission will make the most of the regained peace to address grievances and achieve true reconciliation.
The three main speakers all agreed that now is the time to focus on allowing the youth of Sri Lanka wider access to education and other opportunities. Professor Wijesinha explained to the audience that his vision for Sri Lanka was one in which equitable development throughout the country was promoted, particularly in the north and east. He called for improvements in human resources and private investment in education as a way of creating a pluralistic society and opportunities for social mobility for all.
He also called for an improvement of the transport and telecom infrastructure and also stressed the importance of supporting private sector growth in the north, particularly in Jaffna, to increase work opportunities in the region.