‘Young leadership, the need of the hour’

Driving innovation and accelerating economic growth
16 July, 2022
Darshana Mapa Pathiranage

A country’s youth are its greatest asset. There may be no other resource in a country greater than youth. Youth are characterised by new ideas, creativity and energy. The power of youth is incomparable. In order to move towards a new world, to start a new era, the energy, power and the participation of the youth are needed. Although we call older people experienced and mature, maturity can also be seen in youth.

The ability to overcome challenges, face anything without fear, deal with technology and stay informed about new things is what distinguishes youth. So, for a country’s development, we need young leadership; leadership that is full of energy and new ideas; and leadership that discovers and presents new things.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Darshana Mapa Pathiranage, a senior lecturer and a senior student counselor of the faculty of Social Science at the University of Kelaniya discussed youth leadership and the change that can be made by young leadership.

Excerpts of the interview

Q: Many today are demanding a strong youth leadership. Why is that?

A: Before we discuss about Sri Lanka, we should talk about other countries. In developed countries a person with a lot of experience is appointed at a presidential election. And it can be an old person. Because they don’t want a new vision but to maintain the status quo in the country. However, when faced with certain crises, wars, or other crises, developing countries frequently require young leadership.Vigorous leadership is needed to lead them to development and to save them from enemy attacks. What we call “young” here is not only a fact about being young. The idea of having a new vision and good and strong leadership.

Then, under such leadership, opportunities are given to the new ideas of the youth. When there is a young leadership capable of such feats, considering the current situation in Sri Lanka, we do not know what kind of situation we would face in the future, what kind of situation people would have to undergo and how politics would change. However, what Sri Lanka needs at this time is not a leadership rooted in families steeped in traditional political ideologies or maintaining tradition, but a leadership with a new vision.

Then the new vision that we should adopt is one with a leadership that can protect the culture of Sri Lanka and take the experience of other countries to raise the country in some way. At that time, we have to strengthen the country in several sectors. I see that several aspects of Sri Lanka need to change. Among them are public transport, education, the health sector, the opportunity for new innovations, the film industry, the upliftment of local agricultural industries and tourism.

Q: How do you think public transport should change?

A: With the current situation in Sri Lanka, there has been a major problem with passenger transportation. The reason for that is a system that has been used for a long time. That means traveling in one’s own vehicle to office on a daily basis resulting in a fuel crisis on one hand while on the other many think that development means every house having a vehicle. Public transport in developed countries is well developed and the number of vehicles on roads has been reduced as a result.

People of those countries spend little on fuel due to sound connectivity in transportation. We can see the current situation in Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankans have got accustomed to cycling and walking and more are using public transport which could be used to make a major difference in the country. That is to make the country’s public transport more efficient. The current government or a future government should focus on developing public transport.

Currently a lot of money is being invested by the Ministry of Transport on train and buses services. However, it is sad to see the conditions of trains and buses. The poor facilities in buses and trains should be improved.

There should be restaurants and good sanitary facilities in trains. The transport sector had become a non-profitable sector for so long. But today, it is a profitable sector. The income should be used to

Q: Are there only buses and trains for public transport in Sri Lanka?

A: No. Cinnamon Air, the premier domestic airline in Sri Lanka, introduced daily flights between Colombo and Nuwara Eliya which has been operating for some time. But today it has stopped. Either because people cannot afford it or due to difficulties in maintaining it.

However, if domestic flights could be operated, there would be many attracted to it making transportation easy. The Hamilton Canal is another option for transportation from Negombo to Colombo. But today only fishermen use the canal. In the past boats operated from Diyawannawa which is a good option.

Q: What are the other benefits people get from using public transport?

A: It is less stressful unlike private transportation.

It helps people to build bonds and help each other knowing their situations. The subway railway services in Europe must be adopted here to reduce transportation interference.

In Sri Lanka, we see some people watching a teledrama or a program from the previous day upon arrival at the workplace or surfing social media. because people don’t have time for that while driving their own cars. But if there is comfortable transportation, people can fulfill these needs while they arrive. It is also important that bus or train services operate on time so that people are not inconvenienced.

Today even those at higher positions in the corporate sector use public transportation. The current crisis is the best time to make a change. People could save a lot by using public transportation.

If public transportation is well organised the private sector too will fall in lined and the government does not have to bear the costs.

Q: What do you think education should change?

A: Education has to be improved enabling children to gain jobs. After spending 13 years in school if the education system has not improved to meet world standards there is no point in that education.

Q: How should the health sector change?

A: We know that traditionally, there have been many crises in the health sector for many years. The Western medical system has been given prominence by the authorities. Because of that people have to spend a lot on Western medicine and its mafia. In China indigenous medicine is well recognized.

Even though indigenous medicine works in Sri Lanka, it does not get much support from the government due to the intervention of those promoting Western medicine.

Q: Why is youth leadership important in driving innovation?

A: New innovations will have its place only if there is a young leadership. Many in Sri Lanka have found different ways to produce fuel but neither the previous government nor the current government has encouraged it due to the practice of importing oil.

Q: You mentioned the cinema. Why is that?

A: Our film industry is still depending on the theater. Online platforms such as NetFlix have evolved. This needs people with a vision and innovation. We have not yet been able to upload a single Sri Lankan film to Netflix. If we move to that industry we could earn the much needed foreign exchange to the country. To do that young leadership is needed.

Q: How should local agricultural industries be established?

A: This is a good opportunity to build local agricultural industries. There should be someone who can face it fearlessly to support local industries. We consider tea, coconut and rubber as the main local industries. Apart from that, there are many things that can be exported, such as local handicrafts and textile industry products that are produced in Sri Lanka. There are only few opportunities for these industries in Sri Lanka. When there is the ability to produce many products in Sri Lanka, they are imported because of the benefits politicians gain.

While Bombay onions are grown in Sri Lanka, they are imported from India. Why can’t we provide an opportunity to the producers of Sri Lanka, those who are engaged in agriculture, to cultivate onions? Recently, there was an issue with rice in Sri Lanka, and the problem was based on a fertiliser issue, but if that problem hadn’t occurred, rice and paddy could be produced in Sri Lanka.

They try to do unnecessary things and some experiments without looking ahead. The reason for that is a lack of vision. Also, it is because of the lack of vision about agriculture that the fertiliser problem arose. That is why we had to import rice from India and other countries. When we import rice, we have to pay more. The imported amount has to be paid more. Therefore, more money has to be spent on those activities.

We import dhal from India and other countries at a higher price. But there are other things that we can introduce instead of dhal. Mung beans and black-eyed peas are grown in Sri Lanka. If we promote these plantations imported lentils could be sold at a lower price and if the money spent on lentils is given to local farmers they would grow more and that would be a in some way a solution to the food crises in the country.

Q: How should the tourism industry change?

A: The tourism industry is a major source of income for Sri Lanka but whether we provide the facilities to foreign travellers is the question.

Tourists look for night life which is not prominent in Sri Lanka. 

– Sunday Observer Sri Lanka

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