Yesterday, Sri Lanka Unites held its pre-FLC press conference. With journalists from 12 leading newspapers and 3 TV stations present, the atmosphere was filed with expectation as the 10 panelists began to speak. The panel was diverse in age, experience, gender and background, but the common thread was that each of them believed in one cause: reconciliation of youth of all ethnic and religious groups across Sri Lanka. Each of them believed that true reconciliation was necessary in Sri Lanka in order to create a peaceful and prosperous nation for the future generations.
Speaking in Sinhala and Tamil, Prashan De Visser and Christin Rajah our President and National Director began the panel discussion by eloquently discussing the need for a youth reconciliation conference and the significance of hosting a conference in Jaffna. Next Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala spoke about why he continues to support Sri Lanka Unites. He encouraged the SLU team immensely when he mentioned that being the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Unites Trustees Board is one of the most rewarding positions he has held. His support and guidance has truly been a strength to the team.
I had the fortunate opportunity of speaking to two of the panelists; Mrs. Jezima Ismail and Dr. Selvy Tiruchandaran before the press conference began. Mrs. Jezima Ismail, the former Principal of Muslim Ladies College is a prominent educationist with over 32 years of experience in teaching. She exhorted us to continue in our youth reconciliation efforts and to expand our sphere of influence to younger students and teachers. Dr. Selvy Tiruchandaran, the Executive Director of Women's Education Resource Center, expressed that a few years ago, she had given up hope of seeing a reconciled Sri Lanka but has a renewed outlook due to organizations like Sri Lanka Unites that has passionate young people in the forefront.
The two diaspora representatives on the panel; Nadeesh Jayasinghe and Shrishankar Krishnakumar discussed the desperate need for reconciliation among the diaspora communities. Nadeesh shared about how the strong stereotypes of race exist in the diaspora community and the work that the Canada chapter of Sri Lanka Unites is engaging in to reshape the perceptions in the Toronto diaspora community.
The two most important members of the panel were two student representatives: Arzath Areef from Ampara and Sanjaya Samarasena from Kegalle. Their testimonies visibly moved the audience. Their stories cannot be done justice on a mere blog post, but this much I will say… their stories lit a spark in many jaded lives.