Welcome Remarks by the Director General of INSSSL at the Conference on "The Role of Youth in Reconciliation"

Hon. Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, Mr. AHM Fowzie, Secretary of Defence Mr. Kapila Waidyaratne P.C, Your Excellencies, Secretary to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation, Mr. V. Sivagnanasothy, Director General INSS, Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Senior Military officials, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen.

May I extend a warm welcome to both Ministers and both secretaries from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation. I also welcome our distinguished young moderators for today and all the speakers as well as our research staff at INSS.

I believe this is the first time the two Ministries - Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation -have got together to discuss a timely and important topic of the “Role of Youth in Reconciliation”. I thank the Hon. Minister and both Secretaries for their leadership as well as for allocating their time and resources for this important initiative. I thank Vibusha and Shakti and all our research staff and also the Ministry staff.

Today we have embarked on a very important initiative. I wish to recollect and remember the youth who did the initial conference on the same subject on the 2nd of January 2013 at the Kadirgamar Institute. It was our researchers who organized this successful conference. We had speakers to share their experiences from Cambodia as well as a child soldier from South Sudan.

Most of you who are here with us today were born during the period of the civil war. Therefore, you have been witness to the mass cruelty and some of you are direct victims; perhaps having lost a friend or close family member. You did not start this war, it was the generation before you who passed this burden. The youth here today are much more intelligent and can see the problem in a different way than perhaps the older generation – who do not accept your way of thinking. You perhaps believe in a different set of solutions and have a fresh approach in addressing the aftermath of the conflict. During the weekend, I was reading Sidartha Mukarjee’s - "Gene", a fascinating book of human being's genes. With regards to this, I remember mentioning in a 2013 speech on the Genome sequencing project that human beings with 3 billion genomes are 99.9% identical and the difference is only 0.1%. Thus, most of our time is wasted by fighting over this 0.1% difference rather than focusing our energy on what is common to all of us. One of my friends - a fellow young global leader from South Africa - whom I met a few weeks ago in Singapore, said she did a genetic test to find out her roots. The results were that her race was mixed with East Asia – this is an example of human beings mixed ethnicity.

The scientific community will soon prove that we are all united despite being from different parts of the world as well as the fact that some of our past generation's way of thinking was wrong. Thus, Sri Lanka has a golden opportunity to work towards reconciliation by reintegrating the disconnected diaspora overseas.

Reconciliation begins by admitting and accepting that we have done wrong. It's a simple notion but very powerful. I have participated in a discussion in this vein in South Africa, where I learned about the different perspectives on the subject of reconciliation. One generation may choose to forgive and another generation may think that this is wrong. It is a process that should have genuine political leadership and support. When I met President Kagame of Rwanda, I discussed the amazing work he had done towards reconciliation and the examples he set for the younger generation of Rwandans. You need genuine strong political leadership to recognize the important recommendations and ideas coming out of these conferences. Our President – H.E. Maithripala Sirisena of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has clearly displayed this notion by forgiving his own suicide bomber. This was indeed a great deed towards reconciliation.

In this regard, policy makers need to hear more of the youth's voices and as such they need they need to lend an ear to hearing the youth voices. Today's youth are tomorrows policy makers - the leaders, the champions - who will make a meaningful difference!  I wish you all a successful workshop.

Thank you !