Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defence at the Conference on "Role of Youth in Reconciliation"

Hon. Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, Mr. AHM Fowzie, 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.

 I consider it an honour to be present at the inauguration of the Role of Youth in Reconciliation conference, jointly organised by the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation and the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka, under the Ministry of Defence. It is encouraging to see that a conference on such a timely theme has been organised by two ministries which work tirelessly for the promotion of reconciliation and preservation of peace in the island. 

 INSSSL as the only civilian military Think Tank under Ministry of Defense has taken a valuable step to initiate this effort with Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation. Youth, as we know, are the leaders of the future. It is thewho will carry the message of peace to the world tomorrow and help sustain the peace we achieved, for generations to come. Sadly, it is also the youth who become the first victims of conflictTherefore, the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces have a particular interest in the theme of the conference today. The ravages of the war were immense for Sri Lanka.The war took many of our nation’s youth and thus it is this demographic that must take up the mantle to forge a meaningful and lasting peace. The lessons to be learnt are that the infrastructures of education, employment and equal economic opportunity must be provided for the youth, primarily to have a sustainable peacepeace which would allow every single citizen of this island, regardless of their ethnicity, caste or language to coexist in harmony.

 It is notable that the parties represented here today as well as the speakers, operate in our society at a grassroots level as true champions of reconciliation. They have devoted their valuable youth for the betterment of others of their age as well as for the succeeding generations. I believe that we have much to learn from the youth as to what challenges they face and how these challenges could be overcome for the prosperity of our country. We are all engaged in a continuous learning process relating to reconciliation. In this regard, it is important to capture the ideas and views expressed today and turn them into meaningful action in the interest of securing Sri Lanka’s future.

 Sri Lanka must foster a national conversation on reconciliation thereby supporting reconciliatory efforts and peace-building initiatives. Forums such as this will allow communities to understand each other and alleviate potential distrust whilst forming bonds that aid reconciliation. It will also open up avenues for two-way communication between the policy makers, the public and other stakeholders towardsengaging in a constructive and inclusive discourse on reconciliation. This will alleviate grievances in communities and open the door towards purposeful reconciliation initiatives. 

 Education too plays an important role when promoting reconciliation. It is of vital importance that we educate our younger generations to cohabit in a multi ethnic, multi-dimensional society, to be accepting of the ideas and practises of others and most importantly to resolve their differences through dialogue and not through violence. I believe the conference being held today also aids this rationale, where the grassroot  activists could capture the knowledge shared in this timely gathering and spread the message of peace and respect. 

 I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise and highlight the government’s commitment to reconciliation. His Excellency the President has particular interest in promoting peace and reconciliation in our motherland. We have also seen the establishment of related government bodies to aid in reconciliation initiatives which are currently engaged in tremendous work to make permanent peace a reality in the country. Conferences such as these are thus another step in achieving long-lasting peace in the island. Your presence here today is a testament to the government’s resolve in thiscontext.  

 I would like to conclude my remarks by wishing all thespeakers and participants the very best over the proceedings of today’s conference. I hope that the ideas expressed and the engagements that take place in this hall will lead to positive action that is both effective and inclusive, to complement our post conflict reconciliation initiatives and the peaceful path we have chosen to tread. 


Thank you!