Making all voices count | Daily News

Making all voices count

The cure is not an easy catchphrase in a country that experienced a decade-long war. The process is possible only if the right steps were taken. Sri Lanka ended the war in 2009, but whether the peace was achieved or not is a question emerging from many quarters.

That is where reconciliation and peace-building fit in. Declaring open the Youth Conference on International Relations at the University of Kelaniya, its Vice Chancellor Professor D M Semasinghe said that more attention should be drawn to achieve and ensure reconciliation and peace-building.

“We hear catcalls from many sides. The north calls for a reawakening of the LTTE, while the south needs to resurrect the Hitlerism. This indicates the mental status of both hemispheres. They are not at peace yet. The first step of the reconciliation is devolving power. We must then be able to abolish the executive presidency. These steps lead to the reconciliation,” Professor Semasinghe noted.

Professor Semasinghe added three more measures which should be applied to the war-affected victims. First comes healing, which is followed by repair. Finally, it is a transformation. Even though the war was over years ago, these steps have not been implemented properly.

Grievances of the war-affected victims must not be ignored. When the victims are not healed and their shattered lifestyle left without repair, it means their grievances are not addressed properly. In such a background it is not possible to execute the healing process. Transformation counts much more significant than both healing and repairing. Every citizen shall feel equal in the country. If any citizen feels second-class, it means they have lost the national identity in the country.

The conference, organized by the Department of International Studies Students’ Association of Kelaniya University, centred its theme on how reconciliation and peace-building can lead to the voice for a better world. This event created a platform for the undergraduates who are interested in the field of international affairs to voice their views on contentious global issues.

The International Studies Degree Programme was first introduced to the University of Kelaniya in 2002 with the participation of delegates from the University of Colombo. For more than one decade with an overwhelming demand for the subject, the Department continues to accommodate a large number of students each year since its initiation.

International Studies Department Head Senior Lecturer Thumira Gunasena stressed on the need of the international voice in a local forum.

“We have chosen the theme of reconciliation and peace-building with our experience on the past events. It is a timely theme, especially as delegates from the Jaffna peninsula have also joined hands with us. This is an international issue with relevance to the Sri Lankan context. The most crucial aspect in the reconciliation process is the attitude. Changing your attitude is the most difficult task, but it is the most important issue in the process,” Thumira Gunasena said.

Addressing the gathering, G L Peiris former professor of Law and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo noted that the reconciliation process should be handled in a balanced manner.

“The majority community should not be alienated from the reconciliation process. It is what happens usually during a reconciliation process. The majority is also an important factor. All the communities are important for democracy to be practised.”

Norway Ambassador Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther in his keynote address elaborated on the role of Norway in the reconciliation process world over.

Norway has earned the reputation as the facilitator between parties to settle conflicts. The conflict resolution is a focal aspect of Norwegian foreign policy which ultimately leads to reconciliation and peace-building. The country always remained a facilitator in terms of peace and reconciliation, especially with its support given to the UN since the early 1990s.

The International Studies Department offers two Degree programmes: the Honours Degree Programme (English medium) and the Bachelor of Arts Degree Programme (Sinhala medium). International Studies Degree programmes offer a unique blend of multidisciplinary subject areas for the students to enhance their knowledge in different dimensions of International Studies.

The course content includes international and regional politics, foreign policy studies, Strategic studies, international and regional organizations, human rights, international law, international migration, diplomacy, geopolitics, International business management, international trade etc. covering a variety of subjects in the field of international studies. The Honours Degree Programme requires students to learn one of the foreign languages such as Chinese, German, Korean and Russian which have an added advantage for the students in shaping their future aspirations in the field of Foreign Service. One of the potentials of the Degree Programmes is beside improving their academic and research competencies, the students are directed to develop many soft skills such as critical thinking across multi-disciplinary dimensions, English and Foreign languages competencies, analytical thinking and computing through their respective curriculums. The Youth Conference was also the venue to a joint collaboration of Secretariat of the Pakistan High Commission, Kuwait Embassy, Norwegian Embassy and The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in various enlightening sessions on international relations.

A session was held for the current undergraduates of international studies to explore their employability in areas such as diplomacy. The undergraduate syllabus was also reviewed at the session offering a comprehensive framework to the subject. The schoolchildren interested in studying the subject also attended a separate session.

Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd was the print media sponsor of the event. 


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