President Proposes Islandwide Dialogue to Shape Youth-Driven Future Sri Lanka

  • A Permanent Yowun Pura- City of Youth to Trincomalee.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored the need to initiate a countrywide dialogue on shaping the future Sri Lanka envisioned by its youth.

He emphasized the necessity of embarking on a new path towards fostering a robust economy, with the younger generation assuming pivotal roles.

The President made these remarks today (25) during a youth gathering organized by the National Youth Services Council at H.M. Weerasinghe Stadium, Ampara.

President Wickremesinghe further elaborated:

I plan to allocate a portion of the 200 acres of land owned by the Youth Services Council in Trincomalee for the tourism industry, while the remainder will be used to establish a permanent Yowun Pura- City of Youth. This development is expected to be completed within the next two years, ensuring it can be freely enjoyed for recreational purposes.

This year, the Poson festival was celebrated with great enthusiasm, attracting over one million people to Anuradhapura sacred city alone. Earlier, Colombo welcomed about two million people during Vesak celebrations. Across the country, Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities were joyously observed. Notably, this year saw over 20,000 dansal stalls across Sri Lanka during Poson Poya, marking a return to freely enjoyed festivals after several years.

Until recently, the people of our country lived in fear for their future, uncertain whether to remain here or seek opportunities abroad. Over the past four years, our economy has suffered a severe downturn, marked by power shortages, scarcity of essential goods like food, medicine, and fuel, and the collapse of numerous businesses. This uncertainty cast a shadow over our prospects.Young people were compelled to gather in large numbers near the Korean Embassy in hopes of securing employment, while others prepared to migrate to Saudi Arabia. However, through our collective efforts, the country’s economy is gradually recovering.

In the upcoming week, we are poised to finalize agreements with our creditors, aiming to transform Sri Lanka into a nation capable of servicing its debts. These agreements will not only provide us with foreign exchange but also open avenues for aid and foreign investment, enabling us to embark on a new path forward.

The path forward is in your hands as we embark on this new journey. Returning to the old habits of borrowing could lead us to a more severe economic crisis in just 15 years.

To forge a new economic future for our country, we must learn from the successes of countries like Japan, Vietnam, China, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, all of which transitioned to export-driven economies. These countries were once poorer than ours but have since achieved remarkable progress.

Our country boasts incredibly talented young individuals who currently lack opportunities. It’s imperative that we strategize on how to generate foreign exchange through an export-oriented economy. This journey demands collective effort from all of us.

Our responsibility isn’t just to secure our own future but to forge a brighter path for the youth. Developing a country is a long-term endeavour spanning two decades. That’s why we set a goal for Sri Lanka to achieve developed status by 2048, marking our centenary of independence. Despite criticism from some quarters, we remain steadfast in this vision.

By 2047, India will commemorate a century of independence, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi aiming for a developed India by then. Let us join hands when India achieves this milestone and work towards building a developed Sri Lanka by 2048. Currently, we are laying the groundwork necessary to achieve this ambition. Therefore, it’s crucial that you engage in discussions about the future of our nation. The decisions made will shape not just my future or that of the ministers present, but your future as well.

In 1977, Mr. JR Jayawardena famously said, “I don’t need a future; you create your own future.” This marked the establishment of the Youth Services Council, Yowun Pura- City of Youth, and Garment Factories, alongside the growth of the tourism industry. Had it not been for the war, tourism would have flourished even more. However, economic collapse ensued, necessitating a rebuilding effort for our country’s economy. It’s imperative that everyone contributes to this effort. Let’s unite and shape the future of our country together.

I urge the Minister of Youth Affairs to initiate a comprehensive dialogue toward this goal. We cannot revert to out-dated methods or endure shortages of oil and fertilizer. We aspire to a better future, and I call upon all of us to collaborate towards achieving it.

The President responded to some questions forced by the youth:

Will the smart agriculture program, based on your concept, empower us to progress as smart farmers?

The Agriculture Modernization Program was launched this year. We anticipate full implementation of the program with international support starting next year. Currently, we are in the experimental phase this year.

Can the strike of non-academic staff at Oluvil University be resolved?

We have proposed a government program for the non-academic staff which we urge them to consider and return to work.

As young residents of an agricultural area, we are keen on producing export crops. Is there a program that can provide us with the necessary technical knowledge and guidance?

Efforts are underway to launch a program aimed at exporting agricultural crops from our country. This initiative will be implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant institutions, starting next year under a well-structured plan.

The facilities at the Ampara Center of the National Youth Services Council are inadequate. Can we secure the necessary facilities, including a three-storey building?

National Youth Services Council Chairman/ Director General Pasidu Gunarathne,
Numerous requests have been submitted for the construction of a building at the Ampara National Youth Services Training Centre. We are confident that the President will allocate the required resources for this project, with construction expected to commence and be completed by next year.

Minister of Land, Tourism, Sports and Youth Affairs, Harin Fernando:
Under the leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, our country, once shrouded in darkness, has found illumination. His vision has instilled hope in the youth, inspiring belief in a brighter future. Now is the time to awaken. We have a leader dedicated to the youth’s future more than anyone before. With him, we have someone capable of achieving our aspirations. Let us move forward under the guidance of such a proactive leader.

Let’s propel our agricultural sector forward through modern methods. We must avoid reverting to the conditions of two years ago.

National Youth Services Council Chairman/ Director General Pasidu Gunarathne,

During President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure, a golden era unfolded for the youth of our nation. Minister Harin Fernando has been instrumental in providing significant support during this time.

Just eighteen months ago, our youth lacked trust in the National Youth Services Council. Today, however, they have placed their trust in us.
The youth’s contribution is crucial for our country’s development, and we must continue on this path without interruption. Your decision to propel our nation forward is commendable. Therefore, the current President’s initiative to advance our country requires your active participation.

Eastern Province Governor Senthil Thondaman, MPs A. L. M. Athaullah, H. M. M. Harees, S. M. M. Muszhaaraff, Thavaraja Kalai Arasan, Dr. Thilak Rajapakshe, former Deputy Minister Sriyani Wijewickrama and provincial political representatives, and government officials including Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake were also present at the occasion.