05/16/2023, 17.45
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Young people to join parliamentary committees

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

Seventeen sectoral oversight committees will have five appointed youth representatives who will be able to view bills and ask questions about funding. Last year, youth led anti-government protests that forced President Rajapaksa's to resign. For current President Wickremesinghe, involving young people is the first step towards “the country’s success”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka is the first country in the world to provide youth with the opportunity to be represented in parliament’s sectoral oversight committees (SOCs).

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement at an orientation workshop for youth representatives at SOCs organised by parliament with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For the president, the opportunity to participate in the SOCs offered young people a "novel approach" to contribute to Sri Lanka’s development between now and 2048.

In 25 years, the youths will be able to proudly say that, ”It was the step taken by us today that led to the system change which paved the way for the country’s success,” Wicremesinghe said.

To this end, they can “participate in the functions of parliament, not as observers, but as young representatives in the parliamentary committees.”

Between March and July 2022, thousands of young people in Sri Lanka took part in mass protests (aragalaya) demanding a "system change". This forced then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign amid a deepening crisis and widespread protests.

“Following the publication of a newspaper advertisement, 535 youth representatives were selected for the committees related to 17 subject areas established by parliament,” senior government sources told AsiaNews.

“These SOCs function with the participation of parliamentarians representing all political parties in the parliament” and the “chairperson of a committee can call five youth representatives each to assist its work”.

Currently, the government plans to introduce certain bills on climate change and women’s rights, which will give the youths an opportunity to discuss them, express their views, see how money is spent, why the money is allocated to certain subjects and not others. A new Parliamentary Budget Office will be created with assistance from ministries.

“It is our responsibility to start a new chapter through this approach,” said Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, as it ushers in a new “era of participatory democracy”.

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