Inequalities in society are inevitable. The society we live in is an excellent example of diversity. Our country is blessed with the four great religions of the world: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. There are also differences in wealth, education, social status and background. Whatever differences exist, equal opportunities to reach heights in any field should be available to all irrespective of financial background, educational status, race, religion, caste and so on.
The United National Party provides equal opportunities for all Sri Lankans to achieve their goals. The founding fathers of the UNP enabled every citizen to obtain free education from the kindergarten to university. UNP leaders also established the Mahapola Scholarship Scheme for youth with financial difficulties to continue their university education. They also established the Buddhist and Pali University to enable the youth to face the competitive world of today while preserving cultural values.
The party established the National Youth Services Council, the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Youth Club programme, the National Youth Corps, the National Apprenticeship Board, NISCO Institute, Bellwood Art Faculty, the Youth Front and developed the latent talents of youth to face the world. One would today meet famous lyricists, musicians, dramatists, journalists and photographers who began their careers in these institutions and have reached the apex of their professions. Rs.250 million has been allocated to the Youth Parliament that sprang from the Youth City concept. As promised, in the UNP election manifesto in 2015, Rs.250 million has been allocated to the Youth Parliament. Hundreds of grassroots level projects will be implemented in Divisional Secretariat areas with this allocation.
However, much more remains to be done. The future needs a society rich in knowledge and values. Sri Lanka hopes to have an intelligent future generation that will go far. The present government has the responsibility to bequeath such a generation. The present UNP government has laid a successful foundation for the same. We must accept the fact that the UNP opted for a consensual government due to the necessity of a stable government and a stable economy, despite having the possibility of forming a government
of its own.
One of the most important policies of the Government led by the Party is the provision of a million employment opportunities in the course of 4 years. If we are to permanently remove youth unrest from a country in which the youth were involved in a civil war, we must ensure that they have proper avenues in a just society. This, however, is easier said than done.
The government needs a proper plan to implement these 1 million jobs. To achieve it through the state sector alone is only a dream and it is very important to ensure opportunities for local private sector and foreign investment. A stable government and a stable economy are essential for this programme. Then leader of the UNP President J.R. Jayewardene with his foresight, introduced the Open Economy long before Ronald Reagan of the US, Margaret Thatcher of the UK and Narasimha Rao of India did so. It is no secret that the rural youth who were backward till then made use of these opportunities to challenge the rural elite. If we are to solve the problems facing us as a country, we must open our country to the world. Similarly opportunities in other countries should also be opened to us. It is clear that our leadership has understood this global reality as our former leaders did in the past.
Development projects included in the policy prepared by the leadership include the Kandy-Colombo-Hambantota Corridor, the Western Megapolis Project, the establishment of an industrial zone in Hambantota including the airport and the harbour. The party leader intends to convert the dream of providing 1 million jobs in 4 years into a reality by opening up factories such as the proposed Volkswagen factory in Kurunegala.
He expects to develop the youth by providing them with proper jobs, enriching their knowledge and economic wealth. Addressing the recently concluded Sri Lanka Human Capital Summit, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he intended to create an educational system that suits the job market. The Education and Employment Bill that will be shortly presented to Parliament is intended for this purpose.
We cannot forget the international experience while implementing the above -mentioned projects for youth. Plans are afoot to equip our youth with knowledge and experience so that they would be second to none in the world. New technology has been provided, including laptops to university students at concessionary rates, opportunities to learn English Language and initiating a trend towards digitalization of society. Other projects include the introduction of compulsory education for 13 years, the establishment of a Police and Judicial University and the retention of youth to serve the country. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has also allocated Rs.200 billion to develop extra-curricular activities for the youth.
These measures are not confined to youth belonging to one political party or one constituency. It must benefit all who endeavour towards a better life. Another aim of the government is to seek active participation of the youth in development activities. We want to see the participation of youth in policy formulation, decision making and implementing projects.
Today, too many political parties deceive the people through flowery speeches instead of enaging in meaningful discourse. Our party does what it promises and goes beyond what leaders speak.
The UNP laid the foundation for us, the youth and has brought us into contact with the modern world. We are confident that the party with a leader and a team that is forward-thinking and understands the world would fulfil its obligations to the youth who represent the future of the country.
A country such as Sri Lanka which was ahead of Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960’s, needs a party with leaders who give priority to policies in order to become prosperous. Our party has worked not with short-term goals but with long-term sustainable objectives. Although we may not reap its benefits at the next election, we will certainly understand its value and benefit in future.
Our government embarked on a stable journey instead of temporarily placating the people. Similarly, it has followed a path which unites the people instead of dividing them for temporary gains. Hence, join us in contributing our youthful energy towards developing the country and reaching our goals.