Hailing from the deep south of Sri Lanka, born and raised in a closely-knit family of five and educated at a strict boys' school, I was taught the valuable lesson of team play, sharing is caring and the importance of fraternizing with classmates, neighbours, and teammates, at an early age. Although I was a part of Gen Y (born between 1975 and 1995), a generation of youth known to being incredibly sophisticated, technologically advanced, more racially and ethnically diverse and classified as a much more segmented audience aided by the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet and E-zines, my childhood revolved around the great outdoors. From playing multiple sports in school, to hanging out on the beach with friends over weekends in Tangalle, or cycling around paddy fields with my brothers, I often reflect on my childhood with the fondest of memories, for it was spent in the real world and not the virtual world, crouched in front of a computer.

From MSN Chat to Hi5 and eventually Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – I, like those in my generation have all (evolved?) been captured in a virtual world of Social Media. From iPhones, Blackberrys and Laptops and iPads, the world is now literally at our fingertips. Gone are the days where we had to courageously venture out to make a new friend or two, quarrel with the boys over a game of cricket or rugby, or even sit down and write a postcard or email to a pen-pal. We now live in a world where the youth are engrossed in Social Media. Friendships and relationships start and end online, fights between individuals are virtual wars, break-ups are publicly posted for the world to see and relationships become official once a status update via a Twitter or Facebook post has been made public. Social Media has become immensely popular in recent years and for a variety of reasons both good and questionable. One can argue that there are lots of benefits of using Social Media, although, not everybody will agree that it is a good thing, and there are certainly some disadvantages to it. However, on the whole, it would be fair to say that the benefits outweigh the negatives, and this is a contributory factor towards its growing popularity.

Increase in computerliteracy

The growth of Social Media networking in Sri Lanka has largely been due to the increase in computer literacy rates in the island. The youth today, more than ever before, have access to computers and the internet in almost all Provinces in the country. This rapid advancement in the access to technology and technological devices has primarily been due to the rapid growth of development in the education system in the country. Literacy rates have increased and improvements in the education system have also led to a sharp increase in the number of educated youth joining the workforce.

Social Media enables individuals to network with one another on a virtual space. They communicate and express themselves in a more coherent manner with the aid of a keyboard; the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword proves to be the case with today's youth. Social networking can provide opportunities for new relationships, as well as strengthening existing relationships; whether friends are close to home or across the world, they can always be in touch, thanks to social media.

Although it promotes anti-social behaviour when in public and often leads to superficial relationships with friends (best example being friends wishing each other for their birthdays with a simple wall post on Facebook!), it nevertheless makes individuals share their lives with those nearest and dearest to them, regardless of what part of the world they live in. High school friends can remain in touch all throughout college and university, family near or far can be a part of a newborn niece's or nephew's life through pictures, regular updates and videos, parents can be up-to-date on their child's college adventures when living away from home for the first time. Social Media connects us in more ways than one.

However, parents of young children should be more vigilant of its use, and it is important to note that Social Media should not be accessible to those below 16 years of age. Although the legal age for Facebook today is 13, one must always remember it was 18 when young Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University back in 2004, first launched it.

Expansion of Facebook

Facebook was initially meant to be a social networking site for college students. For them to exchange pictures, keep in touch and communicate even after their days at university had come to an end. An individual was required to have a valid student email account, in order to be eligible to qualify for an account on Facebook. However, with its growing popularity, growth in the financial opportunities that arose as a direct result of its popularity, eventually led to the social networking site being allowed to be accessed by 16-year-olds and subsequently 13-year-olds. To me, age plays a key role in social networking sites. Parents with young children below the age of 16 need to be more vigilant and need to discourage the use of Social Media by pre and early teens. Children need to grow in an environment where they can interact face to face with fellow students, cousins and friends on a social basis, as opposed to on a virtual space. Parents need to encourage their children to engage in activities that will enable them to develop their social skills, habits of sharing and caring, team play and be more adaptable in the real world. Children need to be taught the art of problem solving on their own using their own skills and intellect as opposed to Googling for answers or solutions or resolving personal issues with friends via a status update war or series of updates and posts.

On the other hand, however, children may to an extent gain social confidence from interacting with other people online, which may help them feel more secure in new situations, such as going to college, joining a sports team, or even meeting new friends. Because social networking, like everything else online, is constantly evolving, kids can become more familiar with new and emerging technologies, as well as increase their media literacy through exposure to many different types of online media that are shared by their friends. Many kids today, who are often raised in dual-income or single parent households, find support in online communities; especially kids who have unique interests or feel isolated. It also encourages a child to find other kids who are interested in the same thing or may be dealing with similar issues. Online communities can be very diverse and expose a child to many new viewpoints, ideas, and opinions that he/she may not be familiar with.

Youth can further explore topics that they are interested in through online social networking. By making connections with other people who have the same interest, kids also can learn and exchange knowledge with others they may not have had the opportunity to interact with.


Social media allows you to interact with far more people than you would otherwise be able to. This means that you can be exposed to a much wider array of opinions than you would otherwise. In addition, you will be able to share your opinion with a lot more people. These interactions have certainly made the world smaller since you can interact with people from anywhere. That being said, most people do tend to limit who they interact with, to people who have similar beliefs as theirs.

Advertising and marketing tool

Furthermore, Social Media is a great advertising and marketing tool for businesses, brands, and charitable and social causes. Advertisers can target specific groups of people through social media. Products and brands are often targeted at segmented audiences and social media enables companies to do so effectively. Market research companies can effectively collect data by analyzing personal information shared by users online and this in turn can be used as effective data by advertisers. People's behavioural patterns, likes and dislikes, images and much more can be collected for analytical purposes via social media. Companies have started to immensely benefit with the growth of networking sites; they can engage directly with their target audiences. Social networking is just a way to network; everybody knows that networking is critical for things like finding a job. This is why we are starting to see sites appear that are designed specifically for networking for professional reasons, such as LinkedIn. Again the advantage is that you can network with a lot more people than you would be able to, if you had to do it in person.

For a generation of youth obsessed with film, art, music and sports networking sites like Twitter and Instagram, these provide them with an opportunity to directly engage with their favourite artists, sporting heroes or idols. A world that once seemed many miles away and a distant dream all seem so small and accessible thanks to social media. Sites like SmallWorld enable like-minded youth and young adults to engage in activities that are of interest to just them.

Perhaps the best reason for social networking is that it is fun. People can and do spend hours a day on social networking sites interacting with their friends. It is a good way to stay in touch and to find out what is going on in their lives. In addition, there are all kinds of games and similar things that you can do on these sites.

There does not have to be a specific or a useful purpose for using social media, you can use it simply because you enjoy using it. Ultimately this is why most people do it and it can be seen as an alternative method to relieving stress and relaxing one's mind after a hectic day of work.

Therefore, in conclusion, I personally think if Social Media is utilized in a positive engaging manner and youngsters below a certain age are monitored closely by their parents on their online activities and behavioural patterns, social media is a useful tool that truly makes this planet a small world, and a more connected world. Hopefully in the future, with the free flow of information, and accessibility to network and form relationships with people from all across the globe, and the creation of more awareness of global cultures and traditions via the free exchange of information both personal and commercial, we may well be walking on a journey leading towards a more ethnic and racially tolerant world.

Namal Rajapaksa stresses on the need for an education system appropriate for development

United People's Freedom Alliance Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa says that the time has come to introduce an education system that is appropriate for development.

MP Namal Rajapaksa expressed this view at an event held at Temple Trees on Friday.

An event to present scholarships to 1700 university students for the 2010-2011 academic year was organised by the Tharunyata Hetak organizsation.

''Every parent in our country believes in making their child reach places they could not reach. Every parent wants to see their child wear the crown they could not wear. Many changes are taking place in the education system under the leadership of his Excellency the President, to make these attempts a success,.'' stated Minister of Education Bandula Gunawardena.

''When you go to the villages, they say, Minister during one period you are in a mess and during the other Minister Bandula Gunawardena is in a mess. They also say that there was a time when Minister S.B. Dissanayake was in a mess.''

''However as ministers we should move in the direction President Mahinda Rajapaksa expects. Now they are happy. Now it is Minister Bandula Gunawardena who is in the limelight,'' stated Minister of Cooperatives and Internal Trade Johnston Fernando

''The time has come to introduce an education system that is appropriate for the development of the country. The Time has come to introduce new education policies from the pre-school to universities.''

''Today we are using our resources and developing our infrastructure facilities. But we remain under the education system introduced by the Western Imperialists that to create clerks for offices. Honourable Minister and Secretary you have a responsibility.'' stated UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa

Hambantota to be the most developed district soon

I want to be my own light, not the light reflected from another - Namal

By Sandun Jeewantha

Hambantota, once a synonym for the backwoods of Sri Lanka, is fast growing in its importance as an economic hub. The home turf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and that of the Giruwapattu Rajapaksa clan, Hambantota has also served the son of a former President as the launching pad for his parliamentary career. The latest event that turned the focus of the nation on Hambantota is the advent of young Namal Rajapaksa to parliamentary politics as an UPFA candidate from this district.

The leader of Nil Balakaya and Tharunyata Hetak, Namal Rajapaksa in an interview with The Nation explains his vision and mission as a young politician while replying to various allegations being made against him by opposition critics.

Namal says that the idea of putting up election posters never appealed to him. I stopped the poster campaign and I am spending the funds thus saved on the purchase of text books for distribution among school children in the district.

Asked for his opinion about his political rival in Hambantota, Sajith Premadasa, Namal's magnanimous reply was: Sajith Aiya is a good politician...

Asked whether he expects to get a ministerial portfolio after winning the election, Namal says: I don't expect any ministerial portfolio.The distance I have already travelled is very short. But the journey ahead for me is very long.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Question: We all as children cherish a dream of being somebody when we grow up. For example, some look forward to becoming a doctor or an engineer, didn't you have such a dream when you were small?

Answer: Yes. I did have such a dream. I wanted to be a lawyer. And, in fact, now I am on the way to realising that dream. I look forward to appearing in court cases in the future. I hope to practise my profession for the good of the poor and helpless people. In fact, my father too rendered a great service to the people as a lawyer. He represented the interests of the disappeared youth of Hambantota and in other parts of the country. Well, he fulfilled a need of the hour. Today's priorities are different. I hope to practice as a lawyer to suit the needs of the people today.

Q: Can you tell us as to when you decided to contest a Parliamentary general election?

A: Politics is not something strange to me or the other members of the family. In fact, we have been living in the thick of politics. We have always been very close to people. Doors of our home have always been thrown open to ordinary people in the Hambantota District. To the people in the district, our father is not His Excellency the Executive President of Sri Lanka. To them, he is still simply `Mahinda Mahatttaya. Given this political background of the family I have had no life distanced from politics. I had a desire to participate in politics even from very young days. Contesting at this general election is my first step into the political arena. However, I have been moving closely with the people, the youth in particular since some time. I have been working for the wellbeing of the youth in particular.

Q: You have been implementing community service projects under the banner of an organisation called `Tharunyata Hetak. However, the opposition charges that the `Tharunyata Hetak is nothing but a propaganda gimmick aimed at promoting your image? 

A: I am quite aware of the allegations being made against me by the opposition. But the youth in the country know what `Tharunyata Hetak means to them. We launched a series of programmes under the `Tharunyata Hetak to ensure a bright future for the youth in this country. The youth in the country have greatly benefited from our programmes. This is a reality none can deny. We are doing some work for the good of the youth. This is a continuing process. I cannot help if my name is mentioned in connection with this good work. You get a good name if you do good. You cannot call it image-building. I am happy my name is linked to good and not to bad.

Q: There was much talk in the run-up to the last Presidential election about the propaganda adverts run by the Tharunyata Hetak. The opposition was questioning the sources from where the funds that met the cost of adverts were forthcoming.

A: I must say at the outset that the adverts run by the Tharunyata Hetak were a great success. Those adverts hurt the opposition. They went to the length of getting up a series of specially designed adverts to counter our series. The opposition through sheer spite made various allegations against me. They said that I had got funds from the LTTE to finance my propaganda campaign. Some people charged that an LTTE leader called Emil Kanthan was bankrolling my campaign. I must clearly state that the monies that the Tharunyata Hetak spent on the propaganda were not our own, but the monies from the President's election fund. The opposition knew this, but wanted to make an issue of the campaign led by Tharunyata Hetak, for the sole purpose of slinging mud at me. However, there is a reason for me to feel happy about their mud slinging. They resorted to vilifying me because they had realised that I was for them a formidable challenge to reckon with. The youth in the country know well about the Rajapaksas. They know well that the Rajapaksas would never embezzle people's money. Therefore, people do not take the malicious allegations against me seriously. If the Rajapaksas had diddled the people's funds, they would not be able to do politics for 70 years in a row.

Q: You are known to be the architect of the organisation called ` Nil Balakaya? as well. What are its objectives?

A: We founded the Nil Balakaya as a rallying point for the youth in the SLFP and to empower them. If a political party is to forge ahead as a popular force, and if it is to have a bright future, it should have a dynamic representation of the youth. We founded the Nil Balakaya to meet this need.

Q: There is another allegation that you are trying to build a team of your own in the government through the Nil Balakaya. Another allegation that has gained currency is that you have initiated a move to ensure that the members of the Nil Balakaya in the fray at this election would top the preference vote lists in their respective districts.

A: I am aware that the opposition is making this allegation. It looks that some in opposition are afflicted with `Namal Rajapaksa Phobia. I am just another candidate contesting this election. Why should I form a team? Namal Rajapaksa is only a member of the SLFP team or the UPFA team.

Q: You call yourself just another member of the team. However, it is the Rajapaksas who are occupying very high positions in the country's political authority. If I suggest against this backdrop, that you are the most fortunate candidate in the running at this election?

A: Yes. I am at an advantage. However, there are many disadvantages as well. True, I stand out as the son of the President and I cannot help being my father?s son. But I don?t depend on my father's popularity to win votes. I want to build my own identity. People in this country will determine the political future of Namal Rajapaksa on the basis of the image he has built for himself. I know that if I am to succeed as a politician, I have to be my own light, not the light reflected from another. I know I would be a failure if I failed to assert my own identity.

Q: Your father was only 24-years-old when he first entered Parliament. He is the Executive President of the country today. As for you, you hope to enter the Parliament at the age of 23. Do you think you will succeed in surpassing your father?s achievement someday?

A: Well. My father is the person who successfully met the most formidable challenge that the country faced in recent times. He put an end to terrorism that bedeviled our country for three decades. He is a great statesman of rare calibre. Therefore, people in the country today refer to me as the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, my ambition is to win such a niche in the hearts and minds of people in this country, so that they would begin referring to Mahinda Rajapaksa as Namal Rajapaksa's father! I know that such popular acceptability will not come my way as a matter of course. I will strive hard to gain it in the course of my political journey.

Q: You have started your political journey from the Hambantota District. What is the most pressing problem facing the people in this district? What are your solutions?

A: Unemployment is the most pressing problem in the district. We have already taken steps to solve this problem. Large scale development projects, such the Hambantota harbour, Mattala International airport, have taken off the ground. The youth in Hambantota will be the immediate beneficiaries of these projects. A plan is underway to set up a free trade zone in the area lying between the Hambantota harbour and the proposed international airport. A number of new industries will be established in Hambantota in the near future. Construction of a super highway and a railway line to Kataragama is making headway. There is also an international cricket stadium under construction. This means a massive development process is taking place in Hambantota, which will turn it into the most developed district in the country shortly. The long era of want and suffering in Hambantota is fast ending. People are about to step into the new era of prosperity when they can enjoy the dividends of development. The quality of life of the people will further improve with the development in the sectors like education and health. The water problem too has eased now to a great extent. Most problems related to water scarcity will end with the completion of the Uma Oya project.

Q: What would be the result of this election in Hambantota? Would it be five against one?

A: The UPFA would get 5 seats against the opposition's 2 if we are to go by the results of the Presidential election in the district. But the situation for us has changed for the better. We are going to win 6 seats at this election

Q: Well. Tell us what would be the position that Namal Rajapaksa is to occupy in the order of preference votes polled by the winning six in Hambantota.

A: People will decide on which position I should occupy on the preference votes list

Q: How many Rajapaksas, in your opinion, are likely to be returned to Parliament from the Hambantota district at this election?

A: The general opinion of the people is that three Rajapaksas will make it to Parliament at this election. The decision lies in the hands of the people. The position on the preference votes list is not something that bothers any of us. The position that Namal should occupy on the list or where Minister Chamal, Nirupama Akka, Ministers Amaraweera or Indika should be placed is not our concern at all. Our collective concern is the victory of the UPFA.

Q: Namal, you have stopped putting up posters, and begun distributing books among school children. Why did you give up the poster campaign?

A: From the very inception, I was not enamoured with putting up posters. I reluctantly agreed to put up one poster because many suggested I should do it. I felt pasting posters is an exercise which is not worth the money spent on it Besides, pasting posters leads to unnecessary conflicts. None would charge that you have pasted posters over those of others or you have disfigured parapet walls if you give up this propaganda exercise, I found that I could provide books for school children in the entire district at half the cost of putting up posters throughout the Hambantota district. So I am now distributing school books free instead of pasting posters.

Q: A special feature in the contest in the Hambantota district at this election is a son of an incumbent President and the son of a former President are in the running from two rival political parties. What is your personal opinion about politics being done by Sajith Premadasa in Hambantota?

A: Sajith Aiya is a good politician. We two discuss political issues. I am closer to Madam Hema than to Sajith. Sajith Premadasa is a young man who, I think, has a good political future. Sajith Aiya's present conduct as a politician is decisive for his political future

Q: Do you consider him a challenge to you politically?

A: Certainly not. I don't treat anyone as a challenge to me.

Q: You cannot disregard the JVP when discussing politics in Hambantota. Many government politicians say that this general election will mark the end of JVP's political journey. Do you share this view?

A: I saw two or three JVP election offices in Hambantota. Their activism is now at low ebb. They have suffered a massive setback in the entire country. This setback is visible in the Hambantota district as well.

Q: Though you express a very negative opinion about the JVP, you had recently expressed a very positive comment about Wimal Weerawansa who had broken away from the JVP. You said recently that President Rajapaksa looks on Wimal Weerawansa as a political progeny of his. 

A: Yes. Wimal Aiya is like a member of our family. Wimal Aiya made a very valuable contribution towards the victory of President Rajapaksa at the 2005 and 2010 elections. The President treats Wimal Aiya as a son...

Q: What is the ministerial portfolio which you hope to get after winning at this election?

A: I don't expect any ministerial portfolio. I am still very young. I have just entered politics. The distance I have travelled is very short and the journey ahead for me is very long. I shall be quite satisfied with being an MP.


Namal says Hambantota is happening, urges private sector to cash in

by Nisthar Cassim

Youthful MP Namal Rajapaksa is reiterating that mega developments in Hambantota which are having benefits to the rest of the country were taking shape and urged the private sector to cash in early with a mindset of “positivism.”

“We are going ahead with our plans and efforts as we firmly believe in the future of Sri Lanka’s potential. We are convinced we can do it (become a dynamic country) but at the same time it is important for larger private sector to change mindsets and become positive. The public sector too needs to be more efficient,” Namal told the Daily FT in an interview.

Confirming that things are happening despite the loss of bid to host 2018 Commonwealth Games, the MP from deep-South said that ground breaking ceremony of Shangri-La’s resort in Hambantota is slated for later this month whilst it will also cut the first sod for its flagship venture in Galle Face in February. Investments on both is around $ 600 million. According to him, work on new resorts by Sri Lanka Insurance and China Harbour will also commence shortly. A few more ventures are being shaped up in the tourism sector as well. “With the opening of Mattala International Airport for charters from later this year as well as the commencement of other industrial and commercial projects within the airport zone, and outside, we will see a true revival of tourism, industries in  the South and boosting national ecoomy,” he added.

“We have identified that South and Uva are the sources for around 50% of the Lankan migrant work for the Middle East. This existing and growing base makes business sense for select Middle Eastern airlines to operate flights directly to and from Mattala,” points out Namal.

He also said that deep-South provides the best diversity as a tourist destination and if combined with East Coast and other nearby attractions, for tour operating companies and holidaymakers alike Mattala will be the best arrival point. “At present a tourist in the South coast as part of the last leg of his round trip has to travel back to Colombo to take a flight home,” he noted. Whilst he concedes that opening of the Southern Expressway has considerably reduced road travel time and extension of it further will be more convenient, the profile of tourists whom Sri Lanka will lure in five or 10 years will be different hence Mattala is for the future-centric travel and leisure trade to move in now to benefit later.

Cruise tourism is another growth area identified by the Government whilst Galle will be positioned for yachts.

In tandem with master plan for a new city and re-development of Hambantota, the public listed Colombo Land has also drawn up its own project of real estate and commercial projects.  Another listed entity Environmental Resources Investments (ERI) is also planning an apartment project.

The Government is also keen to develop Hambantota as a knowledge hub with a special focus on Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), software development and computer assembling.

A mega IT park is part of the plans which will be developed by a Southeast Asian party whose proposals are currently being studied by the Board of Investment. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) too is putting up another facility. Both will be expanded in tandem with demand for space. Mobitel will be the first set up a call center in Suriyawewa for which initially 50 youth from the South have been trained. eWis is setting up a computer assembling facility as well.

“The ICT industry can unleash the next growth wave for Sri Lanka like apparel did a few decades ago,” emphasises Namal. “Unlike apparel, the BPOs and KPOs however will see opportunities for as well as make the highly skilled and educated talent in the country to thrive,” he said adding that forecast is that around 120,000 youth will be employed in this sector within the next 10 years.

Partly to empower these upcoming ventures as well as support the overall country-wide thrust on ICT, an area which Namal’s father President Mahinda Rajapaksa first championed when he was the Premier, will be the rolling out a national broadband policy.”

The relevant authorities are currently working on a broadband policy which is crucial for Sri Lanka in our quest to become a knowledge economy as well as improve competitiveness,” Namal added.

Namal also expressed confidence that the international seaport in Hambantota will become a hub once the three projects recently approved (one of which a fertilizer bagging plant by Hayleys in partnership with a Southeast Asian company has already commenced work) begin operations.  

Heavy-vehicle auctioning has already begun as well in the area. The Mattala airport will also boost air freight industry in addition to several industries under a tax-free zone. To resolve the water issue, two proposals are being studied at present for desalination plants. Among other new green-field industries coming up are solar energy park.

These new ventures are apart from a mega overhaul of the entire Hambantota city and nearby areas with flyovers, a new planned city, preserving certain landmark areas for heritage tourism etc.