On Wednesday, Sri Lanka’s political culture took a turn for the better when a 26 member new cabinet was appointed along with 39 state ministers by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Following SLPP’s astounding victory in the General Election, with the people bestowing their trust upon the leadership and the party, Sri Lanka is now headed towards a path of development, prosperity and hope, for a better and stronger future for all our citizens who have desperately been waiting for a change.
While our journey as legislators has now taken a new path, we assure all our voters we will work dedicatedly with vigor and passion to lead this country towards a better future. The trust of our voters will never be in vain.
On a personal note, Wednesday was a historic day for me. As this year I complete my 10th year as an MP, I was for the first time appointed as the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, becoming the youngest member to serve in this existing cabinet while also becoming the youngest minister of Sports ever to be appointed in Sri Lankan history.
I thank President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for bestowing their trust upon me, and I also thank all those who wished me and believed in me, including my family who were with me through thick and thin and for never losing hope.
Now a new journey has begun for me. While it is a coincidence that I received the portfolio of Sports and Youth Affairs on International Youth Day, it also marks a beginning of a new era as I look to strengthen the country’s sports sector, and work tirelessly to address issues faced by the youth and work for their betterment. Although tough responsibilities lie ahead for me, I am ready to work with new, innovative ideas while also restructuring the existing system and to develop a strategy which would create a strong local eco system. If decisions are made, it will be after consulting all the relevant stake holders, because although Sri Lanka, has come a long way in sports, a lot more remains to be done.
I am not interested in criticizing the systems which were implemented in the past. But I will now look at restructuring the entire sports sector after intense discussions with all ex players, private sector, corporate, journalists and all those who would be able to add value in taking this industry forward. Public ideas will also be taken. Decisions will never be made on anyone’s own will. It will be a joint team effort where decisions will be made only for the betterment of the entire sector. Not for only one sport or one group. I will also hold discussions with the ex ministers to discuss the challenges they faced. Irrespective of which political party they belong to. Their proposals will also be studied and applied accordingly.
Further, following my appointment yesterday, I received many inquiries as to how I would restructure cricket. While cricket is everyone’s passion, and while this will be a priority, I am not only the minister of cricket. I will now look at restructuring all sports, to which I know Sri Lanka has immense talent. Even sports like volleyball, swimming, rugby etc will all be strengthened and talent for these sports will be hunted for, from all parts of the country. So that our children are exposed in international arenas and we can start competing in global competitions. Its a long road ahead but a road I am committed to take and fulfill.
I will now look at dividing sports into four main pillars, the first being at developing leisure sports. As Sri Lanka has emerged into a leading tourist destination, we need to develop this industry further by having more opportunities for leisure sports as this will also contribute towards the economy as well as create job opportunities within the youth. Secondly, I will also look at developing the competitive sports sector, by targeting world cups and global competitions, even the Olympics. Thirdly, I will also look at strengthening sports as forms of entertainment which will strengthen the sports economy while fourthly I plan to introduce a new norm into the country, and that is E-Sports. I personally know there is a lot of talent in Sri Lanka for E-Sports, especially among the younger generation, and now in a post COVID-19 world, Sri Lanka has to concentrate on this sector.
I will also look at the development of sports on the junior level and strengthen sports in school levels and will soon begin discussions with the relevant stake holders on this matter.
Meanwhile, as the Minister of Youth Affairs, I will take immediate steps to study the challenges faced by the youth in Sri Lanka as well as the globe in this post COVID-19 world, especially with the global economic down fall. In my several articles posted earlier, I have mentioned that the youth are the backbone of any country and their challenges should be prioritized and addressed for the benefit of the entire country. Sri Lanka has long faced high levels of unemployment and issues facing youth have long been sidelined. Sri Lanka must not forget that we have already faced two deadly insurgencies in the past and we cannot afford to face any obstacles. I will now work with all other ministries including education, higher education, labor, foreign employment, skills, etc to work towards the empowerment of the youth.
I am also looking to work closely with the SME sector towards the possibility of creating more job opportunities for the youth as well as encourage more youth to be entrepreneurs. Self employment and self sustainability is a strong path I hope the youth will take. I will also work closely with the law and order ministry to look at ways to rehabilitate youth who have fallen into drugs and see for ways where they can then come back into society with equal opportunities.
It is a long road ahead for me and for all of us. But it is a road I am now committed to. Sri Lanka has to get back on the global map with its sports and opportunities for youth. I request you all to join me on this road ahead.