230 AFRIEL youth from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Maynnar Batticoloa, and Tricomalee, Vavuniya, Ampara, and Nuwara Eliya District gathered in Jaffna for the AFRIEL annual conference, Human Rights Event: Blossom of Hope in the Northern and Eastern Province, on International Human Rights Day, 10th of December, 2013.
This Event was of significant importance to the people in the North as well as those who care about the human right improvement process in the North. The invited speakers included Thevanayagam Premanan, Uthayan Editor, and Mahinda Hatthaka, Secretary, Movement for Defense of Democratic Rights in the morning Conference, Blossom of Hope in the Northern and Eastern Province; Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) for the Opening of VIEW.
During the morning section, Thevanayagam Premanan present the current political situation in Sri Lanka With witty metaphors. He inspired the participants to improve the social environment on their own instead of waiting for a change with meaningless grievance. Mahinda Hatthaka narrated the major historical events of human rights, giving a complete background knowledge. As a symbol of collecting tears, participations
jointly signed on a sari prepared by the host to mourn the war victims and comfort the women who suffer. With the music and war video playing, many of the participant burst into tears under the sorrowful atmosphere. This sari signing idea was given by Sunila Abeysekera when she was alive. We are still collecting signature on the sari until the last blank be filled.
AFRIEL Core Committee member, Ravindra De Silva, appreciated the speakers’ full support for this Conference celebrating International Human Rights Day in the Northern Province. He passed the message to the youth that Human Rights should be started from looking after their families and friends. He took a high praise of the AFRIEL youth for their great contribution and participation. The youth members greatly show their sensitiveness to their communities and are willing to exhaust all the effort in helping people in need. Under the witness of everyone, AFRIEL elected National Executive Committee from each District of the participants. The committee will be in charge of the AFRIEL Youth Club affairs in the next round.
The Event includes Tamil traditional dance, drama, and many artistic elements. At the break time, People’s Power and Imagination Exhibition presented the war memory, recovery and development, religions, AFRIEL past meeting progress, and the pride of Northern Province Election this September.
In the afternoon section of Volunteer Initiative (VIEW) Opening Ceremony, issues of the current election monitoring work in Sri Lanka, such as election watchdogs put many efforts on mobilizing people for election observation instead of motivating citizen to be self-mobilized, were address in the opening speech. This newly founded election monitoring network targeting grassroots and voluntary could help people who suffer become the solver, reduce the frustration of incapability of social changing, and, taking the best use of the accessibility of election work, enable the grassroots people to do good governance and anti-corruption. According to his experienced work on election observation, Rohana Hettiarachchi delivered a profound lecture on voters’ rights protection and responsibility of civil society from. He also reminded the participants to connect to the people in the South and jointly fight for their own rights.
This event directly addressed many vital Northern human right issues and broke the participation record celebrating International Human Rights Day in the North in the recent years. Without any outside financial support, we are proud to show the real people’s power was happening on this meaningful day.
We would like to express our gratitude to J. C. Weliamuna, K. S. Ratnavle, and Lakshan Dias, for their advice and guidance on the conference. AFRIEL will keep working on the professional and educational training for its members to strengthen their capacity on human rights protection and good governance improvement.