From The Island, 23 January 2012
Senior Sri Lankan Journalist, Vijitha Yapa with Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan Dr Rick Machar Teny. They were at an international conference held in mid January titled ‘making democracy real’ where Mr Yapa presented a paper on the future of Sri Lanka’s democracy. Mr Yapa said that it was not a question of asking who was right after a bitter war but what was left. “It is from there we need to pick up the pieces and work towards reconciliation.” He said that more than preaching to Sri Lanka, countries need to assist Sri Lanka in ensuring democratic rights and a future for all her people.
Dr Rick Machar was interested to hear of Sri Lanka’s initiatives for reconciliation with the minorities after the 30 year war. Speaking on South Sudan’s challenge on national reconciliation and good governance, he said that 30 years of war and 2.5 million dead had left his country traumatized.
He said 72% of the population was under 30 and knew nothing but violence and that simmering violence remained under the surface and asked for the help of the international community in national reconciliation. Riek Machar obtained a PhD in mechanical engineering in 1984 and then joined the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army(SPLM/A) during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005).
The Opposition Leader from Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi in a special video message asked the delegates to concentrate as much on the responsibilities as on rights. “How do we develop a sense of democratic responsibility? Where does it start? in the family? in school? in University? in the homes? There are so many different ways to start it but I believe that it starts in the family. From the family into society we should understand what democracy entails not just in the matter of rights but in terms of responsibility.”
Some 200 delegates from 37 countries attended the four day conference held in Panchgani, India. It was organized by the Initiatives of Change.