Six young cross-party Sri Lankan parliamentarians and political representatives visited the UK from 25th February to 5th March 2013 to explore its governance and democracy models, and continue their engagement with UK-based diaspora.
Hon. Vasantha Senanayake MP and Hon. Shehan Semasinghe MP from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Hon. Hunais Farook MP from the All Ceylon Muslim Congress, Hon. Harin Fernando MP and Hon. Niroshan Perera MP from the United National Party, and Mr Raghu Balachandran from the Tamil National Alliance took part in this initiative organised by International Alert with its partners the Royal Commonwealth Society and One Text Initiative.
The visit, which was funded by the British High Commission in Colombo, was the third in a series of dialogues and cross-learning experiences involving Sri Lankan parliamentarians and diaspora communities.
During their programme, the delegates visited the Greater London Authority, the Welsh Assembly, and the Houses of Parliament. They learnt about the different levels of governance in the UK (local, regional, national and central level), the ways in which these interact with each other, and how regional and national assemblies are adapted to the particular needs of their populations.
The delegates had the opportunity to explore how governance systems are able to support inclusive peace in the UK context during meetings with British Members of Parliament in Westminster, organised through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Delegates also met Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt MP.
In addition, the participants were able to continue their engagement with UK-based diaspora communities, which began in December 2011, through meetings with Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim community members, from both first and second generation. They also met with a cross-section of religious leaders from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities in the UK and engaged in interfaith dialogue.
During these meetings, the delegates shared their recent experience of visiting areas of the North of Sri Lanka which were particularly affected by the war, and heard about the on-going concerns of diaspora communities with regards to post-war recovery and reconciliation processes in Sri Lanka.
Issues discussed included increasing tensions between faith groups, the rule of law and post-war development.
Following their meetings, the delegates committed to working to expand their cross-party group further and exploring ways in which they could support interfaith initiatives in the UK and in Sri Lanka.