Buzz with Danu - Udara Rathnayake

Jul 15 2020.

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Today on the buzz I speak to a young man who is making a  name for himself in politics. I’m all for young people serving this country and bringing a new dimension to what politics can be. Udara has juggled entertainment and business and carried his love for this country with it all. He graduated from the University of Essex and University of Colombo. He won a seat at the Western Provincial Council election in 2014 under the United National Party. Today I sit with him to come to know what made him run for Parliament and what he hopes to contribute.

They say politics is a dirty game, how do you see it? Politics started out as a gentleman’s game but over the last two to three decades it has been taken over by less desirable people who have corrupted our governance structure. It is no secret that we started out as a nation with strong governance and very respectable civil service but now the system bears no resemblance to what it was 60 years ago. It is fair that people have lost hope in our system. However, the only way from here is upwards. We need young, law-abiding and competent youth to come forward and take leadership roles to steer the ship in the right direction. Our citizens also must make the choice to vote in such people instead of casting their vote for the same old politicians with whom they are displeased. This is the only way we can bring about the change we need.

What do you feel about the youth today and do you feel they have more opportunities now? Even to this day, I have friends who are migrating. Most of the young people aspire to leave the country to some place where they feel their knowledge and talents are recognised. We still have thousands of young people going to the Middle East in search of work. I feel extremely sorry for our youth. The country has not created an environment to retain our competent and talented youth. Opportunities are scarce and local business environment is not growing fast enough to absorb our youth into the labour force. Successive governments have failed to empower entrepreneurs and businesses to grow and diversify in an ever-changing world. Whatever talent that stands out is despite the system and not because of the system.

We always say that the youth are the future of the country but are we really acting on those words? Our youth do not have the courage to stand up for what is wrong and are continuously misled by crony politicians who give them false hopes and promises. The government must empower the youth with opportunity and build a nation where our youth are valued and look forward to remaining in Sri Lanka. Without addressing these issues there is no future.

Tell me about your school days? How was it and what did you hope to be when you were growing up? I come from a family where values were more important than studies. Along with strong values, I had the freedom to engage in extra-curricular activities playing sport and participating in arts such as music and drama. This gave me a lot of exposure to other students who came from all walks of life and from an early age taught me acceptance of other individuals. I was not the most studious, so I would call my school life well balanced. Like many youngsters, I wanted to be a pilot but pursued business management and development studies and here I am, as a young politician hoping to bring about positive change.

Who is that one person you can talk to about just anything? I have always been close to my family and they have always been very encouraging of whatever I did. I am most open with my mother and she is someone I can speak about anything with.

Disposable income is a luxury today even to have a relaxed evening once a month, what would you say will boost back the economy? In the post corona time period, as most businesses are facing severe cash flow issues, disbursement of low-cost loans need to be expedited to keep companies afloat. But I have seen many people unable to access these funds, even though the government has announced it, due to bureaucracy and red tape. On a macro level, we need to see an increase in real wages across the board to reflect the cost of living in Sri Lanka. To achieve that we need to have consistent pro-business and pro-investment policies that empower our entrepreneurs to diversify and innovate. We must be an investor-friendly destination. From a global perspective, Sri Lanka cannot play the low-cost game but can thrive higher up in the value chain with value-added products and services. Bureaucracy and red tape need to be eliminated because that is where ideas and productivity go to die.

Who were your political heroes and was it them who inspired you? Though never an active politician, my father is my hero in politics. He has always stood up for what is right, for what he believed in and was never afraid to be the voice against injustice. He has inspired me to come forward as a politician. He has given me all the support and encouragement to play a clean game in a dirty playground.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? I am inspired by a housemaid who made the tough decision to leave her family to provide a better life for her children. I am inspired by a friend who has made it as a successful entrepreneur on his own. There are many more stories like these. All these people are doing all that it takes day in day out, making tough decisions without ever giving up. That is what inspires me, people who do not give up on their goals and work hard to achieve them in the right way.

Tell me about life at home, how would you describe your “perfect Sunday”? I have two beautiful and mischievous children who are my happiness and a loving and supportive wife whose company I look forward to in my downtime. A perfect Sunday would consist of lunch with my family followed by an evening spent with my close friends.

As a young political candidate- tell me why is it important to have more young people in politics? Modern Sri Lanka has Pick Me changing the norms of a taxi business and oDoc challenging how we consult a doctor. The world is changing rapidly, and things are becoming obsolete faster than we can keep up. That is the reality. Most of our politicians are past their sell-by date and only a handful care to self-educate. Therefore, we have a mismatch in our policies vs reality. Young politicians are needed in parliament to understand the changing world and bring in new thinking to the table so we can progress as a nation instead of being held back by archaic beliefs and theories.

What is the one thing you will change about “COLOMBO” if elected? I want to implement a sustainable solution to garbage collection and disposal to make Colombo a greener city. I am passionate about our environment and implementing sustainable solutions.

What makes you feel accomplished? If I can contribute positively to those around me, working with me and for me, I would feel that I have accomplished something. If I can create positive change, that would be even better.

How do you feel about your chances to enter parliament at this election? With the new wave of people asking for young and new politicians I feel I have a good chance as a young and competent individual. People are sick of the same old people no matter which party. This is their chance to vote for fresh talent and do away with those whom they think are not worthy to be in parliament. Just as I have come forward, people must also accept and give young politicians a chance.

Your thoughts of “political favours” and using influence? It is not acceptable. No debate there. With the right systems and processes and with the law applied equally to everyone, political favours will not exist. That is what we must work towards. “Influence” exists in the corrupt system that has been created to make the people dependent on politicians for everything. An efficient civil service could not come sooner.

Politicians’ kids misbehaving and feeling entitled has been seen and discussed in many places in Colombo, what are your thoughts on this matter? What would you tell them? Power is temporary but respect and reputation last a lifetime. As I mentioned earlier, with laws applied equally, no one will have additional entitlements just because their parent is a politician. In a democratic society that should not be allowed. We must strive towards an equal society.
What would you say to the people of Sri Lanka to regain faith in political leaders? Vote for respectable candidates who have the best interest of the country above all. Do not fall prey for petty promises and PR efforts of crony politicians. Would you hire a thief to work for your company? No. Likewise, vote for respectable candidates for the sake of our country.

Do you feel the UNP is in a stable place today with the split? And what is your thought on the breakaway party?
The UNP is the oldest party in Sri Lanka and it will continue to exist even if people leave. Just as I am replacing someone who left, I will be replaced by someone when if I am not around. The party will go on just like it as over the last 70 years. I feel that the split was caused by certain personal agendas rather than a broader cause. The UNP is the only party that can bring people of all ethnicities together and focuses on the bigger picture rather than a surname or other petty politics.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would like a six-pack or at least four.

Should there be a basic requirement of education before entering politics?
Just like any job requires some form qualification, a reference, a police report, and an interview, the position of a lawmaker should not be taken lightly. Education and competency are as equally important as character. A politician must be put their country first just like an employee is expected to work in the best interest of their employer. We need capable lawmakers who are passionate about driving our country forward and not more of what we have now.

What is your hope for Colombo?
I sincerely hope for a happy Colombo and happy Sri Lanka, where people in this country have the opportunity and freedom to do whatever they desire to do and to excel in whatever the area they want to.


Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.


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