My involvement with the Mosaic Institute in creating a set of Peace Dialogues about Sri Lanka remains one of my more important present initiatives. In addition to being election day, Monday also happened to be the day of our second dialogue, discussing the roles and responsibilities of the media to fostering peace and community harmony in Sri Lanka.
Like the first dialogue, this event featured Sri Lankan speakers who were acutely aware of the challenges as journalists and media representatives in the country. Panellists included:
- NIGEL NUGAWELA – Co-Editor, Groundviews, Colombo, Sri Lanka
- V.V. GANESHANANTHAN – Novelist (Love Marriage), Blogger and Journalist, Ann Arbor, MI
- ARJUNA RANAWANA – News Manager, OMNI TV Alberta, Edmonton
- MARTIN REGG COHN – Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Toronto Star
Video and comments follow after the jump.
I was particularly struck by the contributions of Nigel Nugawela from Groundviews.org, who I soon discovered, was a former school mate and who shared common friends from my youth (ha!). As I mentioned to Nigel, he really needs to find a pipe, monocle and English top hat; far too gentlemanly to be dressing in a manner suited to the heat and humidity of Colombo. Providing an engaging grassroots view of the challenges facing those who seek to provide an alternate perspective of local politics and issues, Nigel summarizes the three duties of the media in a post-conflict societies:
- Promoting awareness of critical political and social issues in public;
- Peace promoter or bridge builder to mitigate the polarization between ethnic communities; and
- Policy maker to influence the outcome of policies or to shape their development.
Both “Sugi” Ganeshananthan and Arjuna Ranawana also provided some interesting insights as well, though I must confess I was less interested in the views of the diaspora as it pertained to Sri Lanka. However I have to say that Sugi is truly one of the most eloquent people I have ever met from the Sri Lankan diaspora. Author of “Love Marriage“, I had the privilege of sharing a few words with Sugi at a reading of her book on Friday. I must say I am tremendously envious of her constant ability to articulate concerns and ideas I have always expressed in words far more beautiful and evocative than mine. While Arjuna was previously unknown to me, I look forward to hearing more from him in the days, months and years to come.
Not much more needs to be said, other than that the stories afforded by these speakers were incredibly inspirational, reconnecting me back to the land and people that I continue to care for deeply. Even though my mind was a slightly distracted due to the election, I must say that their contributions have given me a new found appreciation for the work that journalists do, particularly in areas of limited freedom of speech and media. Hopefully the future will provide some opportunity to learn more from – and perhaps contribute to – their respective experiences.