Organizers’ Forum International Dialogue in Sri Lanka 2019

Dates:    September 8th through 13th (Sunday through Friday)

Place:     Columbo

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island country below the Indian subcontinent located in the Indian Ocean.

Population
• 2018 estimate 21,670,000[3] (57th)
• 2012 census 20,277,597[4] (57th)
• Density 327/km2 (846.9/sq mi) (43rd)
GDP (PPP) 2018 estimate
• Total $292.793 billion[5] (61st)
• Per capita $13,500[5] (91st)
GDP (nominal) 2018 estimate
• Total $92.504 billion[5] (66th)
• Per capita $4,265[5] (109th)

Quoting from Wikipedia:  Sri Lanka…

officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent, but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years.[10] It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC.[11][12] Its geographic location and deep harbors made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road.[13][14][15]

The current constitution stipulates the political system as a republic and a unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system. It has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated “high” on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations.[7] The Sri Lankan constitution accords Buddhism the “foremost place”, although it does not identify it as a state religion. Buddhism is given special privileges in the Sri Lankan constitution.[17]

The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The majority of the population is from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island’s history. Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda are also established groups on the island.

The various ethnic groups united to end British colonial rule, but the British legacy insisted on communal representation that eventually pitted the majority Sinhalese against the minority (over 800,000) Tamil leading to civil war in 1983 over a number of issues involving language and jobs, including provisions that made the Tamil virtually stateless and unable to obtain citizenship in the emerging nation.  The Tamil Tigers was a well-known guerilla effort classified as terrorist by many nations.  Attempts at peace broke down a number of times until after more than twenty-five years with the help of the Indian army a military victory was achieved over the Tamil in 2009.

More recently, Sri Lanka was in the news over a constitutional crisis involving the president, prime minister, and parliament in the fall of 2018.  A popular prime minister accused of corruption was ousted by a political coalition that elected the president who after several years in office suddenly returned the former prime minister to that job triggering mayhem.  Eventually, he was force to resign in the stalemate between the president of the parliament.

The Organizers’ Forum is interested in meeting with a number of groups in order to evaluate the progress of the country a decade after its civil war as it tries to resolve the historic issues that have divided its people and undercut its institutions.  A delegation from the Organizers’ Forum had undertaken a similar mission a decade after the end of apartheid in South Africa in order to understand how deeply change had become embedded and shaped the country’s future.  Similarly, the Organizers Forum delegation in Indonesia was able to view the impacts of ethnic strife in that country that had experienced state terror during the Cold War and how it had adapted in unique ways.

In this time when the issue of climate change has global importance, the Organizers’ Forum is also hoping to learn more about how an island nation like Sri Lanka is making plans to deal with the potential impact of rising seas.  Some members of the delegation have discussed a side trip to the Maldives in order to see that country “while it’s still there,” since many scientists also project that by the end of the century it could be underwater.

Long thought of as an exotic country, Sri Lanka is now at the crossroads of a different kind of future, and the Organizers Forum delegation is seeking to better understand what we have to learn – and to offer – at this critical juncture.

The Organizers’ Forum is a project of the Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center.  Interested parties need to contact director@laborneighbor.org in order to reserve a place.  The Forum covers housing, most meals, and in-country transportation and events, while members of the delegation and their organizations cover transportation to and from Sri Lanka and cover a modest program fee that allows from planning and logistics to make this trip happen.  Please contact us at your earliest convenience and certainly not later than August 1st.  As always, the earlier plane reservations are made, the cheaper for the delegates.

A visa is required to North American, UK, and European visitors that costs about $30 USD and is available electronically within three working days or at the airport, but best advice is getting it earlier.

This will be a great trip!

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