“Young Parliamentarians”, as definition goes, are those at or below 35 years of age. Sri Lanka has lower youth representation in parliament than either the world average or the Asian average. What’s more, as far as legislative participation goes, even these few young parliamentarians in Sri Lanka seem to be more seen than heard.
Just a handful in Parliament: Sri Lanka has precisely seven MPs in parliament who are below the age of 35. That means only 3% of the parliamentarians in Sri Lanka are “youth”. This is half the global average of 6% and less than the Asian average of 4%.
Seen but not heard: The statistics on what these youth are contributing in parliament is even more of a concern, however. Manthri.lk is a platform that measures productive contribution by MPs in parliament. The average youth MP contributes just around one fourth (28% to be precise) of the average contribution of non-youth MPs (Exhibit 1).
Not all in the same boat: While the average constructive time contributed by young parliamentarians is around 482 minutes, some are clearly more engaged than others (Exhibit 2). The highest contributor in this young set (Eric Weerawardena) clocks in four times as much productive time as the lowest (Upeksha Swarnamali).
But even the highest participating MP under 35 (Eric Weerawardena), contributes only a little over half of the average MP over 35.
Opposition is Youthless: Another fascinating finding from the Manthri.lk data is that none of the young parliamentarians are in the opposition! Upeksha Swarnamali, who was a popular actress before entering politics, was the only youth MP in the opposition, after having won the second highest preference votes in Gampaha. But in September, 2010 she crossed over to the government. That has now left the Opposition ranks without a single youth.
Why are young parliamentarians contributing so little in parliament? Do they lack initiative or are they being suppressed by the seniors? Your thoughts and questions are welcome at www.manthri.lk/en/blog; or by text to the manthri.lk hotline: 071-4639882.