It was only recently that I concluded a two month long internship at the National Peace Council. Despite having interned in several other organizations before, I can safely say that this was the most productive interning experience that I hitherto ever had. This was a result of two reasons. The first reason was that I found myself starting to become passionate about matters pertaining to peace and conflict as I started learning more and more about the field. The Second was that the staff at NPC instilled confidence in me, by assigning me serious responsibilities which if not carried accordingly would have had unfavorable implications. One of these was being nominated to be an election monitor with the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections organization for the local council elections held in the Northern Province after a period of thirty years. I really appreciated the sense of self ownership that I was provided with over the work that I completed during my time at NPC.
What really prompted me to join the National Peace Council instead of other notable Civil Society organizations was the credible reputation that the institution had built up since 1996. The NPC has witnessed both the high and lows of the violent military conflict in Sri Lanka establishing its presence nationally through its peace work all around the country. I also felt that it was reasonably successful at evading any nomenclature that is usually tossed around at times of war for political expediency. Unlike the traditional perception of NGO’s in Sri Lanka; of them being proxies of Western nations, NPC strives to walk on a thin line by taking into consideration both the concerns of the international community as well as ruling governments when conceptualizing the nature of its work. This enhances their credibility and makes it all the more likely that they are able to constructively engage with ruling governments to usher in change.
One reason why it has been able to achieve this is because of its staff that hails from different backgrounds - whether it be professors, retired local council statesmen or youth leaders. Each staff member has his/her area of expertise. While there are those who are able to write grant proposals to please the most prestigious of donors like the European Union, NPC also possess a strong team that is capable of mobilizing the masses into community action. This is largely due to their years of work at the grass roots level in various communities across the country. It also has a vibrant media wing which publishes its own news paper by the name of “Thulawa.” The NPC is a highly networked civil society organization that has working relationships with Government Ministries to more localized religious leaders - an organization free of a partisan agenda.
I strongly advise any prospective students looking to intern during vacations to strongly consider NPC as a potential internship location. I ended up learning so much, thanks largely to their willingness to send me on field trips, willingness to assign me tasks that tested my research skills and my ability to engage with a diverse staff that shared differing viewpoints. In addition to that, any intern is likely to benefit from the copious amounts of knowledge and experience of the renown Harvard educated Dr. Jehan Perera who has become a must have interview for any student studying the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. NPC’s large national presence from Jaffna to Galla means that it is more than likely that you would be dispatched to remote areas of the country, making an internship experience at NPC also a great way to travel across the country.