Third-year arts student Kalith Nanayakkara is running for AMS VP External on a platform that prioritizes student affordability.
While his platform is most comprehensive on the issue of student tuition and living costs, Nanayakkara also has plans to advocate for climate action, Indigenous and international student support as well as student wellness.
Nanayakkara is founder and president of The Plug UBC, an event planning and promotion organization with slightly under 4,000 followers on Instagram, and has previously completed a term of work placement in the provincial government. He believes his leadership experience makes him well-equipped to lead the VP External portfolio.
“[Working for the provincial government] nurtured an interest in politics for me and in representing people and fighting for change,” he said.
In his platform, Nanayakkara promises to advocate for student affordability by pushing for the elimination of federal loan interest rates, which he admits is his loftiest goal. On the provincial level, he wants to lobby the BC government to lower the moderate standard of living costs, given that it is not adjusted for intercity differences.
“The reason I prioritize affordability as so important is because removing financial stress from UBC students is important in order to build other aspects of their university life,” he said.
Nanayakkara also wants to fight to lower student living costs by advocating for increased access to Open Educational Resources (OER) and continuing support for the Rent With Rights campaign. The campaign died two years ago, according to AMS President Chris Hakim at the Great Debate on February 28.
Another advocacy goal central to Nanayakkara’s campaign for affordability is to lobby for tuition caps for international student fees, which have steadily risen over the past few years.
Beyond affordability, Nanayakkara cited transit goals as a key portion of his platform. Like other candidates, he stated that he would continue the previous VP external’s work to lobby for the Skytrain to UBC and secure funding for it. He also mentioned the short-term goal to make busses and ridesharing services more efficient, although he is currently unsure what this advocacy would entail.
“As someone that's not the VP external office right now, I don’t have access to this type of data or the right people to speak to,” he said. “So a priority for me is to look into how effective the current transit model is and see if we can improve that.”
Nanayakkara also mentioned that if elected to the position, one of his goals would be to lobby the government to increase awareness about Indigenous matters for incoming students.
“I want to advocate the federal government or provincial government to look into educating the incoming populations on this campus about the problems that Indigenous peoples face,” he said.
While he describes himself as nonpartisan, Nanayakkara is committed to fulfilling certain climate goals if elected to the VP External portfolio. He said that he would lobby the provincial government to meet the targets of their climate action campaign CleanBC.
“I was very careful when putting my platform together to ensure that these are platform points that my audience will trust,” Nanayakkara said. “And I feel like this is achievable during the one year term that I have.”