SRI LANKANS OVERSEAS
A NEW LEADERSHIP
Sean De Silva believes it’s time for new faces in national rule
Q: Do you think Sri Lanka is regaining its composure in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks?
A: Sri Lanka will always be bogged down by communal violence. Since I was old enough to understand this, it’s been the status quo. People who know Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans know this. It will always regain its composure but until when and for how long is always the big question.
The next big question for Sri Lanka is ‘what next?’
Q: How do your compatriots view Sri Lanka?
A: Since I’ve been away for almost 30 years, I feel that the comments I sometimes receive from friends and family can be somewhat misconstrued. They tend to compare what they have back home to countries such as the UAE.
On the whole however, the basic concerns for all Sri Lankans – whether you’re domiciled there or not – are the cost of living, political stability, rule of law (is it fair and free to all irrelevant of caste, creed or religion?), and freedom of speech and the press.
Q: In the light of the above, what are your perceptions of present-day Sri Lanka?
A: It has achieved progress but at a very slow pace. I feel that Sri Lanka always takes three steps forward and two steps back, which leads to slow progress. There needs to be political, economic and social development.
Sri Lankans tend to have a short memory – or even amnesia – when it comes to their head of state and the party or people that rule. Since I was a child, I’ve seen the same faces and names running the country. We need a new look because it is apparent that these old faces can’t do the job that’s required of them.
Looking at Sri Lanka from afar, I see fundamentalism rearing its ugly head. The peace that everyone longed for was finally achieved but some people seem to think that it’s time to force their chauvinistic ideologies down everyone’s throat. They forget that to some degree, this was what plunged the country into a civil war that lasted for several decades.
I would also like to see state institutions being more attuned to the needs and requirements of the people, and automation of services. Ideally, Sri Lanka should strive to introduce more digital services as in most developed countries and those striving to join their ranks rather than citizens having to queue up for basic services.
Q: Based on your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit, has it changed from the past?
A: I visit Sri Lanka regularly (perhaps two to three times a year) and appreciate the freedom of movement whereby people can move around without restrictions. The nonexistence of checkpoints is a plus point. The influx of tourists is always welcome and helps boost the economy.
Sri Lanka has always been about its people and how hospitable they are. I must say this was missing for a while. But I notice its return and a hope among people that the freedom that’s been won will remain.
Q: How do you view news about Sri Lanka?
A: If it is the local government news, ‘don’t believe what you read’ is my mantra. It’s all propaganda, no matter which party is in power. I prefer to read the independent newspapers.
Q: And how do you view the brain drain – why isn’t there a reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: I believe that most folks who have relocated are looking for financial stability, a safer environment and proper education for their kids.
The overriding factor is the need to have these most basic items, which are not always available in Sri Lanka. This provides a compelling argument for families and serves as a major element of the brain drain.
Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: Political stability, strong democracy guaranteeing equality for all, economic growth, and freedom of speech and expression – some of the basic requirements for a country and its people to excel.
Q: And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: This also revolves around the areas mentioned above.