Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo
BRAIN DRAIN STARTS AT HOME
Trisha Dias points the finger at adults for nurturing a migrant mindset
Q: What changes do you observe in the context of nation building and reconciliation?
A: While there are many concepts that successive governments have seemed intent on introducing, reconciliation happens only when people decide to reconcile – and are ready to change themselves and their society.
Government can facilitate this change by creating the right atmosphere. Parents must stop telling their children that ‘we were at war with the Tamils,’ which was not the case. We were never at war with a race or ethnicity; these were extremists who happened to be Tamils. This mindset must change.
Q: Are there any trends you note in women’s empowerment?
A: While there’s much rhetoric regarding women’s empowerment, whether it translates into action is questionable.
For example, the reversal of the ban on alcohol being served to and purchased by women – which a minister claimed “is not a requirement for women and goes against our culture” – is simply government ideology; it isn’t about culture.
I’m not condoning alcohol consumption but it’s the principle whereby freedom of choice, which is fundamental to women’s empowerment, must be upheld.
Q: How can Sri Lanka retain its talent or even reverse the brain drain?
A: The brain drain starts in our homes. From the moment students enter school, they’re told that they must perform well to study abroad. And very few return. The curriculum must change to ensure a holistic education rather than an emphasis on various streams because that limits our knowledge when we leave school.
We need practical awareness of the real world. And students must be shown what opportunities exist so that they make the right decisions for themselves.
Q: What fresh opportunities are there for young people?
A: Being a developing country, there’s room for new ideas and innovation. This is prevalent in almost any country today as there’s an innovative culture everywhere. We need to encourage startups because they create opportunities. We mustn’t wait for opportunity to come knocking on our door but create it instead.
Q: Do we have young leaders to take the country forward and what traits should they possess?
A: We do; but we don’t see them becoming young leaders because they either venture abroad, shut themselves out or are shut out by others.
A leader can lead a crowd and live an exemplary life for others to follow. Leaders must work with foresight, be selfless and actually serve rather than pay lip service to the concept. I’m a MUN-er (member of the Model UN) and I see young people being very generous when it comes to social work. Leadership is about working towards the betterment of other people and having everyone else’s interests at heart.
Q: How do you view war, the use of nuclear weapons, food shortages and AIDS among other issues?
A: These emerge because of global political power struggles. Each country is trying to gain advantages over others. Both war and nuclear power are deciding factors in a nation’s international standing – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that other nations pay heed to powerful countries, which creates a global imbalance.
Developed countries dump excess food into the sea despite other nations facing severe food shortages, which sometimes results in entire populations dying of hunger. Even in the case of a debilitating disease such as AIDS, it’s the powerful countries that possess medicines, which becomes part of a political tradeoff with poorer nations.
Q: What challenges do young people face globally?
A: The biggest challenge is being accepted by society – and young people go to great lengths to gain acceptance. They want to be popular (often for the wrong reasons) and therefore, adopt unsuitable lifestyles at the cost of becoming lost. Even a person with talent and potential might compromise everything simply to be accepted.
Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: It is the most powerful tool in the world today – everything runs on it. Even businesses run on social media, making it extremely powerful.
At the same time, it needs to be handled with sense, sensibility and responsibility as it can be dangerous if used without awareness of its potential.
The incidence of stalking, blackmailing and even luring young people to their deaths is on the rise. So it’s very important that people realise the power of social media and use it positively.