Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Lahiru Suriarachchi believes we’re all responsible for eco degradation

Q: What is good, bad and ugly about what you observe in Sri Lanka?

A: While the country itself is beautiful and known to attract tourists because of its natural beauty, visitors point out that the locals have ruined Sri Lanka’s image. We don’t seem to care for or about what we have and this negligence may well continue until we’re left with nothing.

The ugly aspect is that politicians are exploiting our differences to their advantage and sowing communal disharmony. Indeed, Sri Lankan politics is very ugly.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent that it has?

A: The brain drain stems from a number of factors including low salaries, lack of opportunities, unattractive working conditions and the illusion that a paradise exists abroad. Stemming the brain drain should be of paramount importance for the government.

Many students travel abroad for R&D purposes. The government could reverse this trend by initiating R&D opportunities in Sri Lanka in addition to offering scholarships, which will retain our talent.

Q: What challenges do you see facing the country at this time?

A: Rapid population growth has led to challenges pertaining to food, shelter, health, providing education and job opportunities. However, the root cause of all this is a lack of focus on the environment where air pollution, a decrease in potable water, soil pollution and generally unsustainable practices have posed growing challenges to the country.

Q: So are there opportunities for young Sri Lankans such as yourself?

A: We now have the opportunity to learn in a global classroom where even online degrees and study programmes are a possibility. These courses develop individual skills and language fluency especially in English, which leads to a brighter future for young people in Sri Lanka.

The improvement of ICT in Sri Lanka has led to employment generation as well as investment opportunities. Sri Lanka is becoming a hub for youngsters seeking opportunities and I hope this will curb the brain drain.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

A: It would be immensely beneficial if we could have a to-do list for our lives and execute it accordingly. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. There’s only one clear plan for me and that is to ensure that I’m happy. I believe that if I can look back at my life and say ‘I’ll do it all over again’ then I’ve achieved my goal of being happy.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming?

A: Whether one person or many people have committed the crime, climate change impacts us all. We must stop pointing fingers at others, and start working on solutions and execute them properly. We must learn from our mistakes and figure out what went wrong.

Since its natural beauty has always been an advantage, Sri Lanka could start by protecting it – i.e. encourage younger generations to embrace sustainable environmental practices. Since we seem to have messed things up for the current generation, the least we can do is to right what’s wrong for future generations.

Q: How do you view the many conflicts around the world?

A: Throughout history, we’ve learned that it’s always one individual who should take responsibility for causing a conflict. There are opportunists who wait for the right time and use it as a means to a selfish end.

Firstly, they spread a false belief and then brainwash followers into achieving their personal goals. Conflicts are caused by the greed and hunger for power of a handful of people while causing severe losses for the innocent majority.

Q: What is your take of the growing importance of social media?

A: There are nearly 2.6 billion connected social media users worldwide today. Social media is not only about brands connecting with customers but also providing an opportunity to express ideas and exercise freedom of thought.

The younger generation uses social media as a tool to reach out to the world. Whether it’s to connect, gather knowledge or share information, the answers we seek are always only a click away. Social media does play a role in our development but it must be used for the greater good. The system can’t be blamed when people misuse it.