SRI LANKANS OVERSEAS
RESURRECTING A NATION
Kalyani Rodrigo deems security and stability to be imperatives
Q: As far as perceptions go, do you think Sri Lanka is regaining its composure in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks?
A: Yes, to some extent – people generally forget such events over a period of a few months. I only hope that we take precautions to prevent such incidents taking place in the future. Nevertheless, it’s sad that the attacks set the country’s economy back by many years.
Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today – i.e. its progress or lack thereof?
A: I feel sorry to witness the country situation right now. A few years ago, everyone seemed very enthusiastic and positive about the future, and I thought Sri Lanka was heading towards prosperity.
Political instability and the lack of a strong leader are evident in many ways. Although there are a number of great Sri Lankans who can contribute to development, no one is really doing anything.
There needs to be a drastic change for Sri Lanka to come out of the mess that it’s in right now. It has to be united as a nation and work towards one goal. Everyone should work hard for that.
Q: And how do the citizens of the country you live in perceive Sri Lanka?
A: Americans have heard about the beauty of Sri Lanka, its great climate, the best tasting tea and spices. But they’re sceptical about the security situation and aware of the economic struggles. Those who want to go on a vacation look for places to enjoy; not necessarily to feel empathetic.
Q: Similarly, how do other Sri Lankans living in your country of domicile view their homeland?
A: Sri Lankans will always love their country. We all hope to see a prosperous and peaceful country to visit. Sri Lankans as well as some foreigners would love to retire in the island provided there is peace, security and economic stability.
Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit – and how much has it changed from the past?
A: I visit Sri Lanka every year and see what’s going on most of the time. Having visited in August, I feel that the country has gone backwards. Many business premises were vacant, grocery stores lacked variety, people talked about how slow their businesses were etc.
To my mind, Sri Lanka is heading towards a recession or depression.
Q: From afar, how do you perceive news about Sri Lanka and what mediums do you rely on to stay connected?
A: News is sporadic, biased and sometimes absurd. To build a country, government should pursue a strong media campaign together with good governance. If there isn’t much to talk about, people resort to venting their frustrations. Sri Lankans are generally well-connected so social media can be used to create a positive image of the country.
Q: How do you view the brain drain and why isn’t there a reversal of it, in your opinion? And would people who have migrated return if the socioeconomic environment improves?
A: Well, even an animal would move to an area where there is water and food! We all aspire to do well; we seek opportunities overseas because we do not find them in Sri Lanka.
If the country’s economic situation improves, it would definitely bring back at least the educated people.
Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: It must improve security, develop infrastructure and create a positive image to attract tourists. That seems to be what it can do best to draw foreign income. Also, the country’s strategic location can be used to develop logistical and transit hubs, service centres etc.
Q: And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: We all dream of a developed Sri Lanka. I hope and pray that it can take a strong growth path – to be a country such as Singapore in the next 10 years.