SRI LANKANS OVERSEAS
Migara Maddumapatabendi hopes that change is forthcoming
Q: What are your perceptions of Sri Lanka today?
A: Following the end of a nearly three decade long civil war, everyone’s hope was to witness progress in Sri Lanka; but unfortunately, that has not happened.While there was momentum in infrastructure and tourism development, it was destroyed by the unethical power struggles of a few. Only a new mindset can arrest the decline and I don’t see that happening until politicians genuinely work for growth.
Q: Has the nation regained its composure post 4/21?
A: The Easter Sunday bombings were among the most inhumane incidents the world has witnessed. Looking at Sri Lanka from overseas, I feel we have put the incident behind us to rebuild the nation. But in an economic sense, the island remains in a dark era. From April to October 2019, tourist arrivals dropped by over 40 percent.
In 2018, Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as the number one travel destination to visit in 2019. However, 4/21 led to bad publicity and uncertainty in terms of security, which saw tourists seeking alternative travel options in the region.
Q: How do your compatriots in Australia view Sri Lanka?
A: They’re extremely sad about the struggles of Sri Lankans; because for them, Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and its citizens are among the most hospitable people in the world.
Moreover, they’re aware that there is a huge income disparity in Sri Lanka and a majority of the people struggle whilst a handful enjoy a luxurious life. In their opinion, this is a common occurrence in developing countries but given Sri Lanka’s natural resources, it could do much better.
Q: Similarly, how do other Sri Lankans living in Australia view their motherland?
A: There are many Sri Lankans living in Australia who want to return and contribute to the development of the land of their birth. But due to concerns about security, the economy and government, I don’t see them leaving Australia anytime soon. If there’s a proper structure in place for development, many Sri Lankans living in Australia might head back home.
Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit here – and how much has it changed from the past?
A: The last time I visited Sri Lanka was in 2014. The country suffered terribly during the civil war and since its end, Sri Lanka was heading in the right direction to become a great and stable nation.
But due to various reasons, it is now regressing. Government policies have not helped the country move forward. Hopefully, things will reverse with proper governance.
Q: How do you perceive news about Sri Lanka and what mediums help you stay connected?
A: Thanks to social media, we hear news of Sri Lanka as and when things happen. But some of the information we receive could be deceptive due to attempts to gain political mileage.
Q: In your opinion, why hasn’t there been a reversal of the brain drain?
A: If Sri Lanka offers growth potential and opportunities, fewer people would be leaving the country. Sadly, the brain drain is on the rise due to instability, lack of job security and developed countries offering a better quality of life.
Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: Sri Lanka is a land with abundant resources and natural beauty – and thanks to its location, it is ideal for tourism for most of the year. It’s also blessed to be in the middle of global sea trade routes. However, due to a lack of vision and policies, the island isn’t capitalising on what it already possesses to gain market leadership.
The power struggle between major political parties must end for the country to move forward. ‘Country before self’ is the mindset of politicians in most developed countries and they’re replaced if they fail to achieve what they promise. This has to be the foundation for Sri Lanka to move forward too.
Q: And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: A mindset change amid zero tolerance for corruption and with everyone working for one vision – which is to rebuild Sri Lanka.
There is corruption in developed countries too but the difference is that if people are caught, they are replaced immediately – irrespective of their status, designation or position. If a similar policy can be implemented in Sri Lanka, there would be greater hope for the future.