Gihan Wirasinha

Sri Lankans are resilient and will overcome this crisis too

Q: As far as perceptions go, do you think Sri Lanka is capable of regaining its composure in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: In my opinion, Sri Lanka has done relatively well compared to its Asian neighbours – and remarkably well compared to Western countries. Sri Lankans have shown resilience during previous setbacks and I’m certain the pandemic is no exception.

Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today?
A: I see much improvement in the political, economic, social and technological areas in Sri Lanka.

It’s noteworthy to mention that health and wellness measures have been implemented by the government – and people are becoming more aware of the importance of their own health and wellbeing.

 Q: And how do Hongkongers view Sri Lanka?
A: I’ve been living in Hong Kong for almost two decades, and take every opportunity to create awareness and interest in my motherland. My colleagues and acquaintances perceive Sri Lanka as the ideal holiday destination that offers sun, sea and sand, as well as cultural, medical and eco-friendly holiday options.

Q: Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in your country of domicile view Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lankans living in Hong Kong are mostly in the banking and finance sectors, and they continue to maintain strong ties with Sri Lanka and their family members.

They have every intention of returning home some day since they feel that nothing compares with their motherland.

Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit and how much has it changed from the past?
A: We were on a family holiday in Bali in February last year with a visit to Sri Lanka scheduled for the Royal-Thomian encounter when the pandemic was declared.

You’ll be amused to know that I’m still here with my lovely Filipino wife Ashley, and adorable triplets (Luke, Tara and Bella) who have adapted extremely well to the Sri Lankan lifestyle including relishing our hot curries.

I see this as a God given opportunity for my family to learn about our values, beliefs and culture. Since I visit Sri Lanka regularly, I’ve been pleased to note the positive changes in the micro and macro environments. We’re waiting for the situation in Hong Kong to improve before we make our way back there.

Q: From afar, how do you perceive news about Sri Lanka and what mediums do you rely on to stay connected especially during times of crisis?
A: I rely on mainstream media and to some extent social media. I was stunned by news of the Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019, more so because my sister was in church at the time.

It’s rather frustrating and I feel helpless in a situation like that. The only help I can offer from afar is fervent prayers. I’m experiencing the COVID-19 crisis firsthand.

Q: How do you view the brain drain and why is there still no reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: The upside to the pandemic has been that we’ve seen a small number of Sri Lankan professionals return due to what they see as positive methods adopted by the healthcare sector to manage the crisis.

I feel the brain drain will be an ongoing challenge as affluent families send their children overseas for further studies and often, the parents follow them.

On the positive side however, Sri Lanka can be promoted in lucrative fields such as healthcare, business, logistics and the legal profession since many Sri Lankans are employed in these sectors overseas.

Our standards have always superseded the level and attitudes of other Asians – especially those from South Asia.

Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: Our focus for the next decade should be to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), improve exports and tourism, and go local with Sri Lankan products and services. This island is blessed with natural resources and creative local entrepreneurs who need support and encouragement.

Q: And finally, what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: Sustainability in every area and continuous improvement. It’s my sincere hope that we aim to be ‘One Sri Lanka’ in thoughts, words and deeds.