SRI LANKANS OVERSEAS
STATE OF FAILURE?
Dr. Mohan Kumaratne
Poor leadership, nepotism and corruption are overwhelming
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? If so, what must the country do to achieve this?
A: Yes, provided that at least 70 percent of the population is vaccinated soon and other preventive measures – such as the isolation of cases, physical distancing, handwashing, masking and PCR testing – are taken.
Q: Could you elaborate on your perceptions of Sri Lanka today?
A: The country’s progress has been below par due to poor political leadership, nepotism and corruption at the highest levels of government. Moreover, national policies with respect to food, education, environment, law and order, and so on aren’t properly analysed, and policies are poorly executed
Q: And how do compatriots in your country of domicile view Sri Lanka?
A: The average American likes Sri Lanka for its natural beauty, and friendly and hospitable people.
However, media reports about the country are always related to political corruption, terrorism and ecological disasters. These reports have soured their view of the island and dissuade them from visiting Sri Lanka.
Q: Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in the US view Sri Lanka?
Having said that, many are disillusioned with the lack of political leadership, and rampant nepotism and corruption in the country.
The judiciary has been corrupted; and as a result, politicians and the powerful are not prosecuted for the dereliction of their duties or other egregious crimes.
Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit and how much has it changed from the past, in your assessment?
A: I was in Sri Lanka in November last year and the country was in lockdown at the time. The cost of living was high, businesses had closed down, and citizens were disillusioned with the political leadership, state of the economy and high cost of living.
People who could afford it were trying to send their children overseas for better education and economic opportunities.
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 read the Los Angeles Times and watch CNN. Their reports generally cover calamities such as terrorism, floods, political corruption, human rights violations and more. There’s nothing good about Sri Lanka.
I rely on email reports from trusted sources, and direct conversations with friends, colleagues and family, to glean accurate information about the country.
Q:Could you tell us how you view the seemingly ongoing brain drain – and why there is still no reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: The brain drain is very bad for Sri Lanka. The technocrats see better opportunities for advancement both in their personal and professional lives in the West or the US.
Many graduate and postgraduate students don’t return to the island because they can get well-paying jobs and advance on their own merits in their professions of choice – in the United States, for example.
One need not have political connections in America to get a job and progress.
Q: So what would you say Sri Lanka should focus on most in the coming decade?
A: Firstly, it should focus on poverty alleviation by improving the economy of the country. If people do not earn enough to make ends meet, there is going to be social unrest, corruption and crime.
The second area Sri Lanka should look to address is the prevention of terrorism. Terrorist attacks such as the Easter Sunday bombings that occurred in April 2019 caused severe damage to the tourism industry and increased tension in Sri Lanka.
Q: And last but not least, what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: My hope is for a peaceful and integrated Sri Lanka with no terrorism and less poverty, and being led by strong, ethical and nationalistic leaders, such as Lee Kuan Yew and Nelson Mandela.