Udara Jayawardena

The system must be reevaluated for Sri Lanka’s future success

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: My view is that Sri Lanka is resilient enough to face and manage crises effectively compared to other countries. And if a proper plan and system is firmly established, and the prevailing need for power is modified, the situation can be better addressed.

Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today?
A: As a mental health practitioner, I believe that there has been a vast improvement in how people perceive health related issues – especially with regard to mental health.

Meanwhile, I also think that the education system can change its focus on vital matters such as psychoeducation and sex education for desirable changes to take place.

Q: And how do compatriots in Australia view Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka is often considered to be an excellent holiday destination with favourable weather. When it comes to investments however, the perceptions are rather negative.

Q:Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in your country of domicile view Sri Lanka?
A: There is hope mixed with curiosity. People still hold on to the hope that Sri Lanka will witness some notable developments in the future although the question is ‘when?’

Q: What were your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit and how much has it changed from the past?
A: I last visited Sri Lanka in 2019. Speaking in the context of the mental health field, I observed that people were more open to talking about important issues such as the stigma surrounding mental health.

However, there is still a great deal of stigmatisation and shame revolving around many topics, which can be improved through awareness. This could minimise issues such as prejudice, discrimination, harassment and so on.

Driving in Sri Lanka, I realised that aspects such as road discipline are yet to see any drastic improvements. I remember driving with a sense of fear and uneasiness compared to Australia.

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: Staying connected to the news in Sri Lanka keeps me updated on the current situation. I also receive daily news from family and friends constantly and consistently as I am always in touch with them.

In addition, I update myself through social media networks as technology has made it easier for information to disseminate faster around the world.

Q: How do you view the brain drain and why is there still no reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: Reversing the brain drain will be possible if better opportunities are offered to working people. Most people are leaving the country due to a lack of career opportunities and political stability, and the presence of conflicting cultural expectations.

According to information that I have gathered, the situation may go from bad to worse and this will have a serious impact on Sri Lanka’s development prospects.

Moreover, the constant battle between the private and state sectors is another contributing factor to this issue.

Q: So what should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: A reevaluation of the education system is critical since we often witness so much violence, corruption and aggression in society. In my opinion, unless the root cause of the problem is identified and addressed, the problems will never be solved.

Until we change the exam oriented education system that exists in Sri Lanka, students who graduate from universities will not be able to fulfil the requirements in the world of work as well as the needs of society. An education system that also focusses on practicality and life skills will certainly produce favourable results for generations to come.

Q:And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: I hope to see values, unity, respect and most importantly, laws that are not biased. My dream is to see Sri Lanka shifting from a developing to a well-developed stage while maintaining law and order.