SRI LANKANS OVERSEAS
THE COLLECTIVE GOOD
Pasan Fernando takes comfort in Sri Lanka’s generous spirit
Q: How do you perceive Sri Lanka today – i.e. progress or the lack thereof?
A: Personally, I think that the economic potential of the country is exponential but every country has its challenges.
In terms of social advancement, I would like to think that Sri Lanka is proceeding in the right direction, and people accept each other regardless of their differences and work together to reach the nation’s full potential.
Moreover, it is encouraging to witness a surge in infrastructure, which enhances the country’s image and attracts foreign companies to invest.
Q: As far as perceptions go, do you think Sri Lanka is regaining its composure in the aftermath of last year’s Easter Sunday attacks?
A: I believe that it is. Sri Lanka is a strong nation with many kindhearted people who engage in doing good, and spreading messages of hope and unity. I was in Sri Lanka last July and although the nation remained in a sombre state, it felt as though the country was healing.
Q: And how do citizens of the country in which you live at present view Sri Lanka?
A: Almost everyone I have spoken to holds Sri Lanka in very high regard – from its people to the culture, food and sights. I believe that there’s immense potential to boost eco-tourism in Sri Lanka, and assist locals as well as please our foreign friends.
Q: Likewise, how do other Sri Lankans living in the UK perceive their motherland?
A: In my view, we live here in hope that the politics will be clean and economic growth sustainable, and that people live in harmony with open minds and acceptance.
Q: Could you describe your impressions of Sri Lanka on your last visit here – how much has it changed from the past?
A: I visit Sri Lanka once a year as my parents continue to reside there. Having been away for over 10 years, I love coming home to witness the marginal improvements every year. It is safe to say the country has progressed albeit slowly.
Q: From afar, how do you perceive news about Sri Lanka? What mediums do you rely on to stay connected?
A: I speak to my parents and siblings on a regular basis, and remain in contact with my friends from school through WhatsApp – they fill me in on current and social affairs. In addition, I read news websites such as Ada Derana and The Sunday Times.
Q: How do you view the brain drain – and why hasn’t there been a reversal of it, in your opinion?
A: Most people such as myself have actually gone back with the education and skills that they acquired in the UK. However, they have mentioned that the working culture back in Sri Lanka is not the same as it is here in terms of timekeeping, the ‘machan culture,’ inefficient processes and so on. Therefore, some people want to return to the UK.
Personally, as an outmarried gay man, I don’t think I’ll have the freedom to live my life in the way I do here; therefore, coming home on a permanent basis doesn’t appeal to me.
Q: What should Sri Lanka focus on most in the coming decade?
A: Social harmony, making sure that people accept and understand each other, and work to make the country as great as it can be.
Sri Lanka is nowhere near reaching its potential – it is stunted by narrow-mindedness and a poor work ethic. I’m not even going to comment on politics as I think it’s the same everywhere.
Q: And what are your hopes for the country in the next decade or so?
A: Everyone in the country – regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or level of income – living in harmony.
This would open doors to improve education and business, and in turn assist the economy. And this in turn will attract more foreign companies to set up, thereby promoting more development in the country.