Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo
THE CURSE OF LEADERSHIP
Chamathka Jayasekara is dismayed by the status quo in leadership
Q: What are the challenges facing the nation today?
A: Although Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with an abundance of natural resources and gifted human beings, it has failed to use these assets for its development – and this has resulted in it continually being classified as a developing country.
The country is being destroyed by fraud, corruption and misrule with self-centred politicians failing to guarantee better economic prospects and quality of life for citizens. Our leaders appear to be blind to opportunities, and ideas for improvement in education, transport, agriculture, healthcare and tourism.
To end this catastrophe, we must produce educated and sensible young leaders who truly love their country.
Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of education and environmental sustainability?
A: Compared to other developing countries, the rate of change is unsatisfactory.
While education has reached out to all corners of the island and developed many a less fortunate youngster, advancements in the quality of education and a more practical approach to it are much needed.
And while we have every opportunity to conserve our natural resources, all one sees is the destruction and waste of our future. The elimination of forest cover, unauthorised construction and negative environmental practices are among the reasons for this.
Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?
A: If things continue in this manner, Sri Lanka will drown in corruption, face a dead end and become a slave to other countries that will own its assets. However, if we choose to change and produce visionary young leaders with the potential to propel growth, it will surely become the ‘Wonder of Asia,’ a tourism paradise and utopia that it ought to be.
It must also take astute decisions to conserve natural resources and improve eco-friendly mechanisms while realising the potential to become carbon neutral.
Q: So do we have young leaders who can take the country forward?
A: We most certainly do. Firstly, leaders must realise that they exist to serve the people, not vice versa. Any leader who has this entrenched in their minds will place themselves in the shoes of the people to ensure feasible and realistic solutions to problems. In addition, leaders must be considerate, visionary, reliable, honest, approachable, responsible and understanding.
Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent it has?
A: Although we face many challenges from childhood to enjoy a good education and ensure a promising future – and despite extremely competitive examinations with only nine percent gaining entrance to leading state universities – when it comes to opportunities in the job market, the realisation dawns that the struggle wasn’t worth it.
For our professionals and scholars, hard work provides no return either through opportunities or the quality of life that the country offers. Meanwhile, the rest of the world offers much better prospects so brain drain is inevitable. We must offer better opportunities, a stable economy and a promising future if our gifted individuals are to remain in the country.
Q: How do you view war and nuclear weapons?
A: Both war and weapons have been elevated to large-scale and destructive nuclear dimensions. War only brings misery and destruction. But leaders choose to wage war over peace – some for personal benefit and others for power or to survive.
Even worse, armament suppliers benefit from this threat to humanity. If all world leaders work only for the betterment of humankind, wars will not eventuate and nuclear weapons would have no place.
Q: Who is responsible for climate change or global warming?
A: It is clear that humans are responsible for this. For billions of years, nature flourished with only animals. But when humans appeared, it only led to disaster. We must minimise the use of nonrenewable energy and move to alternative energy sources. Stop the destruction of forest cover. Engage in reforestation. Replace natural resources. Act now. Even the most basic actions will make a difference.
Q: Do present world leaders live up to your expectations?
A: Definitely not. If they did, there wouldn’t be war, discrimination, poverty, climate change or any of the other problems facing us today.
Most current leaders are self-centred egocentric individuals who make selfish decisions that negatively impact innocent people and compromise future generations. On the contrary, leaders such as Nelson Mandela, the former King of Bhutan and Ho Chi Minh loved their countries, and the people.
Their examples should be replicated to nurture visionary leaders.