Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo 


Rahul Varnendra is optimistic about the potential of his fellow citizens

Q: What are the challenges facing our nation today?

A: Corruption, greed, poverty and gender inequality. Both corruption and greed have to be dealt with immediately. As people reach the upper echelons of society, they put their personal needs ahead of the national interest, which makes them power hungry and in turn, corrupt and greedy.

Poverty continues to grow in Sri Lanka due to a lack of employability leading to loss of income and sustainable livelihoods. The government must assess the needs of the poor, equip them with appropriate skills especially for entrepreneurship and empower them to escape the poverty trap.

With Sri Lanka being essentially a patriarchal society where males seem all-powerful, it is sad that women put in an equal or probably greater effort but don’t receive commensurate credit. Women should be given due recognition for their contribution to both society and the national economy. 

Q: Do you perceive positive changes to nation building and reconciliation efforts?

A: If nation building refers to infrastructure development, Sri Lanka as a country is doing very well. It’s not just buildings and highways but new infrastructure such as the Moragahakanda project, which aims to dam the Mahaweli River for hydroelectricity, agriculture and water supply.

The government has also worked on reconciliation initiatives to make the country inclusive. We see less racism and ethnic division compared to say 15 years ago.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent that it has?

A: Firstly, the talents of every individual must be recognised. Next, we should appreciate, motivate and support these talented people. The examinations set by the government do not test the power of intelligence but rather information retention.

So we don’t really identify the truly intellectually gifted, and it is they who will emigrate because their potential is recognised and capitalised on. 

Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?

A: I have a dream for Sri Lanka to realise its full potential one day. It’s already a blessed country in terms of people, resources, natural beauty and numerous other resources. We have begun paving the way for a brighter future – hopefully, in 10 years or so, Sri Lanka will get there. 

Q: What opportunities do you see for young Sri Lankans such as yourself?

A: I see infinite possibilities and opportunities. I love my country very much and personally think that Sri Lankans are among the most talentedpeople on Planet Earth. They are able to work hard with passion, face any hardship or obstacle and excel in life.

About a fifth of NASA’s employees are Sri Lankan and Indian, which is quite an accomplishment given that the agency employs only 1,000 or so full-time staff. We can all learn from them and be inspired to achieve greatness. 

Q: How do you view war and the use of nuclear weapons?

A: I’m against both war and nuclear weapons as they lead to inestimable chaos. War comes with a heavy price tag as seen in WWII where all sides lost lives and left a wake of destruction across the globe. We can all learn from Iceland, which is the most peaceful country in the world – it doesn’t have an army.

The purpose of nuclear weapons is to annihilate any target utterly and entirely. ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ – the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – obliterated two entire cities and their respective populations. Nuclear weapons can destroy the entire planet but nuclear power per se can be put to good use. 

Q: Who is ultimately responsible for climate change and global warming – and what can be to done to ameliorate its effects?

A: Humanity as a whole. The first step would be to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We must prevent deforestation of rainforests, which are the lungs of our living planet. Not only rainforests; no forest should be destroyed whether for economic or developmental reasons. Whatever has been cut down must be replanted ensuring that the harm to the Earth is minimal. 

Q: How do you view the growing influence of social media?

A: Social media interconnects people but must be used appropriately. We must not become addicted to it or fall prey to its dark side. But if used correctly, social media opens new avenues in communication that can be used to our advantage.