Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo
NOT A COG IN THE WHEEL
Sajana Weerawardhena encourages youth to harness their imagination
Q: What opportunities do you see for young Sri Lankans such as yourself?
A: Being a potential entrepreneur, I find Sri Lanka buzzing with opportunity. Quite recently, I became involved in YouthHack Sri Lanka – an organisation that aims to further the start-up ecosystem in Sri Lanka – and worked with a gamut of like-minded individuals.
The numerous meetups and events in Sri Lanka are truly liberating. Everyone helps each other, and I see a wealth of opportunity. A night at Seedstars and Trace Expert City, and I can see Sri Lanka becoming a budding start-up ecosystem.
It won’t be long before the ‘unicorns’ develop into tech giants, making way for large-scale scientific development, research, and industry! I strongly believe that where there isn’t opportunity, it can be created.
Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent it possesses?
A: I’ve always known that, while I may be out of the country often, I’ll always call Sri Lanka ‘home.’ The decision to stay or leave is a choice. We must, however, cultivate an attitude that is ‘anti-brain drain’ – a multiplatform push that would celebrate our diverse cultures and what we miss when we’re away.
While practical difficulties may exist – such as high-end jobs not being available in Sri Lanka, or remuneration being lower upon returning – they are challenges that must be dealt with by individuals, while others will roll up their sleeves, grit their teeth, and etch a path for bigger and better things.
Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward? And what traits should they possess?
A: We most certainly do. In the time that I’ve spent debating, and in the Model UN sphere, there has been a growing interest among youth for better governance, social justice and holistic development. Through these forums, we’re already networking and learning formidable leadership skills. We will go on to lead this country, when our time comes.
I hope that young leaders will acquire a strong sense of justice and uncompromising ideals, together with apt pragmatism, while being civil-serving, not self-serving.
Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?
A: I’ve always hoped that Sri Lanka would be a hub for technology, research and science. Sri Lanka has disproportionate resources – talented people, but weak resources and infrastructure. I strongly believe that, in a decade, we can eliminate these challenges, and at least set the stage to become a hub for innovation and start-ups, as is the case in Bangalore.
Q: And where do you see yourself in a decade from now?
A: It is well-documented that humans don’t see time and change, as they are, which is exponential. But rather, they see it linearly. So I am not in a position to predict the future. Only time will tell, but I’m really excited about it.
Q: What challenges do young people face, in a global sense?
A: The greatest challenge facing any young individual will be remembering that what may seem to be the right path may only appear so due to conforming to rules, lifestyles and practices of those before us.
We have to fight to imagine, forge new ways of living and build new societies with more perfect forms of governance. Our imagination would be our only limitation.
Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media, today?
A: The purpose of society and man is to achieve perfection, entailing utopian lifestyles and experiences. Social media is a step in that direction. We are now more connected than ever before, with importance being given to individual voices, bringing us closer. But social media could also be a distraction from the richer realities of life.
Q: What are your expectations of the world, and its people?
A: We must realise that once we strip away our ideals and beliefs of being different, we’re all the same. I hope that, in the years ahead, we will unite through empathy and love for one another, leading to an era of focussed global change.
People should no longer be cogs in wheels, but work in exchange for more time to enjoy life, family and friends. I strongly believe that mechanical work can be automated, and humans should engage in what they’re passionate about.