Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Niroshnee Ranjan calls for a culture of accountability to take root

Q: What are the challenges facing the nation today?
A: One of the main problems is corruption, which is most widespread in ministries and the government. This stifles the country in optimising its potential with no trickle-down effect.

There is also a lack of checks and balances in the democratic system in which parliamentarians act arbitrarily and not in the interest of the country – and no one holds them accountable for their actions. Sri Lankans have failed to recognise the importance of their rights in a democratic society. But if these rights are properly utilised, they could in fact bring about a culture of accountability.

Another challenge is the resistance to change. For any nation to progress, its citizens must be open to change and evolution. This is something Sri Lanka lacks.

Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of education and women’s empowerment?
A: In terms of women’s empowerment, Sri Lanka ensures far greater gender equality than many other South Asian nations but there’s a long way to go. There is continued eve teasing, women are blamed for rape in some instances and their safety remains in question.

The country has progressed extensively with more women following careers and some even holding high positions. But greater transformation is yet required with males being made to understand that certain behaviour isn’t acceptable.

Enjoying a literacy rate of 94 percent, Sri Lanka’s education system has endorsed the creation of some talented individuals. Schools are deviating from the conventional note writing and blackboard method of study, to pay greater attention to IT and other forms of innovative teaching. The opportunities available to students are far greater now.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent that it has?
A: Incentivising is key. The reason why so many students pursue tertiary education abroad and seek migration is the lack of incentives here compared to those offered by other nations such as the UK and Australia. In reality however, Sri Lanka has just as much potential – and in some instances, even more potential than the West.

Sri Lanka must undergo extensive social and economic development to incentivise young people to remain in the country, beginning with transforming the mindset that other countries have better opportunities. Then these opportunities must be made tangible.

Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward – and what traits would you want to see in them?
A: There certainly are, and I’d like to see open-mindedness in them and the capacity to filter new ideas, as well as new norms and nuances that will open the minds of Sri Lankans. It’s crucial to be true to one’s position; and most importantly, I want to see a moral conscience that’s combined with a genuine love for the country and determination to see Sri Lanka prosper.

Q: What are your expectations of the world and its people?
A: My expectations of the world are rapidly diminishing. It seems to have a serious problem with establishing a sense of harmony given what we hear about increasing terrorism and nuclear weaponry, which is not what this world should be about.

I’ve learnt not to have expectations simply because the human race is selfish. All of us are selfish in varying degrees, and that’s what enables us to climb up the ladder and accept the hierarchy the world has established.

Q: Do the present world leaders live up to your expectations?
A: I see many people in this world like Malala Yousafzai and even Michelle Obama who are passionate about the progress of the world but don’t hold positions of power or simply opt not to.

It’s rather sad as I live in a time where a racist, sexist billionaire is the President of the US. But there have been leaders who’ve exceeded my expectations: the man of great wonders Barack Obama is someone who fascinated me throughout his presidency.

Q: What challenges do young people face in a global context?
A: Inequality, undoubtedly. For me to be successful, being female, I must work twice as hard.

Any aspirational child in a Third World country is always subjected to discrimination at every point and forced to go the extra mile simply to achieve his or her dreams.

People in developed nations don’t seem to face the discrimination we do in this part of the world.