Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Diana Phillips calls on the youth to defend the world as we know it

A: The provision of free education and importance attached to learning at the household level have had a notable impact with the Kannangara Reforms liberating students from the influences of ascribed social status of caste or gender.
Women continue to follow stereotypical courses that don’t prepare them for formal employment. This leads to imbalances in university intakes in engineering and technology related studies. Sri Lanka’s 93 percent literacy rate has been static for over a decade.

By empowering women with equal access to educational facilities particularly in the plantations and abolishing gender stereotyping, we will see our country attain full literacy.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent it possesses?
A: Like many other developing countries, Sri Lanka has become a victim of brain drain. Young people are disenchanted with the low compensation for qualifications and experience, compelling them to opt for emigration.
To arrest brain drain, we should reduce taxes, promote lifelong learning, improve the quality of universities, provide stronger science and research facilities, and offer attractive salaries based on qualifications and experience. And we should encourage startups and entrepreneurship while creating investment opportunities to convince those who have migrated to return.

Q: Do you believe that the country will be united one day?
A: Despite being a multiethnic society, we always think about ethnicity and religion when asked who we are. This is a fundamental problem. For the country to be united, we must all feel ownership and belonging.
The end of the war hasn’t marked the beginning of unity as new problems have emerged. There’s a rise in religious fundamentalism and it is important to remember the first principle of the Dhammapada. I hope that unity comes soon although it is entirely left to those in power.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: As my mum is Sinhalese and father is Welsh, I’m globally rootless. Having travelled extensively, I feel that I simultaneously belong everywhere and nowhere – I find myself caught in a state of transition.
But I hope to change this narrative. I’ve been unconsciously searching for a place I can call ‘home’ and hope to find it in the next 10 years.

Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in 2027?
A: With our strategic location being a crucial transit point and China financing an intricate framework of infrastructure projects in the country, Sri Lanka will be at an advantage. We should maintain healthy relations with China and India, and optimise our economic potential by making the most of this status.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming?
A: Population, wealth and technology are mutually reinforcing a framework of environmental degradation. Poor energy choices draw on finite resources that will eventually dwindle by becoming too expensive or environmentally damaging to retrieve.

I find the daily contradictions of modern living intriguing – people who are concerned about the environment making environmentally harmful choices like double bagging their groceries in plastic bags and having long baths.

This behaviour places humanity beyond the threshold of continuing life on Earth. We’re causing the sixth greatest extinction in half a billion years.

Q: How do you view the conflicts in the world at this time?
A: Terrorism particularly by ISIS is a permeating threat and we should partially accept the blame for this. A reoccurring motif is the use of extremist terrorism to propagate hatred of all Muslims. Unfortunately, this mindset will not help us win this war as violent ideology cannot be destroyed with greater violence.

By understanding the politics of the Middle East – and through education, social media campaigns, greater engagement of youth, and job opportunities in underdeveloped countries such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq – people will cease turning to extremism for answers and protection.

Q: And how do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: Social media plays a critical role in the market today as it promotes corporate brands and spreads awareness, generating a whole new industry for employment. In fact, companies utilise all social media platforms to advertise their products, hiring marketing managers who are proficient in social media.

Social media has also sparked political movements led by youth across the world. It is important to establish a distinction between freedom of speech and incitement of violence.

The growing importance of social media is creating a digital divide between the rich and poor, which has serious consequences when it comes to education.

In a nutshell, social media is a double-edged sword that responsible youth must use constructively to create a progressive world.