Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Ovini Weerasinghe discusses ways and means of curbing the brain drain

Q: What are the key attributes of Sri Lanka in the present day?
A: Sri Lanka is a beautiful country blessed with a rich history and natural wonders. It is home to various ethnic groups and religions, and boasts a rich culture and traditions.

It also has negatives like gender inequality, poor law enforcement, insufficient funding for healthcare and education, high unemployment, lack of job satisfaction, high cost of living and constrained economic growth.

However, it is corruption that’s the ugliest feature.

Q: And what are the challenges facing the country today?
A: The economy is the main challenge. Disproportionate distribution of wealth has contributed to this, resulting in many people struggling to pay for their next meal.

Other major challenges include adverse weather; health problems such as kidney disease, dengue and cholera; heavy traffic congestion; instability in the higher education system; increasing violence against women and children; and widespread corruption. 

Q: Against this backdrop, how can Sri Lanka retain the talent it has?
A: Firstly, the root cause for the brain drain must be understood. Successive governments have failed to create an atmosphere in which the educated and talented can thrive.

There are many factors that have led to capable individuals seeking greener pastures abroad. These include limited stable employment with reasonable remuneration, a lack of quality medical support systems, restricted access to higher education, inefficient transport facilities, improper implementation of law and order, and the declining quality of life. These issues must be resolved through practical solutions.

Q: In your opinion, will Sri Lanka be united one day?
A: Yes, but the million dollar question is when? We managed to end the hellish nightmare of an almost 30 year war but have yet to restore peace among the communities.

Extremist groups with ulterior motives are actively engaged in spreading hatred. Unless they’re exposed and legal action taken against them, unity cannot be achieved. Given the current state of affairs and the political system in the country, it seems as though that ‘one day’ is decades away.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: Working as a doctor. I am aware of the hard work and struggles involved in this long journey. But I’m determined to achieve my goal of serving my people who are deprived of the luxury of good health.

Q: How do you view global poverty and nuclear weapons?
A: Global poverty claims the lives of millions every year. More than half the world’s population are subjected to poverty with no access to basic education, food and water, shelter and sanitation. Many organisations including the UN, World Bank, IMF and WHO implement various programmes but poverty alleviation has become a daunting task.

Nuclear weapons are designed for only one purpose: to kill the masses. As the world witnessed through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, these are the most destructive weapons to have ever existed.

Therefore, the production of nuclear weapons should be banned immediately with existing weapons dismantled and destroyed. All nations must unite and agree on creating a nuclear weapon free world for the continuance of future generations.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming?
A: All of us are. But nations with exponential industrial growth should take the larger blame.

Air pollution directly impacts global warming. This phenomenon is mainly due to the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) largely by factory emissions and burning fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources must be developed to reduce the impact. Here too global treaties must be formulated to compel developed nations to comply with strict regulations to curtail GHG emissions in their economic activities.

Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: Social media has become inseparable from our daily lives. It’s a great influencer, impacting how we perceive and judge. It is also a manipulator of thoughts.  And it’s a very powerful tool for communication and rapid information exchange.

While many may reap the benefits of social media, some become addicted. Others fall prey to those who abuse the capability of the system to achieve their vicious and vulgar objectives. It is our responsibility therefore, to handle this tool with caution and discipline.

States must provide guidance and impose laws to regulate social media for the benefit of the wider community.