Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Haseeb Hassen calls on citizens to do their part for the planet and people

Q: What’s the good, the bad and the ugly here in Sri Lanka?
A: This is an amazing country with amazing people whose hospitality and friendliness are our greatest assets.

But some Sri Lankans must move on from old school thinking and be broad-minded, which is the ‘bad’ as this mindset sets us back. The ‘ugly’ is that even though we’re welcoming 2018, there are those who support radicalism and not allowing us to live in harmony.

Q: Could you outline the challenges facing the country today?
A: It is the lack of entrepreneurship. Most of us including my generation prefer the safe path of ‘complete school, obtain a degree, find a job, save for retirement and settle down in life.’ While there’s nothing wrong with this, it doesn’t enable the country to nurture future entrepreneurs to spearhead the next level of development.

If the ecosystem around us and the education system facilitate the creation of leaders, unemployment, poverty and even pollution can be eliminated.

Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of education and women’s empowerment?
A: The main change is the inclusion of the private sector in higher education. This is controversial but I feel it’s a positive change. While they’re expensive, private sector education providers offer more facilities and creative educational structures that enable learning to be more attuned to today’s needs.

Although there has been some improvement in women’s empowerment especially in cities, I would love to see them empowered to a greater extent in rural areas too as the country can avail itself of this massive talent pool.

Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent that it has?
A: I don’t believe in talent. I do however, believe in hard work. It’s not that we lack hardworking people but that they leave the country in search of success elsewhere.

We need to understand the root causes and find solutions. We must create opportunities for people to express themselves and their creativity so that they work hard to make a success of it. It is imperative that people are given credit and appropriate rewards, which will incentivise them to remain here and curtail the brain drain.

Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward? And what traits should they possess?
A: There are many but they need the right exposure, and must be equipped with the skills to overcome challenges and develop as young leaders.

The traits that are necessary are patience to keep working to achieve their dreams, persistence to work towards goals and never quit, and perseverance to ensure that failure only makes them stronger – or what I call the three ‘Ps.’

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: My dream is to influence the fitness and theatre sectors in the country. I want to be an entrepreneur in the fitness sector because it has transformed my life – and I want to share that experience with others.

Q: Do the present world leaders live up to your expectations?
A: While most of them do, others don’t. Unfortunately, in the latter category are leaders of powerful nations. They fall short in intellect and mannerisms, and their thirst for absolute power at all cost. Being powerful means helping each other and setting examples for others to follow.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change or global warming and what must be done about it?
A: It is us! The main issue is that we think we’re superior to nature; rather than realising that we are a part of it. Humans are gifted with the unique trait of intelligence but we don’t use it. We’re selfish, and our thirst for development and disregard for the planet have seen climate change exacerbate.

If we’re to curtail the problem, we must first change our selfish ways. Secondly, we have to spread awareness about the harm we cause through unplanned development. Small steps will lead to greater change.

Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: It’s an absolutely crucial tool for the modern day. While there are ills, the bigger positive picture is that social media connects people worldwide and e-commerce is increasingly dominating business. Ultimately, social media plays a significant role in improving economies and lifestyles.