Banupriya Kadirgamasamy hopes for greater autonomy for Sri Lanka’s youth

Compiled by Nicola Jayasundera

Q: In your assessment, what’s the good, the bad and the ugly in Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka is a country with a vibrant culture, a rich history and people who are renowned for their hospitality. However, the corruption in systems that govern it, division in communities, and its stubborn grip on stigma and harmful traditions, hold the country back from flourishing.

Q: What are the challenges faced by the nation today?
A: Of the many challenges the country struggles with, one that isn’t being made aware of enough is the lack of autonomy given to youth – especially those in rural communities.

There are several children who are raised to be submissive to the adults in their lives and uphold their word as law. They’re not given a say in their future and often live the lives that their parents want them to lead – lives that do not fulfil them.

There are also youth who, despite suffering injustice and abuse at the hands of these adults, are conditioned not to question or speak out about it. This enables several crimes against them to go unnoticed and unaddressed. It affects their mental health and as a result, they grow up to be deeply unhappy adults who end up perpetuating the same harmful environment they were conditioned to.

For the youth of this country to have a safe and bright future, they deserve to be given a voice as well as the ability to be in control of their destiny.

Q: Do you believe that Sri Lanka will be united one day?
A: Until the people of this country learn to let go of the prejudices they hold against ethnicities and religions that are not their own, there is no hope for unity.

Preconceived cultural notions are so deeply rooted in the minds of the citizenry that these have become a part of their daily lives. People have to actively work to unlearn them. It is the responsibility of each and every person in this country to recognise the racism and prejudice that exists in their daily lives, work to prevent it and educate those who are ignorant.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: I hope to be someone who is content with the decisions I’ve made in life. And I want to continue working actively to make sure that my life has a positive impact on everyone and everything I come into contact with.

Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in a decade from now?
A: I hope to see more opportunities given to youth to rise up and take control of their lives, to find their place in society and bring about positive change in this country.

Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming? And what must be done about it?
A: While almost everyone is responsible for climate change and global warming, there are certain groups of people whose actions weigh more heavily than those of ordinary citizens. These include large companies that use fossil fuels and the wealthy who are the main consumers of the products they sell.

Governments also contribute to climate change by their refusal to regulate the actions of these companies and people. Unless these parties curb their actions, the work that ordinary citizens put in to battle climate change will amount to almost nothing.

Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media – the pros and cons so to speak?
A: Social media provides access to an audience, education in various aspects of life and most importantly, the opportunity to meet people from different cultures and creeds.

If used properly, I see social media as a tool for growth and opportunities.

Q: And finally, where do you see the world in 10 years?
A: I see a world emerging stronger from the struggles it is currently facing. It will be at a level of technological, medical and social development that one can only dream of today.

While the global population will always struggle with ignorance, corruption, conflicts and illness, I hope to see leaders who prioritise tackling issues of environmental and socioeconomic significance.