Devindie Ranaraja says that understanding people is the first step to unity

Compiled by Nicola Jayasundera

Q: What’s the good, the bad and the ugly here in Sri Lanka, in your assessment?
A: We have a rich history and diverse culture, and abundant natural resources. The hospitality shown by our people is one of our greatest assets.

As for its flaws, ethnic and political divisions are high on the ladder, and today’s society is one where everyone is always looking to outdo each other and emerge on top.

Q: And what do you consider to be the main challenges facing the country at this juncture?
A: The pandemic is by far the greatest challenge we face. Due to political agendas and the lack of discipline, we’re facing a third wave.

Disparity between the rich and poor is high with low-income families struggling to make ends meet while the privileged do as they please, disregarding restrictions.

There’s a lack of accountability in power circles. The recent MV X-Press Pearl incident – which destroyed our seas, beaches and marine life – is a case in point.

Q: Do you believe that Sri Lanka will be united one day? Why or why not?
A: Understanding is the first step towards unity with respect for the views of others – labels should be saved for commodities rather than people.

Sri Lankans have come together in the past during crises to help each other; this gives me hope that if efforts are made to put aside our prejudices and biases, we can pave the way for a united Sri Lanka.

Q: Could you tell us where you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: If there’s one thing I have learnt over the course of the last year, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. But my plan is to complete my medical degree and begin helping those who are unwell. I want to be a person who has a positive impact on the lives of others.

Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in a decade or so from today?
A: To move forward, one must learn from past mistakes and stop repeating them. This begins with making changes in our administration and leadership. The system in which political influence is used for personal gain should be terminated.

As a country that provides free education and healthcare, it lacks sufficient funding. Improving these spheres will see faster development with more opportunities for youth and the emergence of a tolerant society that’s willing to change.

And as we move forward, we should protect our national identity too.

Q: In your opinion, who is responsible for climate change and global warming – and what must be done to address this?
A: When asked who is responsible, the names of nations and companies with industrial growth spring to mind.

However, every single one of us must be held accountable when it comes to climate change due to decades of natural resource misuse.

But since we can’t keep development at a standstill for the sole purpose of reducing climate change, we need to invest in sustainable development. The research and use of alternative fuel sources, reduction in single use plastics and spreading awareness are some steps in the right direction.

Q: What’s your take on the growing importance of social media in today’s landscape?
A: Social media is a platform for communication, information and awareness on issues prevailing in society. But like everything else, it has a downside if used carelessly.

The dissemination of false information, hate speech and cyberbullying are some of the negatives. People should understand that their self-worth isn’t based on the number of likes or followers they have.

Q: And last but not least, where do you see the world in 10 years’ time?
A: Similar to the technological development we’ve seen over the past decade, we can expect the same if not greater things with breakthroughs in the scientific and medical fields that will benefit society.

I hope to see a world where nations solve conflicts amicably instead of trying to strong-arm each other with their citizens being caught in the crossfire; a world where people embrace their individuality and not put others down. With the emergence of innovative thinkers and creative minds, I believe the sky is the limit for what we can achieve.