Naveera Abhayawickrama urges Sri Lankans to realise the unity there is

Compiled by Nicola Jayasundera

Q: What’s the good, the bad and the ugly here in Sri Lanka, in your assessment?
A: The good is certainly the warm Sri Lankan smile and our rich cultural heritage, which makes us unique.

However, the bad and ugly are linked – they include corruption, social oppression and a community that’s heavily bound by social stigma. We have a generation that has lost the rich values of society and is being misled in this fast-moving world.

Q: And what do you consider to be the main challenges facing the country at this juncture?
A: They include deforestation, environmental pollution, a large share of our youth being exposed to drugs and involved in illicit businesses, and of course COVID-19, which seems to keep worsening every passing day.

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: Sri Lankans are united; it’s a matter of realising this unity.

Our society is driven by various social stigmas, and we have been raised and brainwashed into becoming vulnerable and fragile beings without someone guiding us properly. We’re reluctant to think and act on our own, and rely too much on politicians and foreign influencers who end up controlling us.

Unity exists and we have seen it. It’s a matter of putting aside differences and accepting each other for who we are.

Q: Could you tell us where you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: Passion is what drives me. Many people think that by the age of 17, you are supposed to have most of it figured out; but I believe that no one can invest in one box and be so certain about it. Presently, I’m interested in law and can see myself as an advocate speaking for the people.

I strongly believe that exercising even the basic human rights must not be qualified or quantified on the basis of race, religion, wealth or gender. And I see myself working towards this end by using my knowledge to make sure that equality and justice aren’t limited only to a segment of society.

Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in a decade or so from today?
A: Our main sources of income were from tourism, foreign employment and exports. But following the Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019 and COVID-19, things have headed south. This has left the development projects with the responsibility of reviving Sri Lanka.

If we can use our resources to their maximum to reach the island’s production potential, Sri Lanka will be in a far better position than it is today.

Q: In your opinion, who is responsible for climate change and global warming – and what must be done to address this?
A: The guilt falls on all of us. We are accustomed to living a luxurious life but feasibility is out of the question when compared to what’s at stake.

This issue needs the active involvement of higher officials with proper action and protocols, and a change of perspective without denial. We need more teenagers making an impact because the responsibility of our future is on us.

Q: What’s your take on the growing importance of social media in today’s landscape?
A: Social media is what connects us these days and we can’t do without it. It’s fascinating to see how you can get almost anything done with only a few clicks on the screen.

But obviously, there is a flip side to it; and if you don’t use social media wisely, you’ll be vulnerable to the darkness that lies on the other side of your screen.

Q:And last but not least, where do you see the world in 10 years’ time?
A: It is really hard to rely on anything simply because of the uncertainty that’s always challenging the world – viz. environmental and economic factors, power struggles, technological advancements and so on.

So it’s best to stay neutral and hope things will improve – and that we will be able to achieve global unity someday.