Natasha Hariharan speaks out about how our politicians are abusing power
A: While infrastructure is being strengthened around the country, natural resources are being utilised efficiently, foreign investment is forging ahead and tourism is flourishing, the country’s debt is massive. Sri Lanka is being forced to implement lenders’ expectations.
There’s also an increase in human and drug trafficking, which has resulted in the abuse of women and children. Politicians are also abusing power with unlawful activity, with corruption and loopholes in the law reflecting negatively on the nation. There’s also the ugly spectre of religious intolerance.
Q: What changes do you see, in the context of nation building and reconciliation?
A: The war-affected areas in the north and east are being developed, especially the infrastructure of roads and highways, enabling people from all parts of the island to get to know each other. There are also various cultural programmes to reach out to people.
With public sector employees being transferred to different areas, living and working among local communities, the concept of reconciliation is taking shape. There’s a much better understanding developing between communities.
Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of education and health care?
A: With students and parents being emphatic about academics, Sri Lanka’s literacy rate has reached record levels. The various options for higher studies and opportunities in diverse fields for employment are rewarding. A large number of private hospitals provide contemporary health care, with government hospitals also developing their service standards to a similar level. The state sector, specifically, is very alert to epidemics.
This has resulted in a host of positives, including the eradication of malaria. Our municipalities must be commended for regular disposal of garbage, making Sri Lanka a healthier, cleaner country compared to Bangladesh and India.
A: It is very encouraging to have universities and other educational institutes offering diverse fields of study. There’s also an increase in commerce and trade; opportunities for travel; and the financial services, IT and tourism industries are offering a variety of employment choices. These changes have improved young people’s capabilities.
Sri Lanka has the potential to be a service-oriented country. Therefore English, which is a global language, can be adopted to enhance this trend and link communities across the nation.
Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward, in your view?
A: Only a few right now, but we must remember that the youth are future leaders – and in some instances, they are today’s leaders too. As young people grow, we learn to live with extreme situations, and adapt accordingly. We move around with different people, and are more open to learning about problems and challenges, looking for peaceful resolutions.
Honesty and integrity are imperative in leadership, while respecting elders and commitment is essential. Leaders must also be innovative, creative and think constructively, while selfless service is imperative.
Q: How do you view the world we live in?
A: The world has evolved through globalisation. Most medical research has been successful, and robots are impacting the way we live. This has resulted in man not having to work too hard. However, as a result of these discoveries, many viruses have evolved, threatening human beings.
At the same time, atomic research and advanced weapons are prompting ugly results, including the destruction of natural resources and negative impacts on the planet.
Q: Who is responsible for climatic change and global warming?
A: We are responsible, because our needs have increased – and we have become greedy. Consumption has increased, as has our demand on natural resources. We must protect the Earth, and make it sustainable. I do believe that increasing forest cover is an imperative. Population increases cannot be halted, but this must be planned.
Q: What challenges do young people face, in a global context?
A: New technology can lead to depression, which means we must change our lifestyles. Local cultures are also challenged, as it fuses with others, losing cultural dignity and identity. There’s an ignominy about speaking in the mother tongue, and even wearing traditional dress.
I also see gaps in parental relationships, with little foundation being given to children. So they ultimately leave home for education or employment, and eventually settle down elsewhere.