Fri, 31 May 2024 Today's Paper

Paradise Disrupted

11 June 2022 06:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In the last 25 years, this small island has repeatedly re-emerged; it has suffered a brutal civil war, devastating tsunami, heinous terrorist attacks, inter-faith strife, political crises, global pandemic, economic collapse and now peaceful protests turned violent.  

But I really wonder, how much more can it take? 

The insurgency on May 9th was palpably disturbing, despite all we have learned to live with in our day-to-day lives here.  Rich and poor, although in vastly, vastly, vastly different boats, are facing the same storm.  

As an American, it is astonishing to me how nonchalant I have become over mandates that restrict me from leaving my home for days on end.  After all, it seems there is state of emergency one day, curfew the next.  Kids in school one day, off the next.  No kitchen gas one day, no car fuel the next. Power one day, power cuts the next.  Public transport one day, no public transport the next. Credit card works one day, declined the next.  Paper available for exams one day, paper shortage the next.  

It is impossible to thrive, but those with means can survive, albeit with these inconveniences, as outrageous and intolerable as they would be found elsewhere in the world. 

However, when compared with the struggles of the poor, those aggravations seem trite.  They have to endure the indignities of queuing up for kitchen fuel in the extreme heat, otherwise unable to cook, and subsist without power in scorching heat. Neither can they afford basic food items due to the astronomical inflation, nor can they go to work without reliable public transportation. I could go on and on. 

Now, both ends of the socio-economic spectrum have had enough.  The lines at embassies are seemingly never-ending with laborers, domestic help and skilled professionals looking for greener pastures abroad.  My dearest and most patriotic of friends are all getting their documents in order to prepare to emigrate, leaving the country with a gaping void caused by the brain drain. 

This is particularly distressing because it did not have to be this way - proud Sri Lankans having to flee their own beloved country.  

In 1948, after-independence, Sri Lanka had one of the strongest economies in Asia and was seen as one of the most promising countries in the continent.  I have often heard tales of the “good ol’ days” when Lee Kuan Yew modelled Singapore’s development on Sri Lanka.

Had our coffers not been squandered, Sri Lanka could have been on a completely independent trajectory.  Instead of leveraging the nation’s coveted strategic geographic position, we are turning to neighbours with a begging bowl.  It did not have to be this way.

We must remember that the peaceful protests showed us who Sri Lankans are at their best – nonviolent yet effective, hard-working, socially-conscious and most importantly, united.  

The horrifying violence showed some at their worst, when unwittingly playing into the broader agendas of politicians.  The kind of ungodly violence we have seen in the last few days does not belong in this magnificent and peaceful Buddhist, but also multi-faith, country.  

The people of Sri Lanka deserve to live their lives without these politically-triggered interruptions.  Towards that end, I implore international companies that Sri Lanka works with to not divert business from here when we need their support and partnership the most.  Hopefully tourists will return once the country finds stability.  The wonders of this country still remain as beautiful, unmarred by the constant disruption. 

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