Q&A: A wake up call for all

Tuesday, 20 April 2021 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Time is running out for Sri Lanka and we cannot wait for the emergence of Prince Diyasena or Maithree Lord Buddha to help us to rescue our nation from this ditch. The change should happen within our minds now without waiting for others to change and professionals must lead the way – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara


It has taken six months after I published my last opinion piece in the Daily FT. One of the ardent readers asked me why. There were a few reasons for this inaction. However, my answer to him was that I had many questions but I did not know whether my own answers were valid or relevant as my understanding of the Sri Lankan ground realities was based on what I heard and read, however I lost faith in Sri Lankan news media.

To be precise, I didn’t know whether my answers were correct reflection of the ground realities in modern Sri Lanka, being a distant observer. He was curious and persistent. “Why not pose the questions and initiate a dialogue?” he suggested. So, this is the response. 

Sri Lanka is a small island like a teardrop fallen from India into the Indian sea. The population is around 22 million. This figure is just 3.5 million less than the population of Australia where I live but Sri Lanka is 117 times smaller in terms of sq.km. This means the 22 million population could be accessed within a short distance and a short time. 

It is a beautiful fertile country with eye-catching geomorphological features. Year-around stable weather allows people to get on with their activities without much disturbances and it allows any traveller, business or leisure seeking, to visit Sri Lanka any time within a calendar year. However, it is a heaven mishandled and mismanaged over generations including my generation.

In theory:


  • Sri Lanka is an independent, sovereign, democratic country. 
  • Politicians are appointed by people’s unbiased wishes and politicians are the guardians of country and people, providing honorary service.  
  • People are supposed to be ethical, disciplined, compassionate and religious as they listen to religious sermons daily via audio-visual media or visiting temples, churches, mosques located at every corner of the road network.
  • Sri Lanka has a world-recognised legal system developed under the English Common Law, the Roman Dutch Civil Law and the Customary Law to maintain law and order.
  • Sri Lanka’s media is independent and media personnel are competent and thorough in their investigations and analysis.
  • Sri Lanka has a great free education system and the nation has a high literacy level compared to rest of South Asian nations.
  • Sri Lanka has highly-educated professionals employed in the country’s governance system.
  • Sri Lanka has many small, medium and large-scale people friendly businesses to serve the nation’s needs. 


I can go on choreographing an illusionary play and a fairy-tale narrative. Regrettably, I have to confess that most of the adjectives I used in the above statements are either entirely incorrect or inappropriate. 

Let’s describe the reality. 

In general (my emphasis), as I see, in practice:


  • Sri Lanka is a heavily dependent, socially and ethnically divided, illusionary democratic country operating reactively under the influence of regional and global geo-political and economic influence. 
  • All politicians are appointed by the votes of narrow-minded, self-serving, ignorant people and the elected politicians are the manipulators of the needs of people and the exploiters of public resources to serve themselves and to support a selected section of backers and Pollyannas of society.  
  • People are selfish, indiscipline, insensitive and unholy because they do not practice religious teachings they hear.
  • Sri Lanka has an outdated half-cooked legal system that could be interpreted when someone wants to get away with violating the law and the order.
  • Sri Lanka’s media is dependent on the wishes of business enablers, politicians and power-seekers and the media personnel are professionally incompetent and lack of in-depth knowledge of subject matters in in discussion.
  • Sri Lankan Non-Government Organisations who perform as guardians of people are agents of national and international political or business interest groups.
  • Sri Lanka has a rote learning, outdate education system and the national literacy level has no co-relation with the degree of intelligence or the level of critical thinking among the population. 
  • Sri Lanka has half-baked public sector professionals who have limited exposure to modern concepts and they consistently fail to perform due to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, heavy emphasis on paper qualifications not the skills and competencies, professional arrogance to accept knowledge deficiencies and near zero ability to understand holistic needs.
  • Sri Lanka has many small, medium and large-scale unethical businesses to earn money by exploiting people who are desperate for products and services.


I have to reiterate the words “in general” as there may be odd exceptions and instances to prove otherwise but those evidences are too scattered and too apart in the time-scale of our lives to support a tangible argument to reject the aforementioned statements in entirety.

Now, the scene is set for my questions:

  1. Why couldn’t Sri Lankan people develop liberated minds to live in harmony in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society based on their social upbringings underpinned by the respective religious teachings?
  2. Why couldn’t Sri Lanka find a set of educated, independent professionals who could serve people by defying political agenda over public needs, during last 72 years, after so-called independence?
  3. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre educational professionals develop a modern education system and a national policy with outcome based learning and innovative thinking elements?
  4. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre engineers develop basic infrastructure services in this tiny country over last 72 years to enable the nation to enjoy a decent standard of living?
  5. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre legal fraternity produce a clear, concise constitution for serving the nation without any political bias?
  6. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre economists and accountants develop a national economic and fiscal strategy during last 72 years?
  7. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre planners develop national development, infrastructure, transport, environmental strategies and implement, during the last 72 years?
  8. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre administrators produce a foreign policy to protect nation from external influences and to perform harmoniously with all other nations?
  9. Why couldn’t the so-called high calibre health administrators and doctors develop a public health system and policy for serving people?
  10. Why did the so-called successful business leaders produce toxic and sub-standard products for people’s consumption only concentrating profit maximisation?
  11. Why couldn’t the so-called highly-competent historians get together and write a history book with all conflicting accounts and versions of historical events, without creating villains or heroes, for our kids to read and decide what actually might have happened? 
  12. Why do regulatory authorities serve only the rich, influential and powerful minority of the society rather than looking after the interests of the majority general public?
  13. Why couldn’t the people insist that politicians ensure national policies are developed by respective professional bodies and such policies are to be legally bipartisan and locked into long-term implementation?
  14. Why did the rich get richer and the poor get poorer over the last 50 years?
  15. Why do parents want their children to leave the country permanently to get fair social treatment?
  16. Why is corruption an integral infestation, spread over each layer of the society, enabling only the rich and the powerful to be served?
  17. Why are people so undisciplined, not even having patience to stay in a line to be served or to follow rules and norms of the society?
  18. Why do people mistreat women, children, disabled, aged for their own advantage and pleasures?
  19. What has happened to the innocent minds of people to become killers of people and animals?
  20. Why do people disrespect cultural differences and opinion differences of others in this multi-ethnic society? 
  21. What has happened to the creative minds of artists to emerge as money-mongers and business-sharks, not as quality entertainment enablers and mind healers? 
  22. Why do people mistreat and do irrevocable damage to our natural environment and wildlife which co-existed with us and treated us generations so dearly?   
  23. Why is the behaviour of religious leaders contrary to their respective religious teaching practices? 
  24. Why do we lack adults who can be role models?
  25. Why do media operators spread fake, biased news among the community to gain own advantage and public harmony?
  26. Why couldn’t the Sri Lankan people find a single political leader during the last 72 years who genuinely loved the people and the country?
  27. Why couldn’t Sri Lanka find a bold leader to introduce only 10 competent cabinet ministers and 100 ethical elected members in total for the Parliament of this tiny country?
  28. Why couldn’t the Sri Lankan people elect political leaders who tell the truth, irrespective of the bitterness of the truth, to gain public trust and support, during last 50 years?
  29. Why do politicians, law operators and administrators violate people’s fundamental human rights and deny genuine redressing avenues, when such mistakes happen?
  30. Why can’t the political leaders govern Sri Lanka without behaving like an irritant fly on the face of the rest of the world?
  31. Why don’t politicians make use of the few available political scientists, irrespective of their political standings and personal ideological differences, to develop sound governance strategies for the entire nation to participate in the international political games played by global and regional powers and avoid the use of Sri Lanka as a pawn? 
  32. Why haven’t we ever seen a memoir written by a political leader and or a professional of high repute for our kids to read and be inspired?
  33. Why hasn’t Sri Lanka been able to ever produce an innovative person as a Nobel laureate?
  34. Why couldn’t Sri Lanka ever produce an Olympic Gold medallist?
  35. Why couldn’t Sri Lanka sustain the 1996 Cricket World Cup winning ability irrespective of it being a ‘flash in the pan’ moment and an output of individual brilliance rather than a system output by design?
  36. Why do Sri Lankans only boast about past glories without doing something now and planning for the future?

I don’t want to profess that I know the answers to the above questions. Nevertheless, my answers are embedded in the questions. If the whole nation is willing, they can either find alternative answers and implement or consider implementing my answers hidden in the questions.

What I know, without an iota of doubt, is that time is running out and we cannot wait for the emergence of Prince Diyasena or Maithree Lord Buddha to help us to rescue our nation from this ditch. 

The change should happen within our minds now without waiting for others to change. I invite professionals to lead the way, at least for their own survival before becoming an extinct species. I earnestly request all not to shoot the messenger.

(Eng. Janaka Seneviratne is a Chartered Professional Engineer, a Fellow and an International Professional Engineer of both the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka and Australia. He holds two Masters Degrees in Local Government Engineering and in Engineering Management and at present, works for the Australian NSW Local Government Sector. His mission is to share his 32 years of local and overseas experience to inspire Sri Lankan professionals and public. He is contactable via [email protected])


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