Many people in Sri Lanka want to leave for a myriad of reasons. They rightly or wrongly believe that leaving is better than remaining. There are over 3million people born in Sri Lanka or whose parents were born in Sri Lanka who have rights of abode in Sri Lanka, but now live outside. There are at least that many who given the chance would also want to leave. What a sad state of affairs that this is the case! This very fact should be an embarrassment to all of us who remain.
The government in my opinion is doing all in its power to encourage this exodus, by legal or illegal means. They should in fact do the reverse. The legal means is by providing skills that are marketable overseas and then make bilateral agreements with countries to take them, either as immigrants or short term workers. I presume the thinking is that if they leave permanently that will lower the population and reduce the pressure of governing them! Those leaving for employment alone will fill the coffers of the state with their remittances, thereby benefitting the economy, as it currently does to the tune of more than US$3B per annum.
This safety valve is in my opinion the ruse used by all governments in the country to solve the economic problems within Sri Lanka. It absolves the responsibility of the government to create the conditions necessary for full employment and economic growth. Will anyone argue that had there been no opportunities for Sri Lankans to leave, this country would be the basket case of the world? That is because successive governments have failed to identify the resources of this country and put it to productive use within the country. This country really has not been governed during the last 60 years. The rulers have just ruled by decree misleading the people, which led to tragic civil strife, both with the JVP uprising of disaffected Sinhala and LTTE uprising of disaffected Tamils. The latter was more sinister, due to the massive overseas funding available to them.
We do not choose the country we are born in. It is the state’s responsibility, through policies to make all its citizens proud of the country of their birth. This country Sri Lanka has singularly failed to do this job. It is up to us who live here to take up the mantle and create an inclusive just society with morals instilled into our children, where individual freedoms are respected and people feel a sense of belonging. The practice and respect of the rule of law that safeguards fundamental civil liberties will automatically create a society where people want to live, do business, promote true patriotism, which will reduce if not negate all reasons for wanting to leave. Let us build a ‘paradise’ where no one wishes to leave, and be the envy of the world. “It is not just words, it is a call to action.”