As a Buddhist monk engaged in various dhammaduta activities, I have lived primarily in the United States for the past eleven years, and before that I was living in Japan. I always return to Sri Lanka each year, and I recently returned to Los Angeles from a two-month visit, where I had the opportunity to observe first-hand many of the changes that are taking place in our post-war country. My life abroad has given me a different perspective on my motherland, and I would like to share some reflections on what I am now calling “The New Sri Lanka.”
The world economy is in turmoil at the moment, and this past year alone hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the US, Japan, and elsewhere. In America people are losing their homes in foreclosure, and the legions of homeless are struggling to survive on the streets of nearly all major cities. During these dark times people in the US and Japan find it hard to be optimistic about their futures, and there is genuine concern if they will ever be able to recover the lives they once had. In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, I felt a new wave of optimism for the future; the people seemed to be very happy with the direction the country is going since President Mahinda Rajapakse defeated the terrorists this past May. We should all be grateful for his wise leadership, and for his and Defence Secretary Gotabaye Rajapakse’s firm resolve to drive out Sri Lanka’s terrorists – even though the US is still not able to put an end to threats from Al Quaeda. This is truly a bright moment in our history, and we should be grateful for the finest Chief Executive we have ever had.
Under the President’s direction, many large-scale re-development projects have been placed on the fast-track, and they are sure to transform Sri Lanka into the new Asian power in a very short time. This is the projected destiny that was forfeited during the past thirty years of war, but Sri Lanka’s karma seems to be on the up-swing at the moment, and success seems imminent in the very near future.
As Sri Lankans, therefore, it is our duty to help President Rajapakse rebuild our country in every way we can. He did his job, and now we have to do ours; change always starts on the individual level, and we have to readily adopt the consciousness of the emerging “New Sri Lanka.” The President has recently declared a war against government corruption, underworld criminals, and drugs; we need to assist him in fighting this war so the children of our land can truly grow up to be clean, free, and prosperous – as is their birthright.
I noticed, however, that there are still many people in Sri Lanka who are trapped in the old model, the antiquated mode of thinking, which is motivated entirely by greed and self-interest. Some individuals are actually trying to interfere with the President’s forward-looking policies, and they work to deter progress and economic growth in the country. These misguided people need to wake up and realize that it is in their own long-term best interests to put aside selfish personal and political ambitions, and get behind the President as he guides us in the upward direction. They will surely derive more benefit from wholesome activities in this regard than from the unwholesome activities of the old school.
Another thing I became acutely aware of during my recent visit is the dire need for private universities in Sri Lanka. The Government pays for all education in State-owned schools and universities, but there is often no room for all who deserve to matriculate to higher institutions. Those who don’t make the cut are usually forced to go to other countries for their educations, which creates a drain on our foreign currency. With private institutions they wouldn’t have to leave their homeland, and as we all know, once they leave they rarely return. This negatively-impactful brain drain could be stopped, and we could even attract foreign students to study in Sri Lanka – reversing the financial drain as well. I strongly urge the Government to reconsider its policy on private universities, and allow their creation for the future benefit of all.
I had the opportunity to visit many parts of our beautiful island during the past two months, and it is plain to see that tourism development could solve many of our economic problems. Transportation, however, is often difficult while traveling from one place to another – and the beaches are eroding in many areas. A Japanese visitor said to me: “Venerable, you need to make a highway all around the perimeter of the island – this way people could see the whole thing. You also need to build some jetties – and protect your beaches from drifting away.” I think we should take this gentleman’s advice, so proper authorities – please take notice.
In the villages around my temple near Mathugama I noticed that most of the people buy their fruits and vegetables at the market – even though they have ample space to grow their own. I strongly urge the Government to introduce programs that encourage our villagers to learn to be self-sufficient in terms of producing their own food supply. In the US and Japan high premiums are paid for organic fruits and vegetables, and it would take very little for our people to sustain themselves in this regard; all they need is a little training and motivation.
In conclusion, I am very happy about current conditions in my homeland. I returned to the US with a renewed sense of appreciation for my country, “The New Sri Lanka,” and a new sense of dedication to our great President Mahinda Rajapakse. May he live long – and forever have the Blessings of the Triple Gem.
by Ven. Udagama Sumangala, Los Angeles, California ~ www.mawbimasrilanka.com ~