An appeal to our Diaspora-Please be part of the solution
Mr Renton de Alwis
Former Chairman - Sri Lanka Tourism
I don’t know all of you personally. Yet, somehow, I think I know you. How you think; what you believe in; what you would do when cornered on issues that concern your Motherland; and most of all, the deep-seated love of most and the equally deep-seated animosity some of you have towards her and/or the leadership; past and present, no matter who you are, or where you are.
You left our shores and chose to make another country your home. Some out of choice, while for others, it was a necessity. There were many reasons for that to happen. Some of you were forced out, by being hapless victims of circumstances. The communal riots, discrimination and a feeling of being let down; all contributed for you to flee your homeland. Some among you sought refuge, by fair-means and others by means not so fair. Yet, others among you chose to seek better lives; your own personal advancement, your children’s education, an opportunity made good, won an immigration lottery or paid a handsome sum of money to specialists to ensure you got the migrant visas.
I was one of you for over a decade. With a permanent resident tag of another nation, I had the option of staying on. It was at the beginning of the decade, when I had a call from home, to come and assist. The situation was very bad out here back then. Yet, the yearning to be back was greater. First, it was to give it a try; to see if it will work. For giving up some material benefits and ties was tough at the time. It was not all that rosy out here, most of the time. But, I stayed on, for the pull to want to give all of me, was greater than wanting to leave.
The free education she gave me. That’s what primarily helped me get to, where I am today. Her immense beauty, bountiful resources, the smiles; in spite of that pain we were going through as a nation, the feeling of home and being wanted as against being another migrant seeking riches, all these helped make the decision. I have no regrets for it’s my Motherland and our common future that called. I knew that every little drop counted. I was happy there were many others who had stayed on, to share that passion. We all had our moments; some awful, some not so. Sometimes the frustrations got the better of some I knew. They chose to leave and others came into fill the vacuum. These were times of ups and downs. We had moments of glory and elation as well, though they were rare.
See it grey
Some of you are in the second or third generation, only heard about the land of your parents’ birth; of its good, the bad and the ugly. Your young heads are full of either that or this. Some of you see it all bright and nice, while others see it all dark and gloomy. Some rational minds see it grey; like anywhere else on Planet Earth.
I have two daughters who are one with you, as members of the Diaspora. My call to them is also to seek the alternative. I chose to build a house for one. She and her family can make it home whenever they desire. I shall do whatever I can, to make the attraction of their Motherland magnetic and desirable for them and others like them to come back to. For I believe, that their future is here, with Mother Sri Lanka.
You do care
No matter what the reasons or circumstances were, I know that a wide majority of you miss your land of birth. Otherwise you would not be discussing her ‘wellbeing’, at every opportunity you get, when you meet others like you, be it at a formal or secretive meeting, at a religious congregation, a weekend’s evening of Sri Lankan curry and sing-song session, visits to friends, a friendly cricket match or a protest for or against what is happening back ‘home’.
Your discussions of her ‘wellbeing’ take different tones, colour and direction. That I know for sure, depends on who you are, what you believe in, your circumstances, what others tell you or have told you, what you read or have read. What you wish for her in the form of her ‘wellbeing’ will differ and range from wanting her to be peaceful, caring, united, smiling and getting to be the wonder of Asia to being divided, cursed and made to pay back for the pain caused to you, your families and others you know, like you.
Glory and misery
Like I said earlier of the very young among us, the more rational and well-informed among you, will realise that like many other places on this earth, your Motherland is also one that can not be painted, defined with ‘black’ or ‘white’ brush-strokes. She, in written history dating back to the sixth Century BC, has had her glory days as well as ones of misery. Together with your ancestors, you in your own way, were part of that glory and misery.
The easy way out is to blame others; the leaders, political and civil society of the past and present. Solve all the problems we have out here, discussing them at your gatherings out there; placing the blame on us, who are out here. It will be grossly unfair of me, if I did not recognize the many among you who act affirmatively; to do good, help-out, not bad-mouth your Motherland for you know that, there are no simple solutions to complex issues.
Can be done
Sri Lankan expatriates engaged in the tsunami rebuilding. File photo
My call out to you out there, among the Diaspora, is to begin to look rationally at the challenges and the opportunities we have here in Sri Lanka. True, there are problems and all is not well. Things are not at all rosy. But there is certain hope. There is opportunity to make good. There is opportunity to unite and make lasting peace. It will not be easy, but I believe it can be done.
To do that, you out there, must choose to be part of the solution and not just be part of the problem. It would be presumptuous of me to suggest what you should be doing. But I know that a good first step is to believe; believe that you are proud of being a son or a daughter of your Motherland, with all her misgivings and her achievements and believe that there is so much you can do to make her the best, there can be.