“You messed with the wrong generation.”
Sri Lanka, the beautiful island nation in the heart of the Indian Ocean, currently faces the worst economic and political crisis since the country’s independence. Over 22 million people have been left to fend for their own without access to food, water, gas, electricity, and medicine, all by a corrupt government that mismanaged the country’s funds to the brink of destruction.
Millions of Sri Lankan’s spend their days stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for basic goods. Shops have been forced to shut down because they do not have electricity.
Homes do not have air conditioning or fans, and young children and infants have been suffering from heatstroke as Sri Lanka copes with one of their hottest years. People have died standing in lines for hours under the sweltering heat to fuel their tanks.
Although corruption has run deep through the country for many years, the pandemic coupled with the current government’s failure to respond effectively has pushed Sri Lanka to what people have been calling, ‘near the point of no return’.
During the height of the pandemic, the government made the fatal mistake to ban fertiliser imports, declaring Sri Lanka an organic farming nation, which drastically impacted the agricultural industry and led the country to become heavily reliant on imports.
“You can’t hide forever. The government has to be accountable; for all they’ve done toward the minority groups, like the Tamils and the Muslims. It’s sickening how this was kept under wraps for so long, and only now is it all coming to light, more people are seeing how corrupted they really were.” said Lakshani Sathasivam, a Sri Lankan student from Monash.
For the first time however, things are different. The historically divided nation stands united, with the collective goal of setting things right. And the group at the forefront of spearheading this change is the youth.
Aamina Mustaqdeen, Monash’s Sri Lankan country representative in Malaysia, shared her insight on the situation, “We, the younger generation, are being more vocal about this now, especially with social media—it’s different. Our parents didn’t do much about this, they went about their life, but we the youth, we’re loud, we’re opinionated, and we are trying to clean up their messes, because this is our world to live in.”
Aamina and the Sri Lankan community in Monash University Malaysia gathered on university grounds for a peaceful demonstration on the 5th of April 2022. They join the legions of Sri Lankan people scattered over the world, all standing together in solidarity for their brothers and sisters at home.
“It’s hard to hear our family back home talk about the struggles they face at home, and all we as Sri Lankans living abroad can do is to pray and spread awareness about how bad the situation is at home,” said Lakshani.
“We are Sri Lankan students from Malaysia, we are far away from home still feel the fire inside our people, our brothers and sisters are fighting for our country, people are out on the streets to build a future for our next generation. We hear you; we see you; we feel you. Our hearts are with you all!” said Thineth Nanayakkara who was at the demonstration.
For the Monash students that want to help, both Aamina and Lakshani echo the same sentiment: Be kind and mindful towards your Sri Lankan peers.
“They’re going through unimaginable pain, and people leaving hate online towards the Sri Lankan community doesn’t help,” said Lakshani, “We shouldn’t compare different country’s problems. They are all valid.”
“You know, I’m living abroad, I have a roof over my head, I’m very privileged to have this, but my brothers and sisters at home do not have that luxury, so please donate to them if you can,” said Aamina.
Although it may seem insignificant, signing petitions have historically been crucial to advocacy, and spreading awareness. “The biggest thing you can do is talk about it, spread awareness, donate, and sign petitions. The more eyes we have on them, the harder this will be to hide. Put pressure on the government, on your leaders. We all just want this sorted as quickly as possible,” said Lakshani.
“There’s only so much we as citizens can do, I remain hopeful because hope is all any of us. That and our voices.”
If you are able to donate, please refer to the link for a comprehensive list of verified donations and petitions: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1LMM2-wGsGCl5-33t-1qVLCbzEWxwi3s-qXaCCW1v4lk/mobilebasic