Flying the Sri Lankan flag in Galle Fort
Come home. It’s not easy, you may die and you may end up in jail. The work is heartbreaking and numerous problems make it, honestly, likely to fail. But the work of rebuilding our nation and democracy can only be done from here. No amount of reading news reports and forwarding emails is going to give you a real understanding. No amount of agitating or protesting in foreign capitals is going to change this government or help a solitary soul on this land. If you believe in change, be it. Come home.
My name is Indrajit Samarajiva and I was born in Vancouver, Canada. I have lived in America and I have paperwork and freedom that most people in the world can only dream of. After university I could have gone pretty much anywhere in the world but I chose Sri Lanka. I came here, I applied for my dual citizenship, waited two years, paid $2000 and I got it. I chose because I love this place, and because I care. Because I believe in the future of this country and I believe I can make a difference. I may be wrong, but I live in hope. I know what I believe in and I have put my life, my money and my time here.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. You can’t mail citizenship in. You certainly cannot fight for a separate state from a separate nation. Face time matter. Being there matters. I used to think you could do everything over the Internet, but you can’t. Quite frankly, the kids in the IDP camps don’t know what the Internet is. I was talking to Police Inspector T.M. Doole in Hambantota and he was entirely baffled that you could send international SMS. To reach these people, you need to show up.
You see, it is not enough to lobby the UN or the ‘international community’ or the consciences of the fashionable thinkers of the global elite. I come from there and I understand, but just cause they serve nice hors d’oeuvres doesn’t mean they give orders.
To change Sri Lanka you need to reach the kid in the IDP camp, you need to work with the police office in Hambantota. You need to chat with the Muslims in Galle and the tea pluckers in Nuwara Eliya. Over the past week I have met people from Kandy, Badulla, and all over. Each of their votes is more important than any statement from the international community. They are real, their votes are real, their voices are real, and they are Sri Lanka.
And so are you. The diaspora I mean. Sri Lanka still needs its bright children to come home. To make music here, to make business here, to make a difference here. All I can guarantee you is that it won’t be easy. If you’re Tamil it’s probably going to suck and, quite frankly, you may die or end up in jail. I’ve done the latter and I’ve courted the former and I understand that I have it easy because I am a Sinhala Buddhist. You can always call me from jail and I’ll generally come bail my friends out, but quite frankly, it’s going to suck.
I made a phone call from jail to one kind man who I think got the charges dropped. That same man made a similar phone call for a Tamil friend and that guy is still in jail. It sucks.
Also, it’s hot here, the toilets are unreliable, the place destroys electronics, the shopping is bad, the culture you have to manufacture yourself. A lot of people with power are assholes, the driving sucks, your relatives drive you crazy, the girls are difficult, I understand all this.
However, if you sincerely care about this country and the people here, that is the price you pay. Me, I think it’s worth it. I like it here, I like being close to my family, I like traveling around and I’m proud of the work I’m doing. There’s a lot of downsides and I suspect the place is going to break my heart in the end, but I can live with that. I’m doing it. I live here and I’m putting my time and work on the ground. This is possible.
Calling for a separate state from abroad is not actually nation building. That involves hard work and it involves being here. Frankly, violent secession is not an option here. If you come here with violence and hate I’ll talk to you but I won’t bail you out. If you come with a federal state and autonomy and empowerment and stuff, then cool. I can guarantee it won’t be easy, but it is possible.
If you can’t then at least try to support and understand the people here, including, yes, the Sinhala south. I have been South and the girls are pretty and the people are nice. I have been North and the people are strong and the land is open. This is workable. It’s not likely, but if you come here we can work together.
But please, come here and see. It will be heartbreaking. It will be hard. You will probably fail. But if you want to improve life for the people on the island, you need to put your feet on this soil. To the diaspora, if you believe, then come home.