Seeking Diaspora help
The war drove out a
massive pool of talent at a time the country was set on the path
of development in the post liberalisation boom. This exodus
which began post July ‘83 started to snowball as the intensity
of the war escalated. Not only the Tamil professionals, who were
naturally bitter at the turn of events, but even their
counterparts from the majority community too joined the exodus,
leaving the country all the more poorer by their exit. Their
combined talents and professional expertise were lost to the
country at a crucial time in its post independence history.
Now with the end to the war and the reconciliation process
set in motion, all steps should be taken to woo back these
professionals whose services and contribution would be most
welcome in this new era of development. They should be prevailed
upon to accept that they will be returning to a new country
which had at last achieved true independence with the defeat of
separatist terrorism. It is not only the professionals but we
also need to invite those Lankans who left our shores and made
it good in foreign countries to invest in their Motherland now
that the ideal climate has been created for trade and business
This is more so because despite the passage of a significant
period following the end to the war there is still a feeling
that we are not moving fast enough to capitalize on this
positive factor. No less a person than the Chairman of blue chip
company John Keells, Susantha Ratnayake, a leading entrepreneur
in the country giving evidence before the Lessons Learns and
Reconciliation Commission said he was puzzled as to why even
after 18 months since the end to terrorism there is still a lack
of private sector investment in the country.
This is more so since the country has not only seen an end to
the war but has also achieved political stability a sine quo non
for any investor. He has also said that the public and private
sector should make a concerted effort to lure the Tamil Diaspora
to make investments in the country particularly in the North and
East. He has urged the Government to introduce an investment
scheme for Diaspora members who are willing to invest.
A similar appeal also went out from President Mahinda
Rajapaksa to the Lankan Diaspora community. Hopefully they will
respond positively to these requests. The end of the war has
opened vast areas for investment, particularly in the leisure
industry. The Tamil Diaspora may be keen to explore
possibilities in the North and East where they are familiar with
the landscape. A majority of those who constitute the Tamil
Diaspora did not flee the country out of choice but were
compelled to do so under the circumstances that prevailed. They
should be assured that all divisions based on ethnicity are a
thing of the past and the country is today moving in a single
direction driven by the spirit of all communities.
A majority of them may want to seize on the opportunities
that have opened up in the land of their birth. They may
entertain notions of returning to their roots and once again
settle down in their familiar surroundings and invest in
productive ventures that would bring them sufficient returns.
This opportunity the government should avail them by providing
all the incentives and the necessary investment climate. It
should create all the ingredients that would facilitate their
speedy return to the country of their birth.
It would be ideal if the present security presence though
much lower in scale would be gradually done away with, with the
passage of time. This while creating the ideal atmosphere for
prospective Diaspora investors would also make them get more
closer to the State which they considered an enemy not so long
ago. State sector collaboration with Diaspora investors too
would go a long way towards reinforcing fresh ties.
While conceding that terrorism is no more it has to be borne
in mind that there is always the possibility of a residual
threat and as such the present security measures cannot be
compromised willy nilly.
What is suggested is a gradual scaling down so that the Tamil
Diaspora may be more inclined and encouraged to seize on the
investment opportunities that beckon in post war Sri Lanka.
Hopefully with the passage of time the remaining Emergency laws
too would be lifted providing the ideal backdrop for a heavy
inflow of Diaspora investors into the country.