UAE: Sri Lankan expats narrate woes of families back home, worry about future

Hopeful for elections but reality may be grimmer, say residents



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 5:15 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 5:18 PM

Sri Lankan expats in the UAE are worried about their country's fate and their families back home, which they say is both sensitive and complicated.

Sri Lanka is currently facing a political crisis following the resignation of ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after he was driven out of the country, with the nation facing a state of emergency soon after.

Though the island nation is looking to vote for a new President on July 20, Sri Lankans in the UAE say, the real situation may be grim for citizens despite wanting to stay hopeful.

Riyas Mohamed, who is from Akurana in Sri Lanka's Kandy district, has his wife, mother and three children back home.

"I speak to my family daily. People are experiencing trying times back home. There is a shortage of gas, especially in urban areas. As my family is in a rural area, my wife cooks on firewood which is not an option always for others. Commuting from one place to another has become a big problem, especially for the elderly who cannot wait for public transport for too long or walk from one place to another as there are limited vehicles on the road."

"Due to frequent and long load shedding, children's education is getting hampered, as a lot of studies happen online these days. Then my sister had an arm surgery recently, and there is a gross shortage of medical supplies and other essential medicines because of which suffering patients must wait for long. We are just waiting to see better days so that the situation can improve, especially for those whom we've left back home."

Residents also say Sri Lanka plunged into economic crisis due to the mismanagement of successive governments.

Last month, Sri Lankan expat Vijayaluxmi travelled to a town near Colombo for her daughter's wedding.

Explain the challenges she faced at the event, she says, "There is a shortage of fuel, so transportation is one of the biggest problems. There are no buses or three-wheelers available easily. The buses that you get are extremely crowded. Besides, there is a shortage of cooking gas. You can imagine that during a wedding - there are so many guests and a lot of celebrations rally around cooking and food."

"Now, when I speak to my family back home, they tell me that they witness a power cut of three to four hours daily. Apart from that, the prices of food items have also shot up drastically. I hope with the coming in of a new President, eventually, we can finally see some better days."

The country has witnessed months of protests over a hike in prices of basic goods, a lack of essential services, food and fuel and a crippled health system.

Idroos Mohamed Naseer has been living in the UAE since January 1992 and works as a driver; his family lives back home in Sri Lanka.

"The situation is really bad back home. My mother is over 90 and she requires medicines which are difficult to get at the hospitals. Many hospitals are running out of stock. Transportation has been hit massively and people must walk a minimum of 10-15km to buy anything or to go anywhere. People are massively inconvenienced because of the current situation there."

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Dilhani Kariyawasam, who has been living in Dubai for the past 12 years, says, "The Covid pandemic had already worsened the situation. When I speak to my mother and sisters, they tell me, due to the added political situation, soaring prices and lack of food and fuel are the chief problems. The price of everyday goods has risen sharply. The medical infrastructure is also collapsing. Currently, everything is a struggle there."


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