By Krishantha Prasad Cooray
I first met Ven Madoluwawe Sobitha Thero almost a decade ago, through my father-in-law. The first impression marked me. There was an aura about Sobitha Hamuduruwo. That’s why when a friend, Martin Pieris, wanted to write a book about prominent Sri Lankan personalities, I said that Sobitha Hamuduruwo not only has to be in it but deserves to be featured in the cover.
In all my encounters thereafter the impression I had of Sobitha Hamuduruwo as a visionary and a fearless leader who could mobilise people to a just cause was reaffirmed time and again. He had a good understanding of the state of things in the country and a vision of what this country could be and a road map that would take the country there. Most of all he had the patience and the will to make it a reality.
Sobitha Hamuduruwo always championed causes that he considered were just. He never worried about consequences which were often harsh and included injuries to his person. Despite this, he seldom focused on the identity of the person or party that caused him injury, choosing instead to concentrate on systems and processes that produced such outcomes.
He was not alone in sensing the destructive and undemocratic path taken by Mahinda Rajapaksa. But, to his credit even as he took on the man, he understood that the individual was the product of a serious systemic flaw. This does not mean that he didn’t criticise the individual. When General Sarath Fonseka was arrested, he was quick to point out what others knew but were scared to articulate: ‘The defeat of the LTTE was being converted into a victory of a family’.
He recognized that Mahinda Rajapaksa needed to be defeated but more importantly saw that such an eventuality was but a single and insufficient step in what had to be a longer journey towards establishing constitutional safeguards against dictatorial rule. This is why he worked hard for almost five years to build a common platform through the efforts of civil society rather than political actors to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. This is how the National Movement for Social Justice came into being.
Sobitha Hamuduruwo held extensive discussions, initially with Karu Jayasuriya, Dr. Ranjith Cabraal, Jayampathi Wickramaratne, Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri and J.C. Weliamuna and later with a large number of individuals and organisations. They all had one idea: unite diverse political forces to abolish the Executive Presidency.
The first step was to push all parties and political leaders to agree on a common candidate. By the middle of 2014, there were many who wanted Sobitha Hamuduruwo to come forward as the common candidate against Mahinda Rajapaksa, but he encouraged Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga to find someone else since he felt it was wrong for a member of the clergy to be the constitutional head of a democracy.
To Sobitha Hamuduruwo, it was all about the country. He knew the LTTE had to be defeated but was always distressed that citizens of the country were killing one another. He was a nationalist for all citizens and their rights, regardless of their ethnic identity or religious faith. Even in the run up to the Presidential Election, his focus was on an idea and a winning concept. It was this concept that the people rallied around, abolishing the Executive Presidency and establishing Good Governance.
His efforts made the entire world think about Sri Lanka, much in the same way that the country came into prominence due to the non-aligned efforts of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was also the world’s first woman prime minister, the World Cup victory in 1996, the tragedy of the tsunami in 2004 and the defeat of the LTTE in 2009.
This time it was about a country coming together to overthrow a dictatorship, but creditably without bloodshed and most importantly about a programme that sought to create safeguards against dictatorial tendencies. Sobitha Thero made it happen. He kept politicians at a distance and for good reason. He knew they were mostly inclined to promise to build bridges even if there was no river.
Sobitha Hamuduruwo had expectations for the country. He was frustrated about recent developments, especially the slowness of reform projects. This frustration was and is shared by many. This is why that there was reiteration of the commitment to Good Governance and the abolishing of the Executive Presidency from all quarters upon his death.
Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero is no more. While everyone wishes him the supreme bliss of Nibbana, those who looked up to him as a visionary leader, need to rededicate themselves to the cause that he championed. He envisioned a land where no one is above the law, a land where citizenship has meaning, a land without political patronage or nepotism, a land where robust systems with the right constitutional safeguards ensure that there can be no wrongdoing. Such a land will be delivered only if the citizens take the initiative and do not leave it in the hands of politicians who may, as they often have, waver when personal agendas come into play.
We have to relentlessly work towards securing for ourselves such a land that Sobitha Hamuduruwo envisioned. In short it is incumbent on all those who identified with Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s project to visit their conscience again and again, and to test word and deed against the concepts he championed. That alone would be a tribute to this visionary Sri Lankan, this exceptional Buddha-Putra whose guidance and leadership we are all have benefitted. Sobitha Hamuduruwo cannot be forgotten and those who do would never be forgiven by the people of this country.
People of Sri Lanka will never forget Maduluwawe Sobitha (MS)Thero. Not ONLY the people of this generation but ALSO many future generations to come. Late MS Thero’s news briefings, voice cuts, newspaper interviews which were full of exaggerations half-truths and lies Moreover being always available at yours and RWs election platforms immensely helped to address the minds of emotional and gullible Sri Lankan voters. Votes of that - strata of the voters influenced by MS Thero (and his NGO clan) along with the votes of blind BLOCK voter base who were naturally driven by their affiliations of political will and race /religion made to topple the previous nationalistic government who had record achievements for Sri Lankans when compared with the present government of yours (Prez MS).The mission of late MS (Sobitha) thero is no second to none but re-incarnation of the few no of monks in 1815,actively worked along with other traitors of that era to betray Sinhala Kingdom (the
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