n a major step towards inter–religious dialogue and unity, the Catholic Church yesterday held an unprecedented memorial service of thanksgiving for the Most Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo who passed away on November 8th after giving prophetic, selfless and sacrificial leadership to the movement which led to the people’s silent revolution of January 8.
One of the priority goals in the Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s vision and mission for a new Sri Lanka was multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural unity in diversity. He spoke out sincerely and strongly for people of all races and religions to respect, promote and even celebrate diversity. The Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo who believed that a spiritual leader needs to get actively involved in politics or desha palanaya, though not party politics, paved the way for the election of President Maithripala Sirisena and the new National Government we have today. It was the revered prelate who built the high road for the new National Government for its journey towards good governance and democracy, social justice, sustainable, people-friendly and eco-friendly development, public accountability, transparency, sincerity and integrity.
One of the main speakers at yesterday’s service of thanksgiving was the chief prelate of Kotte’s Rajamaha Vihara, the Ven. Aluthnuwara Anuruddha Nayaka Thera. He paid a glowing tribute to the life and work of the Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo, describing him as a spiritual torch bearer of good governance and social justice, not only for Sri Lanka but for the whole world. The Kotte Rajamaha Vihara prelate underlined the need for inter-religious dialogue and co-operation. He said that when there were major events at St. Thomas’ Church, the Kotte Viharas willingly and lovingly provided parking space for vehicles, while when there were major events in the viharas the Kotte Church did the same. He told the monks, priests, nuns and the people at the thanksgiving service that the Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s passing away was not the end of a journey. The spirit of Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo would come alive in the leaders and people to renew their commitment to good governance, democracy and public accountability without corruption, cover-up of corruption or nepotism.
The main speaker at the ceremony was Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, also a social justice prophet and a close associate of the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Hamuduruwo and the National Movement for a Just Society (NMJS). Fr. Reid outlined the four stage evolution of the Ven. Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s vision and mission. He first worked to deepen the role of the Buddha Sasana. He then got involved in social justice activities including the temperance movement, the tsunami relief operations and the provision of assistance to war victims, mainly those in border villages. The third stage was the formation of the National Movement for a Just Society which gave moral leadership to the people-power movement that brought about the non-violent revolution of January 8. The fourth stage was Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s vision for the future - a just society where the common good of the country will come before the desire for personal gain or glory. The prophetic priest said it was the duty and responsibility of people of goodwill whatever their religion, race or social status - to recommit themselves to ensure that the leaders of the new National Government work towards Sobitha Hamuduruwo’s three main goals - the abolition of the executive Presidential system, a pro-active role by the nine Independent Commissions and a new electoral process without the preference voting system.
The main appeal was for the new National Government to continue to work in a spirit of consensus till the just society - the vision of Sobitha Hamuduruwo – is achieved. In this context a key issue would be the local council elections next year. An appeal was made to the Government to work out a process whereby people committed to the values of unity, goodwill, good governance and integrity would be given nomination instead of party political-based nominations whereby rogues and racketeers would again come in to plunder our resources instead of sincerely and sacrificially serving the country and the people. Then we would have politicians who would ask not what they could get from the country, but what they could give to the country.