Countless tributes are being paid, and will continue to be paid, to the late Most Venerable Madhuluwawe Sobitha Thero. Taken together, they will, in time, provide so complete a picture of this heroic figure that there is little that the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) could add to it. Nevertheless, the service that Madhuluwawe Sobitha Thero rendered in creating the conditions that will help us to put the brakes on our headlong plunge into the abyss of corruption, waste, impunity and disregard of the fundamentals of good governance is something that we feel obliged to record briefly but in the most unequivocal terms.
After the passing of the 18th Amendment, which provided the basic foundation for transforming Sri Lanka into a “lawful” dictatorship, the majority of citizens of Sri Lanka were transformed into an inferior class whereas the favoured few grew ever more brazen about flaunting their extravagant life-style, which was financed by their uninhibited rape of the country’s income and assets. Any protest movement would have resulted in the most unpleasant consequences for the dissenting activists. Even though the regime in office was sure of its hold on the people’s loyalty and gullibility, it nevertheless decided to reinforce its position even further in the future by calling for a premature, ill-motivated Presidential Election which was expected by almost everyone to result in certain victory for the incumbent. On the other hand, at least one-half of the country was praying, mostly silently, for the appearance of a saviour who would not only be a person of unquestioned integrity and of such an assured national stature as to be able to help bring the people’s state of semi-slavery to a quick end, but also a moral fighter with the courage to face the risks of openly challenging those who were determined to prolong the ruinous status quo.
Almost all of those who longed to reverse the rapid stripping away of the people’s rights recognised only one person in the country as having the requisite eminence, fearlessness and trustworthiness to fill the role of liberator, namely, Madhuluwawe Sobitha Thero. The worrying question was whether he could be persuaded to set aside temporarily his non-attachment to worldly things and agree to come forward as a Presidential candidate who would wield power for a short transitional period to rid us of the hateful and destructive 18th Amendment so that the task of eliminating its despotic executive powers and restoring democracy could be undertaken without hindrance. Urged unceasingly by a small group of concerned, dedicated and valorous patriots, Sobitha Thero agreed to be the “reserve player” in the event that an intensive, confidential search did not succeed in discovering a suitable individual to contest the Presidential Election. As things turned out, Mr Maithripala Sirisena, a Minister in the existing regime, resigned from his position and became the candidate on behalf of a number of political parties who were opposed to the government. He was elected President with the benefit of the blessings of Sobitha Thero and, with the indispensable support of the United National Party and all those dedicated persons who had worked to promote his election campaign.
One of President Sirisena’s first priorities was to get the 18th Amendment repealed and replaced by the 19th Amendment, which, although not one hundred percent satisfactory, is a whole order better in terms of democracy and good governance. He would not have been able to undertake this monumental task without the key initial inputs and formidable moral underpinning provided by the giant personality of the Thero.
Sobitha Thero’s imposing presence, high intelligence and incomparable ability to explain matters of religious and national importance in simple language of great clarity contributed to his immense charisma. It is highly likely that the extremely stressful role that he had to play since mid-2014 to save Sri Lanka would have contributed to his premature demise. The people are aware that he was not altogether happy with the direction taken by the new dispensation because its leaders have not been sufficiently true to his vision of good governance. We hope that, at least now, whatever is left of our politicians’ consciences will oblige them to honour the memory of the Thero by not straying too far from what he envisaged.
Sri Lankans owe an immeasurable debt to the Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero for the vital and timely leadership he gave to those who needed it to oppose the growing dictatorship that the 18th Amendment had been designed to foster.