If Ven. Sobhitha Thera was alive today…

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A memorial was held at Jasmine conference hall, BMICH, Colombo last Sunday, (29 May), to coincide with the 80th birth anniversary of the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, under the theme “If Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera was alive today”. Political personas, artistes, activists, and priests from all religions including former Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya; Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera; Ven. Professor Agalakada Sirisumana Thera; Professor in Sinhala, University of Colombo, Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda and artiste Niranjala Sarojini, took part in the event presided by Chief Prelate (Mahanayake) of Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of Siyam Maha Nikaya and Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayawardanepura Ven. Dr. Ittapana Dhammalankara Anu Nayake Maha Thera.

Ven. Sobhitha Thera is a larger than life figure who cannot be missed in the political history of Sri Lanka. For someone who never belonged to a particular political party, Ven. Sobhitha Thera was indeed a great socio-political activist and a highly influential figure in the political arena, working tirelessly to ameliorate positive and constructive aspects of Sri Lankan politics. The sole purpose of his political involvement was social welfare; he unconditionally stood on the side of the public during any crisis, throughout the history of his political activism, which in fact started from a very young age. Ven. Sobhitha Thera fearlessly spoke and initiated nonviolent revolutionary protests against detrimental socio-political practices and the efforts to centralise power within the the presidency, along with threats against freedom of expression, civil rights, and the rule of law.

Addressing the gathering, Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera highlighted how Ven. Sobhitha Thera envisioned the present socio-political crisis which has emerged as a consequence of the executive presidency, long before, whilst he initiated a massive programme to abolish the executive presidency. “Sri Lanka doesn’t have a stable political system anymore; it has collapsed and the public is faced with suffering, all because of the unlimited powers of the executive presidency. Ven. Sobhitha Thera foresaw this threat long before we did. I remember Ven. Sobhitha Thera pledging to dedicate the rest of his life to abolishing the executive presidency, on his 70th birthday, which we celebrated 10 years ago at this very same BMICH premises and now we as a whole country, are struggling against that executive presidency. I believe that Ven. Sobhitha Thera would also be a part and parcel of the on-going protest, taking the side of the public, if he was alive,” added Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera.

Former Speaker Jayasuriya held Ven. Sobhitha Thera in high esteem and related how he had endured many challenges and threats to work towards a democratic, harmonious, and just society by always standing with the public. He further elaborated on how Ven. Sobhitha Thera used to make aware to the public, the consequences of the executive presidency and thus the importance of the 19th Amendment, even when he wasn’t in  good health condition at the time. “I am glad that now the people have taken the path of Ven. Sobhitha Thera and created a humongous people-power against the political system; something that was always attempted by various political parties and organisations but never succeeded. So, I think, we need to support the 20th Amendment and eradicate the executive presidency if we intend to honour Ven. Sobhitha Thera’s tremendous efforts in creating a better society.” 

Delivering the keynote speech of the event, Prof. Uyangoda also appreciated Ven. Sobhitha Thera’s unique and outstanding strategic approach to Sri Lanka’s social struggle for democracy by centralising its scattered and widespread focus under the common aim of abolishing the executive presidency. He moreover recognised the people’s ongoing struggle against the Government as an extension or a rebirth of Ven. Sobhitha Thera’s socio-political revolutionary movement.

A song, written in the memory of Ven. Sobhitha Thera by Raji Wasantha Welgama, music composed by Rohana Dharmakeerthi and voiced by Thusith Simpson, was also released at the event.

(Pix by Dumindu Wanigasekara)

By Induwara Athapattu