Sri Lanka Misses Mangala Samaraweera
By Udeni Saman Kumara
The three-month remembrance of the late Minister Mangala Samaraweera falls today. The former Minister had made an impact as a radical and a revolutionary politician in the local political firmament during his chequered political career. The Southern Province had produced politicians of note to this country from generation to generation. Among such politicians produced by that part of the country was Mangala Samaraweera. The demise of the former Minister was felt by most people here due to Mangala having been sentimental to sensitive issues faced by the ordinary people of this country. However, due to the spread of the global pandemic it robbed us of Mangala suddenly.
The three-month period that has lapsed since the demise of Mangala has shown us that more than Mangala who was alive the deceased Mangala, has become far more potent in the present society. The remarks made by Mangala had made an indelible impression among all segments in the society. As Mangala’s void is being felt ever so strongly we saw several articles being published in the print media with regard to what Mangala had uttered during his lifetime. Mangala’s father Mahanama Samaraweera began his political journey with the Communist Party. He was a well-known political figure from the Southern Province. He then leaned towards the right and joined the UNP. But, the Leftist Movement in this country did not consider Mangala Pinsiri Samaraweera as a politician with leftist ideals. Though Mangala was born in the Southern Province he did not enter politics due to the political clout of his late father. The reason for that was his father having passed away when was quite young.
Hence, Mangala was nurtured by his beloved mother Khema Padmawathi Samaraweera in the absence of his father. Attorney-at-Law Mahanama Samaraweera was blessed with three children. The eldest son was named Jayamini Samaraweera while the daughter was named Jayanthi Chandani with Mangala being the youngest of the trio. Mangala preferred to be identified as the son of Khema. Mangala was first elected to the Parliament in 1989. Since then he continued to be a MP for a period of 31 years. Hence, Mangala could be termed as a politician who had not betrayed his ideals for perks, privileges or any other benefits to him. During the past political period the impact made by Mangala turned out to be significant. The local political circles described Mangala as a kingmaker. Mangala was feared by those who preferred dictatorial style of governance as he was capable of toppling such regimes.
Mangala had also earned kudos as a diplomat during his long political career and he was well known in the international circuit. A former US diplomat, Samantha Power issuing a condolence message on the death of Mangala stated that she had not only lost a close friend but also a person who had proffered advice to her in times of need. Mangala left us at a time when this country was clamouring for a sizeable and seismic political transformation. Hence, it will be difficult to state right now, as to how long this country will take to fill the political void created with the demise of the late Minister. A few days prior to his demise, he had made the following remarks to the media: “I represented the Legislature for 31 years. During that long period I was able to intervene in several momentous events that took place in this country’s political sphere. When looking back I would say that since 1948 when we gained Independence from Britain this country has now reached the threshold of disaster as I speak. Hence, I speak with much mental anguish as I too had contributed my own share to this pitiful state that this country currently finds itself in. All politicians that had ruled this country over the course of the past 72-year period should be held accountable for the present situation.”
The aforesaid remarks made by the ex-Minister suggest that before his demise, Mangala had realised what political path that he had traversed during his lifetime. However, sadly when this country needed the invaluable input or the sterling service of this politician he was lost to this nation. Mangala also had the knack to work with politicians who had held contrasting political views to his own ideals. He worked not only with Chandrika, Mahinda and Ranil but with the JVP as well. Not only political leaders here but even world leaders knew that Mangala Samaraweera was an honest politician. GSP Plus relief that had been suspended for Sri Lanka was released to the country due to the implicit trust placed on the late Samaraweera by the EU.
He once stated thus, “I think after independence several religious and political extremist groups began to spread archaic theories in this country. In my view the fivefold concept popularised by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1956 pushed this country into an extremist racial corner. That concept had got pushed to such an extent that when Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was elected as President in November 2019 his Government was made up of an entirely Sinhala segment. Now, it is clear to us that we will not be able to move forward with old fashioned and hackneyed-political theories. According to my conscience even during the latter part of my life I must strive to make an effort to transform the political outlook of this country from its present position. But, I cannot predict whether it will succeed or not. Therefore I like to urge all and sundry to join me in laying the foundation to transform this nation for the sake of its future generation. That cannot be done if we are divided or if we are up in arms with each other.”
Mangala was not a politician who was cut from the traditional political cloth. He was a radical character who always looked at the way the world moved forward and hence strived to incorporate that into Sri Lanka. He was not interested in engaging in the popular political game of the day. Khema’s son has ended his life’s journey and has left us. Hence, being able to pen this note in honour of the late politician could be termed as timely as this country looks to unearth a politician of the ilk of Mangala Samaraweera some day in the future.