24 May, 2022


A Tribute To Athuraliye Rathana Thero

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

It happened in 2006. Nearly the whole of the Eastern Province was being water-deprived. The sluice-gates of what is known as Mavil Aru had been shut down by a bunch of terrorists who were playing for time. They had thought that the new government would submit to them. Didn’t happen.

What took off in 2006 ended in 2009. The war ended. We are all the happier for that.

There were people who marched to Mavil Aru that day. People with no hidden agenda. People whose only reason for their act, if at all, was to get the government to see their way.

For years, if not for decades, the LTTE always had the upper hand. The government had always kowtowed to them. Shamelessly. The LTTE, to put it shortly, had thought that Mavil Aru would end. They’ve had the upper hand before. The government, they thought, could be tided over on this one too.

That didn’t happen, of course. The ruling party, realising just how shamelessly the LTTE were breaking the agreement they had signed with them some years back, took action.

But this isn’t all. Wars aren’t won that easily. There are mindsets that need to be changed. The people who marched to Mavil Aru did just that. For years, the magic word for conflict-resolution here had been “appeasement”. The march to Mavil Aru changed all that. Among those who marched that day, there were names. Big names. Athuraliye Rathana Thero was one of them.

Rathana 2He is a person some hate and some begrudgingly admire. In politics, that’s rare. Rathana Thero was there, all the way, when ideology-thrust was needed. He countered, together with the party he helped create, the Jathika Hela Urumaya, the claim that the war could not be won militarily.

He switched sides and allegiances last year. Some of his admirers have now become foes. Some of his foes have now become admirers. That’s politics. He was a factor in the Maithripala Sirisena defection. He was a factor in Maithripala Sirisena’s victory. If at all for this reason, the latter’s campaign and regime is considered cleaner than that of the previous government. That’s not enough, I agree. Still.

He never compromised. He could have stayed. Could have waited. He didn’t. His opposition to the Executive Presidency and of course that notorious Casino Bill was known long before he left. Together with Patali Champika Ranawaka, he is perhaps the only politician who can connect reason and emotion with whatever he says. That’s rare, even for someone with an academic background.

His life and career hasn’t been read enough. Like Mahinda Rajapaksa, he was born in the South, in Akuressa. What many don’t realise is that long before he took to nationalist politics, he was a fervent JVPer. He once remarked that it was Buddhism and Marxism that moved him to what he is today. That’s true. Like many in his generation and those before it, nationalism came to him long after he had dabbled in Marxism.

His background in politics is phenomenal. During the bheeshanaya of the late ’80s, he together with some other University undergraduates formed an organisation called the Janatha Mithuro (“Friends of the People”). This later developed into the National Movement Against Terrorism, which was in itself a precursor to the Sihala Urumaya and later the Hela Urumaya.

One can argue that all this dates back to the early ’80s, when the likes of Gunadasa Amarasekara and Nalin de Silva formed what would be known as the Jathika Chinthanaya. One can also argue that there were other names. Like S. L. Gunasekara. It was the Hela Urumaya, however, which made the most effective inroad into politics. And Rathana Thero was an important figure. All this time.

Some claim that he’s a racist. A chauvinist. But even those who vilify him find reason to admire him. The truth is that even while moves against monks entering parliament were being tabled (by the same people who have joined his campaign today), we were more willing to listen to him than to those who continually, with no reason, vilified the war. His first victory, if you can call it that, was 2009. But that’s just one thing.

He sticks to principle. That is why he has left the government. And that is why, when he left it, the then ruling party lost. Badly. As Patali Champika Ranawaka has aptly pointed out, the JHU defection added more than 900,000 votes to Maithripala Sirisena’s base. That’s significant.

Rathana Thero was instrumental in the Maithripala-factor. Whenever he got up to speak for him, Maithripala’s vote-bank remained fixed and strong. That is more than what one can say about some others who rallied around him, whose openly vitriolic statements immediately put Sirisena’s campaign at odds with its maithree (compassionate) outlook.

It is the Jathika Hela Urumaya that once backed the fallen government. They won. They broke those they backed. While I may not agree with everything they stand for, I have to acknowledge that they have always meant what they say.

Ideals are hard to stick to. Rathana Thero is no idealist. He left all that in his pre-Jathika Chinthana days. He is a pragmatist, one who appears to be driven by reason. Some say that he almost never breaks into emotion. Others say that he’s become too emotional these days. Both are correct. He is not reason-driven to the point where he is emotionless.

These are still early days. We don’t know whether what he advocates will backfire on him. What we do know is that for the first time, there is a split between the two most potent nationalist camps in the country. The Jathika Chinthanaya School has distanced itself from the Hela Urumaya. Gunadasa Amarasekara has called the Hela Urumaya a “Helu Karumaya”. But all this is peripheral to the subject at hand.

Rathana Thero, in all this and despite all this, can take a bow. He is an unacknowledged giant. Always has been. He has friends and enemies. Admirers and detractors.

We don’t know whether he’ll win or lose in the end. We can’t be sure. But taking stock of his past and of what he did at a time when what he advocated was considered impractical, we can be sure of one thing. He won’t shy away. He won’t back down. True to form, he will prevail. For that reason alone, he is a man to pay tribute to. For me.

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Latest comments

  • 27

    You are trying to argue the Authureliye Thero stayed back Mahinda Rajakse would have got 900,000 votes? You are talking nonsense here and you have no sense of calculation. May be you might have voted to MaRa that doesn’t mean all are idiots to vote.

    • 11

      Uditha Devapriya –

      “You are trying to argue the Authureliye Thero stayed back Mahinda Rajakse would have got 900,000 votes? “

      Support your argument with a good statistical survey.

      Does the Sun Go around the Earth or the Earth around the Sun and rotates on its own axis?

      Data, Data, Data is needed for support.

    • 0

      We must not that the newly built cabinet and the team is nto the best … they are just lesser evils. So is the nation – they are divided.. not being able to fouse on the real human values. People are intoxicated being made hallozinated by the war victory claimed within the first term of MR. That made them to forgive the man in power to loot and even rape the nation brutally. If one would listen to what Mahindananda, Jonsten and Bandula added in the political discussions carried out by Wadapitiya and Satana on pvt tv channels, they feel .. how uncivlilized the people have been. The vocabullary used by them were harming to anyone that listend to them… So in a country to expect things to turn upside down within a 100 day program can just be limitted to a dream though I believe atleast 60:40 law… if one would plan 100 he can achieve atleast 60.

  • 13

    Rev. Rathana is no means comparable to BBS rabid dog Ghanasara.

    Buddhists in this country should see the distiction between the two. Rev. Rathana articulated very clearly need of the hour – for a proper governance.

    • 4

      Seelawathi, How do you know BBS Ghanasara is a rabid dog?
      Did he try doggy style with you?

      May be Ratana is a better bet without the sivura!
      Call Ben Dover and he will tell you what to do.

      • 10

        Are u deaf and blind not to have noticed that yet..

        Please check it again the uncivilied manner he held hate speeches in Aluthgamaa.. What if any of them held such speeches ? You the like will stay stagnated allowing any kind of aggressive men be them in robes or not to fool you easily. This we now see better when rural folks still rally round to MR – they the hallozinated – intoxicated men and women welcome nation ‘s most thuggish leader we ever had.

  • 7

    Another damn fool Sinhala dump writer , this Buddhist bikku monkey will disrupt again peace between Tamils and Sinhala…just wait…

  • 11

    Thanks for sharing. I did not know the history of the Ven Monk.

    The monks have always been the civil society activists, consultants and mentors of politicians and kings.

    Starting from JHU monks began to involve themselves actively in politics. This is not healthy for the venerable Sanga institution.

    It is not healthy because when you belong to a political party, the monk without knowing become partisan and divisive. Creating divisions in society is considered one of a gravest of sins.

    That is why I kindly urge the JHU to re-consider the decision to be actively involved in politics. JHU has conducted themselves admirably. However others may not do so in the future.

    In fact JHU should bring in the policy that was presented by the former P.M. to discourage young monks from being involved in active politics.

  • 3

    When in high position it is best to be just and equitable to your subjects, and this will always push you towards achieving higher status. Athuraliye Rathna Thero knew this formula too well and thus has achieved it rich dividends. This is very much unlike his partner Champika who acted like a horned bull who gored the fallen victims as in the Aluthgama/Beruwela/Dharga Town fiasco. Even to recognize and promote racial harmony thru multi multiculturalism and multi ethnicity Rathna Thero played an important part (his proposed new constitution said it all) and alongside with Sobitha Thero, they brought sanity to prevail in a country segregating into ethnic divides. The minority communities are well aware and appreciative of that fact. They have clearly shown it in no uncertain terms, going by voting patterns in the recent election.

  • 6

    We muslims too should pay tribute to Ven Ratana Thero for the good work done for the victory of My3 as President,the same goes to Ven Sobhita Thero too who was instrumental in bringing all parties together,and paving the way for racial harmony.

  • 5


    Where is it said in the noble teachings of Gautama Buddha that a Buddhist monk with his saffron robes can enter into secular politics—which is inevitably and intrinsically rife with power, arrogance, desire, greed, jealousy, arrogance, lies and deceit? If a monk is interested in politics should he not, if he is really honourable, first discard his robes and his position of a monk? If one is not true to even this basics, how can he ever be good and compassionate to all human beings, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, and creed, which is the fundamental percept expounded by Buddha?

    • 4


      I am not disagreeing your comment but would like to point out that Sri Lanka is not Secular! In the Sri Lankan Constitution there is clause that says that the state is duty bound to protect and foster Buddha Sana and Buddhism is give a foremost place while all other faiths are equal or to this effect. To me either all faiths are equal or not; there cannot be a halfway house on this. As it stands, Buddhism in Sri Lanka is elevated over and above other faiths and there cannot be equality while the state is duty bound to protect and foster Buddhism.

  • 3


  • 3

    While we respect this monk who seems worthy of it so far, we must also remember Sobitha Thero for he did much and left the limelight and that shows much of a man of commitment and responsible love for the nation.

  • 1

    Thero’s act only lead into destabilize mother Lanka. JHU’s repeated pledges only made to believe there will be good governance, high std of security just like MR Govt had and unitary nature. This induce Sinhalese voters to add much required margin to supplement vote bank Sirisena secured/ already enjoyed ie – TNA in north, Muslim and hardcore UNP.
    Look like the thero and Champaka had deceived the Sinahala voters.
    Sirisena in breaking all his promises one by one;
    1. Ministers are 38 contrary to his promise of 25
    2. No more talking about unitary Sri Lanka
    3.State media is abused in the same as previous Govt
    4.Corrupt MPs from other side had been bought by paying huge sums to secure his power.
    5. No further action on cases against his men

  • 2

    This Monk now must be asked to retire to his temple and begin his spiritual work for people otherwise he might just forget his vocation.

  • 2

    he was instrumental to bring all hardline & flooting sinhala vote to M3 while they have bit of confussion abot common canditate aganda
    otherhand Mr.Ranwaka must be given more credit for much needed confidence to sinhala peuple who are always rejecting Ranil & teams due to self minded pro tamil & international conpirency etc… which are always goverment pro aganda againts UNP…

    end of the day all came to one common aganda with support of north & east peuple we have achived much needed change in our mothr lanka

    thanks to ..
    Ranil & team – Urben & UNP vote vote
    Rathna thero & Ranwaka- Boost on sinhala vote & flooting vote
    Hakkem,Rizad,Asath Shally & BBS- Muslims vote
    TNA- North & east tamil vote
    Sajith – south
    Digambaram ,Mano- tamil estate vote

    All togther we have done for our future

    god bless & wish you all the best

  • 2

    In the fifties, I saw men and women fall down and worship Buddhist monks by the wayside, on rural roads in the south.
    These monks really lived as the Buddha laid down for his disciples.
    They were mentors of rural villagers who consulted them on all family matters and social problems.
    Such monks are now rare.
    Now, monks have entered politics, business, astrology, land ownership and even practice medicine and politics.
    They have found it hard to adhere to the vows of celibacy and poverty, and avoidance of the worldly life and pursuits.
    There is diversity of behaviour and life style among them.

    • 0

      Bhikkus are the greatest landowners in this country. From ancient times they were more powerful than the kings. Main occupation of bhikkus became the management of land. If you have any doubt about what I say, please read the book “Siwura and Nagula”, the Ph.D. Theses of Professor R.L.L.R. Gunewardena, Prof. of History, the greatest Sri Lankan historian next to Prof.Partanawithana. Some Bhikkus participated in killing S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake because the latter brought the Paddy Lands Act which abolished the “ande” cultivation.

  • 3

    I associated with Rev.Rathana himi when I was in medical faculty during 1987-1992.We participated for protest marches against UNP regime those days. There were particular reasons which made me to like him. One which was most important ,he demonstrated democratic principles whenever he dealt with any body or any organizations. He never became a JVP follower but he had great similarities with JVP ideology.One day ,he invited me to join his Janatha Mithuro group(Champika also came with himi) but I politely declined it after long discussion due to their explanation about ethnic issue. I realized at that time , Rathana himi was far humanistic and having progressive ideas compared to Champika Ranawaka who was extra-ordinary intelligent man ,I have seen in that cluster at that time.But they had some vague vision but lack the clear pathway to proceed to final target at that time( mostly based on trial and error techniques)But they didn’t hesitate to do political gambles and experiments whatever the consequences will result eventually.
    Sri Lankans must safeguard and protect these characters as they are rare commodities in a society like Sri Lanka.Most people are not in position to understand their actual spirit even though they have worked with or working with them such as former president and even current prime minister.
    Rathan himi is some what flexible and lenient about tamil rights in comparison to Champika but both are better than the rest of JATHIKA HELA URUMAYA.
    However, I became a consultant in my field in Sri Lanka and I was working in my hospital,one day I met Rev.Rathana accidentally after 10 years in 2011. At that time ,I expressed my displeasure about Rajapaksas but he was tight lips.Again ,I raised the issue regarding national harmony, he was silent. But he requested me to help dengue prevention and kidney disease prevention program.
    I can remember I gave one advice to him that don’t believe Rajapaksas and I requested himi to become a national figure like Mahathma Gandhi.
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t help him because I was invited by a foreign university for Surgery fellowship and I left the country even without informing Rev.Rathana. After coming abroad my family is strongly opposing to go back to Sri Lanka due to social injustices and poor personal security.
    But, I am very happy Sri Lankans are doing well under the guidance of Rev.Rathana and Champika. But Sri lankans should persuade them to give up their some anti communal ideas to become national leaders.
    Wish all the best Rev.Rathana.

  • 0

    The writer of this article is right in many of the facts. However, how does he say that JHU added 900, 000 votes to the victory of President Maithree.

  • 0

    I read the article and the comments with mixed feelings…. inherently I am opposed to some of the ethno-divisive rhetoric of the JHU, but the party has some brilliant individuals within it. One of them is of course Pathali Champika Ranawaka and the other is Athureliya Rathana Thero, both accomplished scholars and both articulate and persuasive speakers. It is of course a pity that the former decided to go to Paris a few months ago and speak some utter nonsense; uncharacteristic I am sure, and designed to gain traction where he needn’t have.

    In the midst of the campaign, I came upon this interview featuring the subject of this article. I thought his responses were delivered dispassionately and made huge sense….I took away many positive vibes from the disclosures……
    [Edited out]

    However, we must also never fail to acknowledge and salute the immense contribution by Anura Kumara Dissanayake towards the victory of the common candidate….. he was immensely successful in getting the sordid details of the shameful corruption which the previous regime made their basis for survival and enrichment, swiftly penetrating the heartland of the Lankan vote base with his well-delivered, articulate speeches, all based on evidence, facts and figure that so far none of the miscreants has publicly contested. BRAVO to him – he seems destined for really big things in Lanka and may of his ilk come out and show their colours to keep scheming politicians and bureaucrats honest with the people.

    See his FB page from which an interested reader can pull most of his speeches:

  • 0

    Uditha has put the Cat among the Elite & Anglican pigeons, going by the distressed, angry, and venomous comments.

    Vellalas are already on the war path.

    LTTE proxy Prema has demanded all Tamil political prisoners must be released immedeately because the TNA made Sira the President.
    No body can argue about, that including our Ven Rathna supporters

    But are there any TNA political prisoners?..

    Cameron wants the PM to make Pillai the priority.

    FM Mangalam may get an extension until April ..But then what next?.

    Wimle’s BIL was arrested according to our Police spokesperson,

    The charge, allegedly telling the Sinhala inhabitants in the East, that the North has no respect for the SL Flag..

    Did they have any?.

    In contrast the Governor who kept Jaffna in one piece against all odds, is on the run,.

    Asgiriya Boss is already getting the jitters

    He even remembered that some inhabitants voted for Rajapaksa.

    Although he forgot to mention that it was nearly a 70 percent of the Sinhala Buddhist inhabitant population.

    Finally I managed work out it was only 900.000 who backed the UNP, TNA, SLMC & Diaspora Alliance.

  • 0

    S.L.Gunasekara left the hela urumaya due to biggots like Champika.In Paris Champika extrolled the virtues of the Sinhalese as gods gift to humanity.The audience was a a adoring group of Srilankan rustics.I still have some regard for Champika for honesty and standing up to Mahinda after giving him a ultimatum, same goes for Ven Rathana.I wish the corrupt business prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatte espouse the consience of Kotte Maduluwawe thera.Let hope Srilanka goes through a period of complete metamorphosis.

  • 0

    Ven Rathan’s and Hela urumaya’s actions in 2006 during Mavilaru episode is questionable.Claiming,just becaus helaurumaya with Rathana thero in front marched towards maviaru they forced the gov. to start the war is ludicrous.
    What they actually did was to force he gov.to start the war prematurely for which they were readying the forces.
    When MR took over the gov. the military was so demoralised and as good as none existant. The military inteligence was all but viped out. They had to start from scratch and that needed time. Rathana thero’s haste for credit could have jeoperdiced the whole operation.Fortunately for us the LTTE was not the ‘unbeatable’ they were presented to be,infact they were a bunch of cowards who tried to hide behind women and children as we later found out.

  • 0

    A truly great person who made a major contribution to the change that has taken place in SL.

  • 1

    Ven Ratana and Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha will go down in the history of the country as the two persons who initiated the change that we saw recently, at a time when we in total despair. Their strengths were the clarity of purpose, ability to argue their case and articulate their ideas and above all an unshakeable integrity showing that they could not be bought over; when none of our politicians, without exception, would change their colours without “batting an eyelid”.

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