15 August, 2020

Blog

I’am A Dreamer

By Mangala Samaraweera

Thirty years ago this month, when I first entered Parliament, my head was full of dreams; dreams for my beloved country, dreams for our people and also dreams for myself.

A war was raging on in the north and an equally tragic youth insurrection was engulfing the south. I dreamt mostly of peace where all Sri Lankans, in spite of their caste, class, race or religion, could live in harmony and dignity. 

The incredible economic advances of the early JR Jayewardene years were being squandered away in the name of a separate state in the North and a Marxist dystopia in the south; thousands of valuable lives were being lost, almost daily. 

Like most young people, Ladies and Gentleman, I thought I could make a difference.

Ladies and Gentleman,

I guess I have always been a dreamer from a very early age; in fact one of my earliest dreams was to become a racing driver but I have never driven in my life.

Later, I dreamt of being a designer taking London and Paris by storm as a student at Central St. Martins. However, I decided to pursue my career here at home after witnessing the remarkable changes taking place in Sri Lanka in 1980. Gone were the queues and the scarcities. Sri Lanka was a country full of hope and promise as the new decade dawned which inspired me to return home in ’81 to pursue my dream of being a successful designer.

I met Chandra Thneuwera, the iconic textile designer who invited me to join her at the University of Aesthetic studies as a visiting lecturer while promoting Sri Lankan textiles as a Consultant at the Ministry of Textile Industries under the stewardship of the Minister then, the late Hon. Wijeyapala Mendis.

My father, Mahanama, was also a dreamer. Named Dom Morton at birth and educated at St. Josephs College in Colombo, later changed his name to Mahanama in anticipation of a successful political career which he embarked upon as a young lawyer. He was a Communist in his youth like many other young men of that era. As a lawyer he made his name appearing free for cases in relation to Police brutality and caste related violence. He entered Parliament in 1952 and as the Deputy Minister of Justice in the SWRD government, my father in 1956 presented the Bill in Parliament that would abolish the Death Penalty. This is the legacy along with his reputation for being honest and straight talking which made my entry into the Political arena possible nearly 23 years after his death.

My mother, Khema, on the other hand was not a dreamer but a practical, earthy and compassionate person. If the people of Matara respected my father, they loved my mother. 

She was one of the first women to enter local Government politics in Sri Lanka when she was elected as a member of the Matara UC in the ‘50s. However, she did not serve her full term as she felt that her new role was too restrictive and formal. She was a people’s person and I like to think that some of my better qualities were inherited from her. 

My mother was not judgmental; I remember writing to her from London at 19, grandly announcing that I was madly in love and a week later I get a reply; ‘whoever makes you happy will always make me happy.’ 

She was non communal. At a time when mixed marriages were frowned upon, my Aunt Manel married Kumar Anandan, a Tamil lawyer and a Guinness book record holder for swimming across the Pack Strait at 18. My mother was the first member of the family to welcome the newly married couple with open arms.

When I first visited party activists in Matara, my home town, as, the newly appointed SLFP organizer in 1988, many of them introduced me to others as “Khema’s boy” and told me that, if I needed their support, I should come back with my mother. Even today, there are still people who refer to me as “Khema’s boy,” and I am always proud to be called so.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Thirty years later, I still remain a dreamer. Many of the dreams I dreamt for my country still are unfulfilled but I feel that I may have been able to make a little difference along the way thanks to some of the very special people whom I had the privilege of associating.

Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Anura Bandaranaike must have seen the politician in me, through my Bohemian camoflage, for it was they who first invited me to become the SLFP organizer for Matara in 1988. 

At the very first meeting I attended at the Darley Rd., HQ of the SLFP, it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who first welcomed me to the fold by introducing me to other organizers there. We went on to form the Mother’s Front movement at my home in Matara where we were elected Co-convenors and formed a friendship that I thought then would last forever. I was not to know then that my best political friend of that time was to be the reason for my departure from the SLFP many years later. 

Today, despite much water flowing under the bridge and us, standing in the opposing ends of the political spectrum, I still consider President Mahinda Rajapaksa a friend and I am very happy that he is here with us now.

Ladies and Gentleman,

The ‘game changer’ in my political life, Ladies and Gentleman, was Chandrika Kumaratunga who brought hope and change to a moribund political party still espousing Soviet style socialism, extreme Sinhala nationalism and closed economic policies.

Chandrika Kumaratumga perhaps, was the first politician to dare talk about a ‘federal solution’ for the ongoing ethnic conflict and win a landslide in the exclusively Sinhala Buddhist electorates of the deep South in the Provincial elections of ’93.

President Kumaratunga embraced the market economy [with a human face, of course] and revived the reformist agenda for Sri Lanka which slowed down after the war started in 1983. The privatization of Sri Lanka Telecommunications in 1997 is still considered as a text book example of a privatization in a developing country. 

I am also happy to have been given the opportunity by President Kumaratunga to beautify and redevelop Colombo. The re-greening of Galle Face, Developing Beira Lake and commencing the shanty redevelopment with Sahaspura flats in Maligawatte along with other beautification projects which followed, has today paved the way to Colombo finally transforming itself into one of the most beautiful and livable cities in Asia. 

When Eelam War 3 broke out in 1995, at President Kuamaratunga’s request, the “Sudu Nelum” movement was launched as a grass root campaign in the Sinhala villages about the need of a political settlement if a lasting and durable peace is to be achieved. The high point of this campaign was the ‘book and brick’ project to rebuild the Jaffna Library, and it still remains a source of personal pride for me that the Library was completely restored by a committee co-chaired by Lakshman Kadirgamar and me. 

After a period of not daring to dream, it was in 2010 that I entered the UNP. Despite having said some pretty rude ‘things’ about its leader over the years, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe welcomed me graciously and warmly to the grand old party. This made me feel that I had come home at last! In the UNP, I have found an inspiring leader and a team who share many of my political beliefs and values; in the UNP I have also found a party where I could ‘dare to dream’ again. 

With the ascendency of President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015, the country got an unprecedented chance to fulfill many of our dreams that have eluded us for decades. During the last four years, Sri Lanka has restored its democratic credentials, established the rule of law, and elevated the reconciliation process to the top most priority. Despite setbacks from time to time, Sri Lanka continues to build a new future for her people based on the fundamentals of Democracy, Reconciliation and Development; albeit festina lente! 

The recent 51 day constitutional crisis also demonstrated to the country and the world the independence of our Legislature and Judiciary and that Sri Lanka has now become a mature, stable Democracy.

After 30 years in Parliament, I would be lying if I say that I have no regrets and disappointments. It is natural human nature to feel disappointed, but it is also important not to lose hope; not to become cynical; not to stop dreaming of a better, brighter future and always to remain resolute in achieving progress. All of us, politicians and non politicians alike, have a responsibility to make our nation a better place to live in and to keep working with determination to ensure the realization of our dreams for our nation – a peaceful, stable, reconciled and prosperous Sri Lanka for all, where the dignity of each and every individual is upheld.

Last but not least, let me say thank you to the people of Matara, who for 30 long years have put their trust and hopes on me to be their representative in Parliament. Their support, strength and inspiration have made me who I am. Finally, a big hug to my Aunt Manel for her vigorous activism and to my dearest Sister, Jayanthi for her enormous strength and support – still doing her utmost to nurture “Khema’s boy.”

*The speech delivered by Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera on the occasion of the event “30 years in Parliamentary Politics of Mangala Samaraweera
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Latest comments

  • 10
    8

    you can dream as long as you want but do not dream to become PM or president of Sri Lanka. People no longer trust UNP and SLFP politicians. you all are puppet of western power or China. We people do not get enough from our handwork. you have already sold out Sri lankan to China, what else left, people’s money is not enough to pay off interest and loan borrowed by successive government. People will teach you a lesson next election. we all vote for JVP for your failure to protect Sri Lankan interests.

    • 0
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      critical thinking:

      “you have already sold out Sri lankan to China” – What else to do when the country does not make enough money, and no foreign investments are coming in for various reasons? Does SL have any other options to pay off the loans when we don’t do that will be in bigger trouble?

      “we all vote for JVP for your failure to protect Sri Lankan interests” – Only reason we think of JVP is that we haven’t seen them in power yet. And only reason JVP talks is they haven’t been in power to understand the difficulties to rule a country like SL.

      Putting JVP into power is like electing MY3 into presidency. Who in JVP can handle a finance ministry? Who to handle a foreign ministry? Who is there to take over after AKD? It is either UNP or SLFP. In the UNP’s case just need to get rid of one man. In SLFP many men.

      • 1
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        Dear FATHIMA CUM someone else.. Have you seen JVP in power. You are racist, discriminating person with a lot of bias? why is it. I know why, You may have been milking some government post, that is why? if you are really patriotic Lankan, you would vote JVP

    • 0
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      Your comments is out dated with present politics and world economy not suitable reply for the speech made

  • 6
    2

    Good Boy Mangy

    A very balanced speech.
    Thank you!

  • 5
    2

    It is sad to hear about unfulfilled dreams of Mangala due to corrupt political class he belongs to.
    Wish he had lead the country on his own

  • 5
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    We are all dreamers by and large.
    Some people have wishes , some have purposes that’s the difference
    .What Mr Managala Samaraweera has not dealt with is , the rampant corruption in all walks of life. It is a fact that one had to bribe someone to get anything done in the apparatus of so called Yahalpanaya government.(YG)

    “What you think you become.” Mahathma Gandhi .
    Where are promised reforms, bringing looters and murderers to task. So far no one has been charged. How about the master plans??? That’s a story for another day and time
    Hope the masses take into account of the missed opportunities when they go to the polls when it takes place?
    Given the circumstances, I feel Mr Samaraweera in all honesty ; as FM and FM he has done his best. That” best” may not be good enough for many but something is better than nothing, compared to the leaders of the YG, specially RW and more so MS

  • 3
    4

    Oh yes, he fulfilled his dream of travelling to his ambitious destinations in the world at public money!

  • 5
    3

    I mean…..the guy sits glorifying his own tail. And how he singing praises to CBK et al- all to refocus attention onto himself of course. It’s a bit like the British guy…….try to be civil to him and he starts talking about “me old mum.”

    But in forcing his capitalistic dreams onto our nation, all he did was sell our land to India, US, and also China, with the grave possibility of our Island being divided into thirds. Then was the bond scam. And all that has happened is that our masses work in the Middle East to fulfill his dreamful aspirations. Each individual soul matters Mangala – not just you and these dreams of yours.

    You and your successive governments’ liberality in capitalism (governments that you heavily influenced) caused that raging war in the north, and the equally tragic youth insurrection in the south. YOU are the direct cause of our land’s suffering.

    Please Sri Lanka, for the sake of a few computers to teach our young (computers that have not done a thing for education in the US…..it’s been proved that good old fashioned teachers are the key to knowledge), don’t let persons like this person who sits touting his own glory, take our nation down his own individualistic path.

  • 3
    1

    We know you are a dreamer and we have a good idea about what you dream of too!

  • 2
    1

    Dear Mr. Samaraweera,

    Bravo!!!!

    Among the corrupted lot under Ranil and the most corrupted lot of our history under Mahinda Rajapukse and his cohorts, you still stand our “HOPE” for the beleaguered island.

    I wish you all the best …… for your dreams to become the next leader to lead the country on the right path.

    I wish you all the best ………..for your struggle to decimate the legacy of Mahinda, GoTa, Basil in their 10 year reign and cleanse UNP of sins committed by Bond Scam Ranil

  • 1
    1

    you were able to enter politics because you were a durava and matara is predominantlty a durava
    area
    you spent your time dreaming of the good things in life not about changing the country
    how much did your ministry cost the country the refurbished office and the biggest benz car
    to name a few
    you are a sanctimonius guy though you did some good things

  • 4
    6

    You are not a dreamer but a bloody liar and a great mud-slinger. In 2015, he told Mahinda Rajapakse took US$18b out of this country and he knows where this money is hidden. He also talked about Lamborghini cars, golden horses. These are stories fabricated by him for discrediting Mahinda Rajapakse who saved this country from LTTE terrorists. This guy should be ashamed for telling such lies. SP comes to clean that shit and white wash.
    He is also a traitor who co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution without the approval from the President and Cabinet to please the White Supremacists who wanted to frame war crime charges against our heroic ‘Ranawiruvo’ who eliminated the barbaric LTTE terrorists.

    • 3
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2
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  • 1
    1

    Till recently,’History’, as we know it, was orally transmitted. Some of Mangala dreams may get sucked into this fake history.
    For example Mangala mentions CBK’s federalism. She never mentioned this word in her bid for Presidency in 1994. She promised ‘un-conditional talks’. She won. She sent some hand picked ‘illiterate-loyals’ to negotiate. The rest is history.
    Mangala credits himself, along with Lakshman Kathigamar, for rebuilding the burnt out Jaffna Library. Glaringly omitted was the value of the books etc.
    Where was Mangala at the time of the burning down and when Prof Carlos Fonseka agreed with the revised version of ‘Who did it’?
    Mangala credits his father Mahanama S, who as Deputy Minister of Justice in the SWRD B cabinet presented a bill to ‘abolish’ capital punishment.
    But was the SWRD assassin sent to the gallows?
    .
    Mangala dreamt but never woke up. In his dreams he pats himself.

  • 2
    0

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  • 3
    1

    Nalmen.

    Caste is very much an issue in the electoral politics of Srilanka. For instance Balapitiya is a Salagama seat and Ambalangoda for the Karawe. It is only natural for Mangala to have contested from Matara.
    He says that his Mother is non-communal and
    having known his elder brother at College, I can vouch for the fact that the family must be non-communal,though it is a handicap to survive in Politics!
    It would be good to have him around for many more YEARS. Mangala is streets ahead compared to most other MPP .

  • 1
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2
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  • 1
    0

    Mangala has a lot of wet dreams.

  • 3
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    Plato, I saw a reference to a comment made by you under “Latest Comments”.
    .
    I’m glad that that persuaded me to read this wonderful speech. Yes, as my other friend, Ratnam Nadarajah, has said, we have found most of the politicians who “run” this country deeply disappointing.
    .
    Mangala Samaraweera has certainly done his best; it may not have been as effective as we had hoped, but, we surely can’t blame him for so many things going wrong. I think that his family were as he described them. I didn’t know about the Kumar Anandan connection. He had studied in the same little school as I did, and learnt his swimming there. Many years senior to him, but I remember him visiting the school.
    .
    Reading this speech, one feels that there still is some hope for this country.

    • 0
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      Sorry: typo.
      .
      Kumar Anandan was many years senior to “me”. I have used “him”, where it should have been “me”.

  • 0
    1

    Despite this Managala discovering the hidden Billions of Rajapakasa and nailing him at the last Election , the Big Man turned up at least to listen to Hosannas To Mangala from US Samantha.
    Incredible.
    =
    Susan glorified Mangala as the most Dignified person she has met,
    My Elders tell me Mangala got the nick name “Kurundu Polla” because of his bravado to take on the anti Ranil factions in the South, and beat them to oblivion..

    This bravery not only saved Dr Ranil, but also made him the PM riding on the lies about Rajapakasas stolen Wealth.

    Dr Ranil I thought would have been the sort of MC and lead the Hisannas himself at this Mnagala’s glorious 30th Anniversary.
    Instead Dr Ranil has gone to to Thirmaali…

    Hundreds of Photos which Dr Ranil has posted are unbelievable..
    Specially the ones where Dr Ranil in Sarwala touching the Holy Objects.
    And Dr Ranil & Mrs Ranil appearing in the group Photo with the High Priests…

    Has Dr Rani converted to Hinduism?.
    Or is it because Thudawe Dhammaloka Thero got acquitted on the false allegation of Cruelty to Elephants, and prosecution which Dr Ranil and this Mangal’s Yahapalana Government instituted as the first Salvo of their Yahaplana Political Revenge against the Maha Sanga and the former Government supporters.

  • 0
    1

    Caste is a huge factor in Politics specially in the South.Matara has a large Durava caste, which is looked down by the Govigamayas but not the way they look down on Salagama or Karawe.

    SF was in Ambalangoda for a reason. MS in Matara for a reason. But lots of people talk about Ministers and MPs who crossed over for money in 1965 in the brilliant plot hatched by Esmond W, the PM’s brilliant father. So some of it has to be taken with a grain of salt. But MS was a good effective minister in the CBK cabinet. He even broke down pavement hawker platforms in Colombo and helped Odel immensely. Those days S.Leader carried on a campaign against him. So wish a rare true liberal the best. I am sure they all have weaknesses but this man is openly pro-gay and supports LGBTQ and wants to get rid of the archaic laws that are used to persecute gays such as the sodomy laws. Even India got rid of them but not backward Sri Lanka. So we must all wish him success towards creating a tolerant society that does not even exist in the USA anymore.

    Gay people applaud you, but right now your idol nation, US is becoming anti-gay and their VP Pence hates gays; yes he hates gays. US Secy of State Pompeo also opposes gay marriage openly. That is why we do not get any publicity unlike under Atul Keshap. We no longer get prominence in their social media coverage unlike under Obama. Back then they even supported the Rainbow flag parade; which a lot of people in Sri Lanka failed to see because our flag looks like the Cooperative council flag. But now no more Gay agendas at our favorite Embassy. Good luck Sir; Good luck. Floreat

  • 0
    0

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  • 2
    0

    A nightmare for the people ! We remember when you were with Chandrika the slander of Ranil . Then you tried to embarrass Muslim leader Hakeem by bringing a woman to parliament. After that you joined Ranil and to prove how loyal you were to Ranil had thugs assault Maithri Gunaratne’s procession in Matara.. Now you , a former fashion designer of no repute, is the finance minister in a cabinet full of deviants !

    Sri Lankan politicians are smelly comedians

  • 1
    0

    As already pointed out he has not yet dreamed
    for a corruption free GoSL
    For a multi cultural multi religious country
    For a country with racial & Religious equality
    For federalism to bring peace and prosperity
    For Government jobs based on merit
    For politicians who don’t hoodwink their citizens

  • 0
    0

    I have a dream. That is, all these useless politicians should be forced to retire in Sri Lanka. The same applies to this man as well.

    Have they done anything to our country. Yes. They lived entirely on public funds throughout their lifetime. It is time that these bastards to be forced to retire. We need a new breed of professional, well educated managers to run our country. These bastards have not done any thing for the country. They have become politicians, because their father or mother was a politician just after independence. We need to finish that culture to develop our country.

    I am very close to his electorate. Born and bred in the village. This man does not understand the feelings of the village fork who live in this electorate. His lifestyle and English talk and everything is foreign to his electorate village fork. He is an MP and politician because his father was an MP for the same electorate. We need to retire these people now.

  • 2
    0

    Mr. Minister, I know you read this column. So good luck and hope you have learned your lessons. One and only negative shocking incident concerning you when CBK was President was you attacking Susanthika Jayasinghe to defend your ministerial colleague in very racist terms. That made me sad. You and I are NOT white nor Aryan. We look more Black African and S.Indian than any other community by our phenotypes. Our genotypes are also Dravidian, and we have bulbous noses, and thick lips and we have lots of melanin. I was stunned how a liberal in CBK’s government could insult a global star from a poor village in Sri Lanka by calling her “someone who looks like a black african” because either there was a romance gone wrong, or sexual harassment. I have not seen you apologize for that. Other than that, I can see you are not afraid to be who you are; you are not bogusly married to appease the lankan requirements. You did good work during CBK’s time. You are a quintessential British Liberal type person and that is okay as long as you do not steal or plunder that nation. But please read the teachings of the Buddha. We are not born superior to be Brahmin or inferior to be a Wasalaya by fact of birth ; we are either superior or inferior human beings based only and only on our actions. I do not like the caste attacks on anyone. I think your Mom did you well. I am so grateful to my mom too who remains simple and humble at 90 now. Wish you all the best in your professional career as a politician. Do not sacrifice the ideals you profess and do not be carried away by the sycophants and side-kicks you have. I remember how you and CBK were relentlessly attacked on your personal lives by Sunday Leader and Lasantha W. Do not do the same to others as someone pointed out. Cheers Mr. Minister.

    • 0
      0

      There was also the small issue of how his credit card was paid by Sri Lanka Telecom. A largely foreign owned enterprise which he was meant to be regulating in the interests of ordinary Sri Lankans.

  • 0
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  • 0
    0

    I dream of a country free of the likes of you.

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