28 September, 2022

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Mangala – A Man Sorely Missed

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Remembering a remarkable human being who has sadly passed away when you need him most is best done by remembering his life and work on his birth anniversary.

Mangala Samaraweera would have tuned 66 today 21st April.

On his political journey he left a footprint that attests to courage and conviction. He was an exceptional man of his time. As we look back, in the context of contemporary crisis, he departed at a time when history was crying out to be free. In those oppressive times, he was of that rare kind who always used ‘we’ instead of ‘me’.

Mangala Samaraweera

I knew him in a very perfunctory way because his sister Jayanthi has been a friend of many years. He was exuberantly pleasant. His graceful indolence amused the literate. It exasperated the aboriginal mind.

In politics and public life, he lived what poet John Donne wrote.

“No man [or woman] is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Though overused and platitudinous I am compelled to resurrect the poetry of John Donne in light of the senseless killing in Rambukana which demonstrates that a faltering regime run out of reason and logic can only resort to its last straw – that the legitimate state retains the monopoly of violence.

Mangala was the true to type humanist. To him each person’s pulse was in sync with the heartbeat of all humanity. It baffled the established majority belief system that was saffron in colour, hierarchical in order, feudal in mind and exploitative in purpose.

Mangala Samaraweera was the quintessential Buddhist who admired Siddhartha in the manner Dr. Walpola Rahula thero describes his renunciation in his classic ‘What the Buddha Taught.’

Mangala was horrified when an alleged disciple of the Enlighted one claimed that Adolph Hitler was polite man who should be emulated by one of our presidential candidates.

Mangala would have been in cloud nine watching the beautiful things unfolding in ‘GOTAGOGAMA’ opposite the repository of state’s authority.

Although he played a pivotal role in electing Mahinda Rajapakse President in 2005, he was far sighted in recognizing the eventual metamorphosis of ‘love for the country’ in to ‘love of lucre’.

Mangala deeply despised the ‘militarism’ that transfused the post war Sri Lankan society. What is unravelling today in Gall face and in the countryside is the final dismantling of militarism and triumphalism that was instilled in the majority psyche by professional ‘manufactures of consent’ not to win the war but to rule after the war.

Mangala did not live to see the young civic actors living his dream in ‘Gotagogama’. On some social media platform, I read an eloquent tribute to him couched in language with a rustic vibrancy. He would have relished it. ‘Mangala Umba Kiyankota Api Umba Ekka Hitiye Naha. Api Kiyankota Umba Api Ekka Naha.” (When you said it, we weren’t with you, When we say it you are not amongst us.)

All politicians aren’t evil. A few are. Quite a few are not evil. As current proceedings in the talk shop in the middle of the lake demonstrates a good number are quite happy, not only to live with evil but to take refuge under evil to retain power and privilege.

I did not share Mangala’ free market fascination. But I deeply admired his stubborn humanism that made him believe in the heroism of ordinary people to resist tyranny.

Mangala must be remembered for his courageous stand against ‘militarism’ that marked him as a globally acclaimed opponent of autocratic governance.

What is militarism? The classic definition is offered by Karl Liebknecht the German Socialist who paid the ultimate price early in the Nazi onslaught on the German democracy. Militarism is the upholding of a social order relying entirely on the states’ monopoly of violence’. Of course, Liebknecht interpreted social order as that which relied on pure simple naked capitalism.

Militarism is an attitude. It is a strong belief that best outcomes are best arrived at by coercion. What appears to us as ‘khakied brutality’ is a social norm to the Militarist mindset.

Take the case of the masked black uniformed combat riders who were prevented by the police from intimidating the protestors near Parliament. The Field Marshal did not approve of their presence but admonished the police for being tough on the troopers.’

Fonny’ now in opposition is our John Wayne – the tall tough guy on our side. This incident demonstrated that Miltarism is a state of mind. We foster it at our peril.

Mangala Samaraweera is a man who earned bipartisan respect for his uncompromising value judgements in moral behavior.

His public conversation after he gave up parliamentary politics was with young people who are now part of the Gotagogama. Mangala would have been a happy comrade to the young in this port of intellectual curiosity and exploration amidst the storm sweeping the land caused by pure political chicanery.

In the preface to his play “Major Barbara” George Bernard Shaw captures the essence of the dilemma we are grappling with watching the young at ‘Gotagogama’.

“Every reasonable man and woman is a potential scoundrel and a potential good citizen. What a man is depends upon his character what’s inside. What he does and what we think of what he does depends on upon his circumstances.”

Each of us has the capacity to do either good or evil. In each of us there is an inner hero who when provoked into action is capable of performing heroic deeds that do tremendous good to others.

I wouldn’t describe Mangala as an idealist. He was too pissed off with the system. He just wanted to change it.

A fashion designer by profession he took to politics. In his new vocation he attempted to refashion the future.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Dear Sarath
    A fitting tribute to a scholar and gentleman. A very rare breed in Lankan politics.
    We miss him dearly
    Let his sprit of fairness and goodness live for ever

  • 4
    0

    A well written tribute of a politician graduated as a fashion designer. The author makes it clear where he admires and disagrees with the late politician. I remember, in spite of COVID restrictions of movements and funerals the dignitaries simply standing outside the cemetery premises near the crematorium in the rain bore testimony to what he was. The choking tribute Dr. Harsha de Silva made at that time should be in the video archives in the web. It is a law of nature that a man is well remembered only in his death.

  • 8
    3

    1 of 3…
    Sarath, I strongly disagree with you on Mangala. To me, Mangala was THE MAJOR factor why we are in this horrible mess now. He made major historical mistakes which entirely changed the fate of Sri Lanka to the hell hole it is today. These are main three events:
    1. Mangala played the lead role to topple the UNP government in 2003 influencing CBK to acquire major ministerial roles from a well-run government. Ranil was not a low life like now but a clean and very good politician and a finance manager then. SL for the first-time recorded a minus GDP growth in 1999/00 and recession in 2001 under CBK government’s terrible finance mismanagement and corruption. Ranil turned it to a positive mark by 2002 and also increased foreign reserves. Most significant event was signing the ceasefire pact with LTTE, effectively disbanding its terrorism side in front of the international community. There was a huge support for this pact from the west and India and VP was at the verge of collapse, govt not spending a single bullet! Mangala ruined it all!! If that government was left to continue, Ranil would certainly become the President in 2005 and the country would be a far better, prosperous one.

  • 7
    1

    2 of 3..
    2. Mangala was also the main influencer to appoint Mahinda as the PM in 2004 at a time Mahinda was NOT a powerful political figure! There were few other more prominent and also popular figures such as Kadir, Ratwatte, GL (he was not a low life like now!). President CBK did not want Mahinda as the PM but Kadir. Mangala vehemently opposed that and used his tight hand status to CBK to influence her to give MR the PM position.

    3. AND then Mangala seriously campaigned for Mahinda to be the party’s candidate for the Presidency. Mangala was also behind the ransom paid to LTTE during the 2005 Presidential election which was really in favour of Ranil W. That ransom prevented the peace-loving Tamils in the North and East to vote according to their conscience which would definitely have resulted this world class rogue NOT elected as the president of the country!

    • 1
      0

      Hello Jit,
      The impression many have is that Kadirgamar was not made the PM because some Buddhist monks influenced CBK.
      Kadirgamar would have been the best choice but what happens in politics is not based on merit!
      Mangala’s role (Mangala was relatively young then!) is something many people don’t know.
      Only CBK knows!!

      • 7
        2

        Sunil, CBK was the last President on earth to listen to Buddhist monks!!! She always dejected racism and racist monks. Kadir was her fav but Mangala scored more fav status in her books. So she listened to him.
        It was Mangala who did the contract for MR because at that time Mangala was strong anti-UNP and feared if anyone but Mahinda was the candidate, they will lose to Ranil.
        That was despite MR robbing 480m out of Tsunami funds!!
        Mangala should have known better!!
        But he was absolutely blind….utter myopic!!

        • 3
          0

          Dear Jit,
          .
          You are spot on as always.
          You added all what I wanted to say. If Mangala would have been with us today – his close ties with Samantha power could do lot more in terms of rapid financial support, not leaving the nation in a lurch.
          .
          https://colombogazette.com/2021/08/24/samantha-power-describes-mangala-as-a-patriot/

          Mangala was branded as – anti sinhala buddhists – but today, it is becoming clear, Mangala or the like are real patriots while Rajapakshe BPs are the mlechcha men who fished on muddy waters, knowing that whole lot of people in this country have been suffering a lot from that day on.

          To be Contd.

          • 1
            0

            LM, thanks, but you know Mangala was never a conventional patriot and always had his own way of doing patriotic things just because of the wider exposure due to his overseas education. However, when it came to good governance, he only got his wisdom in his later years only!

        • 1
          0

          Thanks Jit!

          • 2
            0

            Jit, CBK should have known better too!
            She publicly acknowledged that selecting MR is the decision that she regrets most!

            • 2
              0

              Absolutely agree! She should have a backbone to reject Mahinda, just for the Tsunami fund heist alone. But she succumbed to popular politics and her friend MS’s demanda. Besides, scumbags like Sarath Silva was there to defend another scumbag like Mahinda, ironically both scumbags appointed by CBK. I watched her latest YT interview yesterday, she was saying how clean she and her government were and I could not stop clenching my teeth to an extent that I’m sure I need to see my Dentist tomorrow!!!!

      • 2
        0

        Dear SA,

        I am in full agreement with you.
        .
        “Kadirgamar would have been the best choice but what happens in politics is not based on merit!
        Mangala’s role (Mangala was relatively young then!) is something many people don’t know.”.
        .
        There is a big mistake in current leadership, not being able to communicate with powerful nations as had been done by late gentlemen – Mr. Kadir and Mr Samaraweera.

    • 1
      1

      Jit,
      “Ranil was not a low life like now but a clean and very good politician”
      Exactly. Similarly, Mangala was a “low life”, but changed with age.
      He never, at his worst, was as evil as the Rajapaksas, He was always more educated and cultured than the vast majority of politicians. This is a very candid video of the man:
      https://youtu.be/B3i28xepTKI

      • 3
        0

        OC, I agree Mangala was much more refined than those cattle thieves from Madamukalana with no culture whatsoever!

        True, Mangala was a Thomain, Royalist, UK educated……oh..what else??
        Did it help him…??
        It is long foregone for me that nothing matters……..only GREED matters!!
        Not the school, not the pedigree, not the parents….not the upbringing……..
        Everything can get lost when greed overtakes………..
        P.S: Greed is not just the greed for money.

  • 6
    3

    3 of 3…
    In short, if there was not a character called Mangala Samaraweera in our political history, Sri Lanka would be a much prosperous country today!!
    Apart from those major blunders which changed the cause of Sri Lanka, there were numerous other politically myopic things and blunders he did right throughout his ministerial positions. He got his political maturity only towards the later years of his life such as his role in the Yahapalanaya period. And his final days where he became VERY remorseful of what he did to the country and gave up all dirty politics while trying to empower the youth of the country to take over and move on.
    That was the best of him BUT you were very, very late Mangala!!

  • 8
    1

    I don’t want to say anything bad about a dead person, especially a person like Mangala who as people commonly say was better than most politicians today. I don’t know whether Mangala was scrupulously honest. I don’t know what his income sources were, and what his life style was.The situation now is so bad that a small time crook is praised by us because all the rest are big time crooks.( he had no family so needed only enough for an indulgent lifestyle for himself)

    Mangala has not written anything on any serious subject so we don’t know what his vision for the country was or how he intended to get there. Many people talk about liberal values but don’t live them.

    I observe he has been a cabinet Minister in Chandrika government, was in charge of her propaganda ( where he attacked UNP leaders ruthlessly, even unfairly) was campaign manager for Mahinda in 2005, was in Mahinda’s cabinet and later was in Ranil’s cabinet.

    When some woman embarrassed Muslim Minister Hakeem in parliament claiming he fathered her child, we don’t know who was behind that slander. We also don’t know who attacked violently the rebel UNP youth who were protesting against Ranil(now Mangala was with Ranil) in Matara.

    • 4
      1

      Just don’t be lame Deepthi, have a back bone to call a spade a spade!!
      Mangala was behind most of the scandals and mud slinging campaigns against the UNP. He was the one who coined the ‘Mr Bean’ pseudo on Ranil. He was behind Hakim’s illegitimate child saga slander too!! Mangala was behind the infamous attack on Rookantha/Chandralekha, just because they supported Ranil. Mangala was behind the burning down of Anoja Weerasinha’s Moneragala house, just because she supported Ranil!! . Mangala was behind Rohana Kumara assassination – courtesy Baddagane Sanjeewa!! The list is so long….so I stop here but re-iterate, Mangala is one major factor for the huge mess we are in today!!

  • 5
    0

    Jit I was somewhat soft ( lame ?) on Mangala only because he is dead and cannot defend himself. Beside although we may suspect he was behind these things ,nothing has been proved in a court of law.

    Obviously you and I have different standards

    • 3
      0

      Deepthy, I don’t care whether these stupid politicians are dead or alive.
      I do not respect any dead politicians if they helped absolutely corrupt politicians to come to power and ruin the country…!! the evidences are plainly clear…look at where we are now…!!

      “……….only because he is dead and cannot defend himself….”
      We don’t do that for Hitler….do we??

      Why not for any other politician who absolutely erred and put a nation in utter turmoil just because of their stupid ideologies…not country first???

    • 2
      1

      DS,
      Congratulations. You didn’t point out that Mangala was gay. Is that because he’s dead?

  • 1
    0

    Ah! ……. Sarath,

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder! ………… cause ………. …”the heart is an organ of fire.” — Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient :))

    • 3
      0

      Jit is spot on …….. that’s exactly what happened …….. we were all there! Are we adult enough to accept reality …… or for emotional reasons do we have to go around manufacturing our own reality?

      Do we judge people from our hearts ………. or from their deeds ……. and from the reality of what actually transpired?

      Mangala was good at playing to the heartstrings of the Colombo dilettantes …… (thanks Sinhala_Man, your first tuition class is a roaring success!)

      When it suited him, Mangala could create the right aura to out dilettante the dilettantes.

      Like all great political-actors, he could talk from both ends.

      • 2
        0

        continued


        “But to get a more accurate picture of his character, or rather one which conforms more closely to his author’s intentions, you must ask yourself in what way Meursault doesn’t play the game. The answer is simple: he refuses to lie. Lying is not saying what isn’t true. It is also, in fact, especially saying more than is true and, in case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. We all do it, every day, to make life simpler. But, contrary to appearances, Meursault doesn’t want to make life simpler. He says what he is, he refuses to hide his feelings and society immediately feels threatened.” — Albert Camus: Preface to the American University Edition of The Outsider, January 1955


        “Lying is not saying what isn’t true. It is also, in fact, especially saying more than is true and, in case of the human heart, saying more than one feels.” …….. All those gals to whom Old Codger professed undying love ……… now ye know the truth …… please come my way …….

        I’ll be true ……. Oh Boy!

    • 2
      0

      Nimal, how nice! Out of all the million quotes I’ve read in my life, that is one of the two I cherish forever!
      “Heart is an organ of fire” the way Hana recites it to Almasy is amazing….!!
      The other one is from Socrates….. “True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing….”

  • 0
    0

    Mangala – A Man Sorely Missed
    ————-
    Is he even dead to begin with?
    Freemasons love to fake their deaths.

  • 4
    0

    Old codger , was Mangala too a gay ? I did not know that. What intimate knowledge you have of these things ! I am impressed !

    I thought in the intimate Ranil circle only Sagala, Malik, Akila, Arjuna Mahendran and Dinesh W and Paskaralingam shared the deepest secrets.

    You have been left out !

    I was very impressed when unelected Ranil said he was talking to the IMF, India, China , World Bank to solve our burning problem. ( CNBC interview) . Yesterday he spoke of short term and Mid-term loans using acronyms. Yes a lawyer talking banking jargon !Sounds empty I know.

    Ranil also mentioned some names of IMF officials . As usual another conman job. You would have though he was vey friendly with these IMF guys and they would give us money if Ranil speaks to them !

    Yes just like that Bank of Ceylon manager who stands up when a Wickramasinghe ( or a Rajapaksa) telephones ! You might think IMF also gives money on friendship basis and they have no policies ! I also heard that IMF fellows are very impressed with Ranil’s English ( especially his impressive voice and perfect pronunciation !) and also his Western suits tailored in London !

    Keep up with your worshipful posture, Gays find easy entry with that bent posture !

    • 1
      0

      DS,
      “was Mangala too a gay ? I did not know that.”
      If you didn’t know that, you haven’t been reading newspapers for the last 20 years. It explains a lot about you.

  • 1
    0

    Codger, I thought you said not to believe what is in our newspapers !

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