25 May, 2024


Mangala Never, Ever Gave Up, And Neither Can We

By Samantha Power

Mangala Samaraweera was a remarkable public servant and one of the most remarkable individuals I have ever known. He was also a courageous leader, who dedicated his life to pursuing his vision for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual Sri Lanka that would, as he described it, “guarantee equal rights, justice and dignity for all.”

Samantha and Mangala

I was devastated by Mangala’s passing and these days find myself craving his wise counsel, irrepressible mischief, and rare gift for friendship. I also miss knowing that Mangala is out there hustling, refusing ever to give up on the idea that people could change for the better, that his country could realize his ideals, and that the world’s nations could think—and act—beyond their immediate self-interest.

The son of an open-hearted, trailblazing mother and a pioneering human rights lawyer father, the seeds of Mangala’s immense impact began, as he witnessed the brutality of Sri Lanka’s civil war, with a simple thought: “Maybe I can make a difference…”

As Mangala would later recall, when he got involved in organizing and politics in the late 1980s, “I dreamt mostly of peace where all Sri Lankans—irrespective of their caste, class, race or religion—could live in harmony and dignity.”

With this desire as his guiding light, Mangala would embark on over thirty years of service to his country, while using his growing influence to try to make this foundational dream a reality. While he took on a number of different roles throughout his career, Mangala was always trying to ensure that Sri Lankans were not only surviving daily life, but able to build lives of dignity. When I had the opportunity to visit Colombo in 2019 to celebrate Mangala’s legacy of public service, this was the word I heard over and over when I spoke to colleagues and peers about what they felt most defined Mangala: “Dignity, dignity, dignity.”

From helping launch the renowned Mothers’ Front to spearheading the creation of the Office of Missing Persons, helping secure passage of a law to provide for reparations for war victims and survivors, and orchestrating the forgiveness of loans taken out by desperate families after the war, the pursuit and promotion of individual dignity was perhaps the animating principle in Mangala’s career. But the best measure of Mangala’s regard for the dignity of those who lost their loved ones or their livelihoods was that he knew none of this was nearly enough.

Mangala once described true reconciliation as “a journey that requires constant striving.” He recognized that building a more inclusive society was a generational challenge that demanded sustained efforts and a willingness not to be deterred by the many visible obstacles that stood in the way. An indefatigable reformer and insistent modernizer, Mangala never wavered in his belief that democracy and strengthened institutions were the necessary foundations for achieving the change he hoped to see in Sri Lanka. This commitment earned him not just widespread recognition, but widespread respect—even from political rivals and those who disagreed with various decisions he made over time. Through it all, not even his political opponents could deny how much Mangala loved Sri Lanka and its people.

I experienced Mangala’s devotion to Sri Lanka not only in my many conversations with him when he described, with a poet’s precision, the country’s stunning scenic beauty—from majestic mountains like the Sri Pada to the beaches of Unawatuna, as well as the vibrant celebrations that occurred on Poya days— but also as he incessantly texted me, after I became USAID administrator in April this year, in support of the Rajapaksa government’s effort to secure more COVID-19 vaccines. Watching the pandemic take Sri Lankan lives broke Mangala’s heart, and, even if he had stepped back a bit from public life, he couldn’t let an hour pass without trying to do something to…“make a difference.”

Mangala would be the first to admit that the dream which started his career in public life has yet to be fully realized. But in addition to the progress he helped achieve on numerous fronts, his leadership, integrity, and ceaseless energy are a blueprint for new generations who share his commitment to equality and opposition to injustice. As one Sri Lankan newspaper editorialized after his death, “to keep hope alive for a different future, citizens must demand political leadership that inspires, and dares them to dream of a kinder, more inclusive country. Someone to finish what Mangala started.”

That is our shared mission now. Without Mangala here to steer—and prod—us, we must do all we can to support the next generations following in Mangala’s footsteps as they seek to finish what he started.

Mangala never, ever gave up, and neither can we.

*Samantha Power currently serves in the Biden-Harris Administration as Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. From 2013 to 2017, Power served in the Obama-Biden Administration as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

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  • 6

    Sam Power: Mangala, RIP, died after taking 2 Pfizer vaccines, which were supposed to help him live.!
    The IMF recently lent $100 million to the US citizen Basil and Goat Rajapakse family run US colony called Sri Lanka, to buy Pfizer vaccines, although the Sri Lanka is one of the most vaccinated countries on the plane! Why?. IMF and the Washington Consensus is subsidizing corrupt Pfizer which made USD 45 billion profit in the first quarter of 2021!
    The bankrupt US Government has printed USD 9 trillion in the past 2 year of Covid-19 bailout hoax. So too the EU has printed billions for Covid-19 bailouts!
    The entire global financial system is a ponzy scheme with Central Banks money printing. That is why El Slavador has made Bitcoin official. The US Dollar will crash soon as it is worth nothing but the US uses its Global Reserve currency status to print trillions for so-called Covid-19 “Bailouts” Much of this printed money has gone to hedge funds like Black Rock to asset strip around the world in poor countries in the GLobal SOuth whose economies were crashed by the Covid-19 narrative.Black Rock funds Adani and Ambani too to asset strip. But Modi finally realized the game and backtracked on the 3 farm bills that would benefit Corporate Agribusiness and Adani and their US backers.

    • 5

      Sam Power: Managal believed in equality but do you and the US war machine that is the biggest producer of weapons of destruction and environmental pollutor per capita while preaching Human Rights.
      It is well known that the US weaponizes ethno-religious, gender, LGBTQ identity politics to advance its interests in Asia and Africa as with the so called Arab Spring Colour Revolutions. It is also know that
      ISIS that claimed the Easter Attacks in Sri Lanka was set up by the CIA after the invasion of Iraq on bogus claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction, disbanded Sadaam’s Sunni army and then set up the ISIS to do regime change in Syria and attack Shia Muslims, a majority of whom are Iranian.
      Basil and Goat Rajapaksa, US citizens, are contemporary Don Juan Dharmapalas of Lanka! Today Lanka is a US colony rather than Portugal’s colony..
      Is this why Lanka is flooded with Dangerous mRNA Pfizer vaccines, while the Kerawelapitya power plant is sold to US New Fortress, while Sapugaskanda oil refinary is closed down.

  • 2

    I pity the Honorable Lady. She can never ever master the Singhelese psyche?? Masters at political somersaults.

  • 6

    Apt words for a beautiful soul.

  • 6

    Thanks for the article …….

    “Mangala Never, Ever Gave Up, And Neither Can We”

    Mangala was a stalwart of political expediency ………. he didn’t give up … trying to stop what he himself help start? …… he didn’t have to “never give up” if he didn’t help bring the Rajapakses to power.

    There is so much harm and destruction caused by people’s short-sighted selfishness/self-interest ……… there is no time to waste dabbling in rose-tinted romanticism …… gotta evaluate people with utter brutal honesty ……..

    What Mangal had was a talent for nice words ….. to utter words of love to people punch drunk on do-good romantics ……..

    People of deeds require little words …….. he played the political horse-trade as deftly as or better than most …………

    Granted, unlike most Lankans, he had a rusted and broken-down moral-compass …….. that gave him a hazy concept of right …… and wrong ………….

    • 2

      Granted, unlike most Lankans, he had a rusted and broken-down moral-compass …….. that gave him a hazy concept of right …… and wrong …………. when it suited him ……….

  • 1

    Facts are stranger than fiction.

    Extremely few Sri Lankans miss Mangala.

    Mangala’s dream died with him.

    A more practical solution for the island would be to split the island into 3 mono ethnic nations and relocate people. Each nation will prosper and be peaceful.

  • 1

    Mangala’s (RIP) last effort to reverse his political path is an exemplary one. But he fails to list his collusion and frauds, in specific terms, in order for others to understand better and correct the cause of action.

    I can remember when he was the finance minister, when the public interest group asked the details of action government spending in order to compare them with the budget, he too refused to provide such information and I think this is one of the great political frauds he committed and every Finance Minister of the past and present of Sri Lanka commits this fraud till to date.

  • 2

    A guy who betrayed Sri Lanka by co-sponsoring UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka admitting that the members of Sri Lanka Armed Forces committed war crimes and an investigation should be carried out by foreign judges. Co-sponsoring was done without the approval of the President and the Parliament which means violating the Constitution of the country in order to please Tamil Diaspora and his masters in the West.

    • 1

      “A guy who betrayed Sri Lanka by co-sponsoring UNHRC Resolution against Sri ..”
      What would you call someone who ran away to Canada as a refugee and wants to advise those who stayed behind? A coward, or traitor, or both ?At least Mangala didn’t run away.

  • 0

    A fitting tribute to a Politician who had decency in Public life.

    But, alas Mangala had just one great blunder to his credit…..
    He could not fathom the Rajapakses and campaigned like hell on their behalf in 2015.

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