By Rajasinghe Bandara –
Our good friend, one-time hero of the University students (during JR Jayewardene regime), former Member of Parliament and former Member of the Southern Provincial Council Venerable Baddegama Samitha Thero passed away last week (30th May). He had been preaching and delivering religious services at several Buddhist temples in Baddegama area in Galle district for many years.
Reverend Samitha became a hero of the university students in late seventies with his leading roles as a student leader and activist against the violence unleashed by JR Jayewardene regime on the university students. He was a student of Kelaniya University when a United National Party (UNP) gang leader Christopher terrified the students who demanded rights of the students such as hostel facilities. As the gang leader had protection from the government, local politicians and the police, he continued to terrify students with pistols and his fellow gangsters even inside the Kelaniya University. But when he attacked the students, inside the library and the canteen, in front of Rev Samitha, that was the last time Christopher could attack students. His fellow students including the girls attacked the gangster and the thugs until they fell and runaway. Since then, Rev Samitha became a hero of the students at every university because the government thugs had been terrifying the students in all universities. But he had to face terrible consequences with arrests, detentions and the death threats.
Fearing his life, he fled the country giving up his university studies. After he moved to Europe, he attended many international seminars through New Lanka Samasamaja Party. During his stay in England, he won a scholarship to study at Lancaster University. After completion of his postgraduate studies, he was awarded a PHD. After completing his degrees, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1988, and became a member of the executive committee of Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
As a politician, Reverend Samitha had been representing the views of the poor and working-class people from his young age. In 1991 he entered mainstream politics through the Nava Sama Samaja Party. In 1997, he was elected as a member of the Southern Provincial Council for the first time and later in 2001 he was elected to the parliament of Sri Lanka and had been a MP since 2001-2004. Samitha Thero was the first ever Buddhist monk entered the Parliament as MP.
Rev Samitha had been immensely popular among the people in Sri Lanka regardless of their ethnicities until his death including the local community because of his commitments and the dedication to ethnic harmony and serving the people. He helped people in the local community in numerous ways. When I came to England for the first time, I did not have friends or relatives in England so I asked him whether he could help me to find a temporary place. He arranged his friend to welcome me at London Heathrow airport and to provide temporary accommodation in his place in Kent.
Thank you for your service for the Nation.
May he attain Nirvana!!!
SJ / June 2, 2021
Thank you very much for this tribute to a very decent huamn being.
That should at least partly help to wipe away the stereotype image of the Buddhist clergy among non-Buddhists.
Sinhala_Man / June 5, 2021
Thanks, SJ, for that brief tribute to a truly wonderful (and for some, controversial) man.
No, he wasn’t really controversial; he was a man given to straight-talking and acting, after thinking clearly. I heard him and came within touching distance only about four years ago – and then I didn’t know it was him, until half an hour later. The irony of it!
I had known of him for a long time. That he was from my father’s village helped fix him in my mind. But after that, I’ve been following his fortunes.
I guess he has to be called a monk, and politician. Never a pious hypocrite. One politician whom we can be proud of!