Sri Lanka mourns passing away of monk who fought for freedom

ECONONYNEXT – Venerabe Maduluwe Sobitha Thero, a senior activist monk who had raised a voice against authoritative executive Presidents including Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranasinghe Premadasa passed away in Singapore and his funeral will take place on Thursday.

The Government has declared a day of national mourning on November 12.

He passed away after being treated at Mount Elizabeth Hospital Singapore, after undergoing heart surgery at a private hospital in Colombo, media reports said.

His headed a civil society movement against the nepotism and corruption of the ousted Rajapaksa regime, at a time when the leadership of the main opposition United National Party was silent, and helped bring President Maithripala Sirisena to power.

Nalaka Gunewardena, a science writer who is active in social media to promote civil liberties said it was not the first time the monk had stood up against authoritarian regimes.

During the Rajapaksa regime Sobitha Thero’s temple, the Naga Vihara in Kotte, was surrounded by state intelligence, he wrote in GrounViews.org, a web portal.

"It wasn’t the temple’s first such experience either: a quarter century earlier, an equally insecure President Premadasa also had the place surrounded by police and intelligence officers to figure out what a political storm this saffron-robed ‘trouble-maker’ was cooking up," he recalled.

Instead of simply changing regimes, he also called for the restraint of the state by changing the constitution to increase people’s freedoms. He wanted the constitution to be changed to set up independent commissions but the proposal was watered down by nationalists in parliament.

President Maithripala Sirisena said the Thero won the hearts of all Sri Lankan and was respected not only by the Bhuddists but by other religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka as well.

Condolences also poured in from foreign countries. (Colombo/Nov09/2015)

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