Will Sobitha Thera of Sri Lanka Emulate Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran?


Upul Joseph Fernando

“A man will rise from God’s land and he will lead the Iranians in the right path.”

This was the gospel of the clergy of Iran when the people queried about a leader to unite the people against their Shah.

When Ayatolla Khomeini rose to unite the people to defeat Shah, people said the prediction of the priests had come true.

Shah was afraid and kept Khomeini under house arrest. He was expelled and harassed in many other ways. But he could not stop Khomeini.


This story was recalled when we were discussing the way the government kept Sobhitha Thera under surveillance.

State Media say that an Indian diplomat and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake have secretly met Sobhitha Thera. Occasionally, the government slings mud at Sobhitha Thera. Why is the government so afraid of him?
He is the only candidate that can unite the TNA, SLMC, JHU and Wimal Weerawansa on one platform. In the same way, he is the sole candidate that can bring the UNP, the JVP, Ranil, Chandrika and Fonseka on one stage.

“The UNP may never be able to field a candidate if JVP picks Sobhitha Thera as their candidate.”

“The JVP cannot field any other candidate if Sobhitha Thera becomes the opposition’s common candidate.”
“Fonseka may not challenge Sobhitha Thera.”

These are the ideas expressed by the people today about the common candidate.

“If Ranil contests the Presidential Election, the JHU and Wimal Weerawansa may say that Mahinda is more patriotic. They may say the same thing if Chandrika comes to the fray. But, they have no reason to say that Mahinda is better than Sobhitha Thera since people may think they love positions than the nation.”

Slinging mud

This is what a patriotic politician said. “The government knows this. That is why the government is slinging mud at Sobhitha Thera,” a representative of the government himself has said.

When Khomeini rose in Iran, the opposition was fighting among each other. There were a number of political parties in Opposition. Khomeini united them all.

“I do not rule the country. I will change the system,” Khomeini said to the Opposition political parties.
“Let us make a new Constitution for Iran. Then you rule the country,” Khomeini said to the Iranian Opposition. The Opposition approved of it in one voice.

“Shah’s rule began to collapse with the attacks against a religious leader like Khomeini. Mahinda’s regime may also see the same fate if they set their hands on Sobhitha Thera,” a strongman of the opposition said.
“The entire religious leadership stood behind Khomeini when he was brought to fight the Shah. The chief prelates may bless Sobhitha Thera as the common candidate,” a person drawing a parallel between Khomeini and Sobhitha Thera said.

Clash with Sangha

“Do you remember, the chief prelates decided to convene a Sangha Congress when Fonseka was arrested? The government threatened to disrupt it. The conflict between the chief prelates and the government began with that. A clash with the chief prelates that have expressed support to Sobhitha Thera may become the dead end of the path for the government,” he further said.

He is correct. The government does not plan to get 50% of the entire voters’ turnout at the next Presidential Election. At this juncture, the government is planning to ignore the minority votes and to get 50% of the 75% of votes.

“The minority vote base may give 25% of their votes to the government. But, when one tries to address the issues of 75% Sinhala Buddhist vote, Sobhitha Thera is stronger than Mahinda.”

This analysis is accurate. Sobhitha Thera does not want political office. He does not want organizers. Each temple around the country can be converted to a political office for Sobhitha Thera. The election campaign may be led under the auspices of the chief incumbent of each temple, with the active engagement of the people’s representatives of the JVP, UNP and Fonseka’s party.

“Will government MPs reject an invitation from the chief incumbent of a village temple to visit the temple?”

The government knows all these.

“There is no other centre like the village temple to mobilize people. In 1956, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike used it to a certain extent. You may recall how the UNP got washed out at that polls,” a veteran SLFP member said.

“But, will the minorities trust Sobhitha Thera?”

It is true that the TNA and the SLMC may set forth conditions to any common candidate. In 2010 Fonseka was defeated due to a pact with the TNA. But the TNA or the SLMC cannot come to such agreements with Sobhitha Thera.

Minority vote

“I am not here to rule the country or to resolve the ethnic conflict. I am here to change the system. There are political parties to rule the country. You can have agreements with them at the general election. You cannot resolve your problems due to this system. You could market your minority votes during the period 1978 to 2005. The Sinhala Buddhist community was helpless. After 2005, under the present system, you became helpless. The Sinhala Buddhists also did not have any success although they elected their President. We all are helpless under this system,” the Thera said.

The TNA and the SLMC have no other option but admit it, if Sobhitha Thera tells them so.

When Khomeini returned from abroad, millions of people rallied at the airport to welcome him.

“What do you think, when you see this massive crowd?” media asked Khomeini.

“Nothing,” Khomeini simply said.

But his answer had deep meaning. He had understood his duty very well. He came not to become a people’s hero or to rule the nation. He was there to change the system. He did it through a new Constitution.

Khomeini fought against American puppet Shah. Sobhitha Thera will have to fight a regime, which is under the influence of China.