By Sharmini Nagahawatte Serasinghe
It took Mangala Samaraweera to stare death in the face, for many to realise what the nation was about to lose.
Mangala has quit parliamentary politics for good, and nothing and no one can make him change his mind. Hence there is no necessity for any politician, be they in Government, Opposition or any other political party to feel threatened by him.
When I last spoke to Mangala, shortly before he came down with the Delta variant of COVID -19, despite receiving both Pfizer vaccines, I asked him if he would consider contesting the next Presidential election. He looked me directly in the eye and said firmly, “NO”!
After nagging him and trying to make him feel guilty about being selfish and not thinking about the nation, hoping I could emotionally blackmail him into changing his mind, he looked exasperated and said “We’ll see”, and quickly changed the topic. “We’ll see” was Mangala’s diplomatic way of asking me to shut up. Mangala and I have much in common. We are both stubborn as hell. Once we make up our minds, nothing, and no one can change our minds. Period!
As an only child, I regard Mangala as my brother from another mother. I want my brother alive. Not a dead politician. Hence, I will be the last person to twist his arm into returning to active politics. Now on the mend from nearly dying of COVID pneumonia, it’s going to take him a long time – probably a year or more – to heal completely. He needs to rest and that’s going to be a tough challenge for his caregivers to keep this hyperactive man in one place.
Mangala is far too honest and outspoken for Sri Lankan politics. The majority prefers the avaricious politician with personal agendas, who whip up racism and makes sugar-coated empty promises on political platforms.
For example, Mangala publicly stated he was a homosexual in his inimitable ‘so what about it’ manner. It takes nerves of steel to publicly divulge to a vociferously homophobic majority – most of whom are closet gays themselves – such an aspect of his private life. Heterosexuals couldn’t care less about the sexual preferences of another. One’s sex life is not anybody’s damn business!
Mangala also publicly admitted to having made many mistakes during his 37 years in politics. I don’t recall any other politician admitting to such.
As a non-beef eater, I froze when he publicly stated that he likes to eat beef and enjoys “putting a shot”. I shuddered at the thought of how the Sinhala Buddhist majority would react to this. But, this is Mangala. He says it as it is, and doesn’t give a hoot for the judgmental opinions of the intolerant.
I realised then, that he was dead serious when he said, “NO” to contesting any elections in the future. Hence, he didn’t need to hide under a hypocritical mask and lie to people to win votes.
In my eyes, Mangala is the epitome of integrity, honest to a fault and the last of a dying breed of such men in this country. Such men and women don’t win votes at elections in Sri Lanka!
In 2019, Mangala invited me and a few others for a meeting at his home to talk about his new vision and mission. Mangala adores dogs and he has them in all shapes and sizes. One podgy little fellow decided to sleep on my lap right throughout the meeting. I too love dogs and all animals. They are far superior to most humans.
Mangala’s vision for Sri Lanka surpasses mere parliamentary politics. His vision is to leave behind a country for our future generations, who will not curse us for passing down an utter mess for them to deal with. As Mangala said, “It’s going to be a long and arduous journey, but someone has to start it at some point”. So, Mangala took it upon himself to start the process.
I joined hands with him – together with a few others who believed and were convinced by his vision – as a core member of True Patriots. We too stand for what Mangala upholds; to guide the misguided youth of our country, most of whom, who have been brainwashed and morphed into racists, bigots, homophobes, extremists, pseudo patriots, intolerant of the Other, etc.
True Patriots is NOT a political party with intentions of contesting any parliamentary or any other election. We are committed to uphold the values of Radical Centrism aka Radical Middle. The “Middle Path” as per the Buddha Dhamma; neutral, upright, and centered.
We are Radical in calling for fundamental reforms, while Centrism refers to a belief that genuine solutions require realism and pragmatism, not just idealism and emotion. One Radical Centrist defined Radical Centrism as “idealism without illusions”, a phrase originally from John F. Kennedy.
We True Patriots are Radical in the sense that we recognise pressing societal issues that need to be addressed viz. upholding Democracy in all its aspects, Reconciliation and Equality amongst all Ethnic Groups and Religions, vociferously denounce Racism, Hate Speech, Ethnic and Religious Extremism, uphold Human Rights of all our citizens, return the Rule of Law to its rightful place, ensure an Independent Judiciary, address Corruption, Waste and Mismanagement, Drug Abuse, Equality of Opportunity for all, a strong Social Safety Net to protect the Weak, the Elderly and all those Less Fortunate, restructure our Education System, the English language to be made the Medium of Instruction, strengthen and modernise the existing Free Health Service, aggressively address issues destroying our Environment, Child Labour, Pedophilia, Animal Cruelty, legally recognising the LGBTQ community, etc.
These are all issues that require bold action which we the Radical Centrists of True Patriots have taken on.
Our mission is to engage and empower the youth of this country to rebuild our sociopolitical nation, now lying in tatters.
Given that we are not a political party, we will have to work together with Governments, political parties and Civil Society. If they are willing to engage in our mission to realise our vision is left to be seen. It will be a test of their patriotism!
Our nation desperately needs Mangala at this crucial juncture. For without him, we may not be able to realise his vision for our nation.
There is also no guarantee that we will succeed in our mission, given the dishonest and self-serving nature of the majority of politicians in Parliament, but at least, we can go to our graves with a clear conscience knowing that we tried.
Note: I have added my maiden name Nagahawatte to the By Line as there’s another Sharmini Serasinghe on Social Media who is harassed and abused due to mistaken identity.