Sri Lanka’s former finance minister Mangala Samaraweera passed away Tuesday ( Aug 24) in hospital where he was being treated for Coronavirus, a coordinator for the former minister said.
The 65-year-old Samaraweera contracted the virus earlier this month and was receiving intensive care unit (ICU) treatment at the Lanka Hospital, despite being fully vaccinated.
When unconfirmed reports surfaced last week that Samaraweera passed, sources close to him said he was in fact on the mend and was responding well to treatment.
Samaraweera had held key portfolios in the cabinets of former presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.
An outspoken politician hailing from the Matara district, Samaraweera left parliamentary politics in 2020, focusing his abilities on forming a broader alliance of like-minded, independent liberal thinkers.
Most recently, he made headlines for his remark at the launch of a new movement named True Patriots that the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) are two sides of the same coin.
To the critics of his tenure as minister of finance, Samaraweera said: “Even though I am a textile designer, I was able to bring fiscal discipline in this country as the finance minister for the first time since 1953.”
“I am always proud of two things. The first one is that, through the Sudhu Nelum Mal Movement (a peace movement under President Kumaratunga i the 1990s), I was able to help and reconstruct the Jaffna library and hand it over to the people. I am also proud of privatising Sri Lanka’s telecom sector. Before 1997, everybody had to wait 10-12 years to get a telephone line,” he said at what would be his final press conference.
Samaraweera was also known for being a staunch defender of minority rights and a vocal proponent of liberal democracy. He often courted controversy, being one of a handful of Sri Lankan politicians to openly challenge cultural norms and their self-appointed purveyors.