Mangala Samaraweera would have turned 68 today, and had he not succumbed to Covid-19, I am certain we would have met and raised a cheer for all that is worthy of celebration even in the worst of times.

He left us at a critical moment in our political history. Indeed, critical or not, his presence would have made a difference, for he was endowed not only with rare charisma but tirelessly used his bully pulpit to unite Lankans across ethnic, religious or age barriers, even sacrificing his parliamentary seat without a second thought.

Especially today, five years after the Easter Sunday attacks, with Catholics island-wide still feeling vulnerable from the absence of justice, Mangala would have reached out to honour the lives of those souls who perished in that barbaric assault. He would have had zero patience for any of the political gamesmanship that is denying closure to the 279 mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives who were slain that tragic Easter Sunday morning.

Mangala had no patience for duplicity and double speak, which is why he himself proudly and unashamedly confessed his 'sins' to the electorate, whether they be his fondness for an evening drink or cigar, or his romantic interests. This sense of personal integrity extended to his friends.

Politicians are an untrustworthy breed and don’t have any loyalties to anyone’s interest apart from their own. Mangala was different. He was one of the most kind, loyal, empathetic, and caring friends I could have ever asked for.

I spoke and met him almost every day. He had a good sense of humour and could laugh at himself. We had implicit faith in each other. We talked. We laughed together and at each other. I will never forget him saying, ‘Krisha can you first relax and have a good whiskey before you start your fight with me?’

He was a leader who saw things that others didn’t see. He was bold and had the courage of his convictions, never afraid to stand up for what he believed, whether or not the world appreciated it, and indeed whether or not it was a marginal or minority position that he was espousing.

He was by no means infallible, but the moment he realised he was wrong he owned up to it with humility and confidence. This is perhaps why his combination of class and candour endeared him to world leaders, voters and politicians alike.

In a country and world starved of principled politicians and leaders who care not for self-interest, his absence is felt even more acutely today. He went early. Too early. He left a vast emptiness in our political firmament and, personally, in my life.


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Krishantha Prasad Cooray


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