Cometh the hour, cometh the man

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President Mahinda Rajapaksa

“Touched by worldly vicissitudes, if one’s mind remains unshaken – this is the highest blessing.”

– Mangala Sutta

The generally prevalent attitude in this season is to offer our cordial best wishes to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to mark his birthday and the anniversary of his assumption of office as President of Sri Lanka. But to my mind, this routine ritual of felicitations is a gross oversight of the complex layer of events and occurrences for which President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be offered profound best wishes.

For over three decades, we had been in the devastating throes of the word’s most hideous terrorism. In a way, the life of our land was in abeyance. The innocent peace-loving men and women in our land were reduced to exasperating depths of suffering. It is not an exaggeration to say that the people of our country were even frightened to breathe.

Tarnished efforts

Upholding the wisdom enshrined in the adage ‘Cometh the moment, cometh the man’, a hero appeared to Sri Lanka. With a superhuman determination, he eradicated the threat and enacted the rebirth of a nation, as a land where freedom reigns supreme.

In the slip-stream of this achievement, pessimists and naysayers both here and abroad made a concentrated effort to tarnish the image of President Rajapaksa. They resented, perhaps, his championing of the cause of human freedom and his unswerving commitment to stop this harrowing carnage.

Undeterred, the President held on.

It is this process that enables him to celebrate his birthday as the leader of a global organization, made up of 53 member states. Delivering his inaugural address at the 23rd session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, he concluded his presentation with a timeless quotation from the Buddha:

“Do not find fault with others. Never trouble yourself about what others say or do. Instead look within yourself to find out what you yourself have done or left undone.”

Personal philosophy

When linked to his birthday, this nugget of spiritual wisdom seems very much like the personal philosophy that guides his life’s activities.

Born 68 years ago in Ruhuna, he was named Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa. Though on the verge of the ultra-mature biblical age span of three-scare-years-and-ten, the indigenous lifestyle of his early formative years remains deeply etched in his psyche. This has enabled him to be in tune with the rhythms and frequencies of the mass-way of life.

In addition, the stable values of childhood, sometime to enrich his inner-being endowing upon it a perpetual freshness.

The liberality of life-style, he acquire in his early days, enabled him to lead an eco-friendly way of existence. The stretches of a paddy-land extending far, the forests, glades, rivers and streams of the rural landscapes, formed an intimate environment that constantly enriched his profound love of nature.

The traditions of rural leadership, he inherited from his ancestors, built within him an urge to be concerned with mass welfare. This evolved into a political professionalism, which was eventually to lead him to the apex of governance.

He began his political career as the youngest member of the House of Representatives, way back in 1970. The neophyte member, who was just 24, was assigned the task of proposing the vote of thanks to the throne speech.

The words, he selected to offer thanks, indicate even today the deep-seated feeling he had towards the underprivileged masses of his poverty-afflicted dry-zone. The young member spoke memorable words:

“Honorable Speaker! Majority of the peasants in the Beliatha Electorate earn their precarious living through burn and slash (chena) cultivation Ruhuna is especially reputed for red-millet (Kurahan). The then member of the House of Representative for Hambantota late Mr D M Rajapaksa, known as ‘the Lion of Ruhuna’, selected the colour of red-millet for his shawl. Therefore, please give these peasants who cultivate this harsh grain to earn their livelihood. They will be eternally grateful to this state for this.”

He was a populist statesman in the making even at the time.

When we celebrate his 68th birthday, he is known by a massive consensus as a global champion of human rights everywhere. We wish him all the success he deserves and all the human support he requires to continue his admirable dedication to strengthen human liberty.

(The writer is the Chief Incumbent of Navitasam Joso Monastery in Japan. He is the founder of the Children’s Organisation ‘Daham Sevene Singitto’ and the International Development Foundation).

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