Monday, November 30, 2015

Uncertain Future, in Politics and Life

First published in January this year, weeks after the Presidential Election 2015, to mark the birthday of Rukshan Abeywansha. Re-posting this here, on his first death anniversary.

I am reminded of a Buddhist story about Arhat Sariputta who was once asked about the outcome of a war that had broken out between two states. He, who had developed his mind to such an extent that he was named the most intelligent of all disciples of Buddha, gave a prediction on what he could see. The prediction turned out to be wrong.

Predicting the future is a risky endeavor. According to Buddhist scriptures, only the Buddha could see the past, present and future with accuracy. Even if we do not accept the story, no one will dispute the fact that future is uncertain to every mortal. Several famous astrologers found out this the hard way by the morning of January 9, 2015, as Sri Lanka learned of the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Election. Fearing for their trade, these people later claimed that they actually saw the future but were afraid of the consequences and decided to lie.

While the future in politics is always uncertain, political decisions can change the course of politics and create the future. The outcome of the election was never a certainty until January 9. However, the decisions of both the government and the opposition leaders paved the way for such an outcome where a seemingly invincible government fell.

Rathana Thera

During the presidential campaign, I remembered a certain day in late May 2014, when there was no discussion whatsoever about a Presidential Election. The News Editor of ‘The Nation’ Deepal Warnakulasuriya, and I went to the Sadaham Sevana at Rajagiriya to interview Athuraliye Rathana Thera on a new endeavor he had started. It was the publication of a national policy statement “Rata Gatha Yuthu Maga” (The Path the country should take) by the “Pivithuru Hetak” organization led by Rathana Thera.

He envisaged a national policy on crucial matters, irrespective of the party that was in power. “When we take the national issues, we must have national policies which don’t change with the regime changes or any other pressures from local or international forces. Not only India, even some western countries do not change their policies on crucial matters when the regime changes,” Rathana Thera told us. He envisaged a national policy council which could take decisions in critical matters irrespective of a change of a regime.

Rathana Thera also spoke about the issues of corruption, environment, agriculture and energy crisis. He was not ready to take executive presidency head-on, adding that one must first tackle issues that all sides can reach a consensus. However, he added that if the government does not agree to the critical changes that need to be done, he would have to think of the next step.

This interview came haunting back to my mind when the presidential election campaign was at a full-swing. “Was this the next step he meant?”


“Pivithuru Hetak” released its policy statement on June 3, 2014. Our colleague, Rukshan Chandika Abeywansha went to the event at BMICH. He was thrilled before the event simply because he saw the potential of a unique event.

Okkoma pakshavala kattiya enava machan, niyama pinthura tikak thiyeyi” he told me. (People from all parties will be there. There will be some unique photos). He did justice to the event, as always. One of his pictures has the then Minister Rajitha Senaratne, then Minister and Jathika Hela Urumaya General Secretary Patali Champika Ranawaka, then United National Party Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and UNP Parliamentarian Harsha de Silva, all smiling. On June 8, ‘The Nation’ carried the picture, with a caption, on page 3. However, this was to be the last news picture of Rukshan we carried. On that same June 8, he met with an accident.

If anyone of us could foretell the future, we would have told him not to go on that journey on that route on that morning. But alas, we are not gifted. We can only remind ourselves of the past, and speculate of the future.

Rukshan may not have then understood the significance of the event he covered. Neither did we. But today, we realize the importance of that event, which may have been a key moment in the ultimate regime change that took place on January 8. But Rukshan is not here with us to see the significance of the event he saw as a wonderful photo opportunity.

Rukshan Chandika Abeywansha, Best Photo Journalist of the Year 2013, would have been 37 this January 30.

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