The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) mourns the passing away of one of its leaders, Ven. Baddegama Samitha Thera. He died in Matara of Covid-19 illness on Sunday, May 30 at the age of 69. He had his early education in Baddegama, taking to the robes as a teenager, and later at the Universities of Kelaniya (1976), where he was the President of the Student Wing and later Lancaster, United Kingdom, where he fought against apartheid.
He was a student leader with a militant history. He joined the LSSP in 1994. In 1997, he was elected a member of the Southern Provincial Council and led the party in the Southern province. In 2001, he created history by becoming the first Bhikshu to be elected to Parliament. He campaigned on behalf of the people specially when they were being exploited by officials and politicians. He espoused the politics of the LSSP with vigour, making full use of his oratorical skills, and gained a reputation for making skillful arguments, LSSP leader Professor Tissa Vitarana said in a condolence message.
Ven. Baddegama Samitha was soon elected to the leading organs of the party, the Central Committee and then the Politbureau, where he played a leading role in decision-making. As an orator and a genial personality who served the people both day and night, he was a popular figure. His political life was marked by his consistent struggle against all types of injustice against the people, specially by officials, employers and all manner of exploiters, like petty traders. He made a name as a fighter for social and political justice, the message said.
He fought against religious and racial prejudice. He established links with leaders of other religions to unite the nation. He fought against Sinhala Buddhist extremism and majoritarianism. As a member of the LSSP, he participated in many conferences both here and abroad where he effectively espoused his positions on behalf of the people and the country, it noted.
After he lost his position in Parliament in 2004, he served as an active member of the Southern Provincial Council. He did much development work and helped the people. He promoted education. Every year, he hired buses and took school children from the South to events in Colombo, like the annual Book Exhibition. He helped cultivators to overcome issues like the fertilizer problem. He helped organize the workers, specially the Tamils, and fought for their rights. He was active on national issues and was one of the first to lead a demonstration, the message further said.
While Ven. Baddegama Samitha preached the Buddha dharma, he always repeated what the Buddha said, that the listener will benefit only if he is not hungry. He therefore carried out a fight to eliminate poverty and achieve social justice all his adult life right to the end by trying to achieve these objectives right to the end as a member of LSSP and along with the political Left, like the CP, and other progressive forces like the SLFP and SLPP, Prof. Vitarana added.
May his Samsara gamana be happy and fruitful. May he attain Nibbana.