In the event therefore, he saved democracy for the nation. Sadly our profession could not save him for the nation. I do not weep for Ven. Sobitha who died in the fullness of honours. Instead I weep for myself and the rest of us. On behalf of my profession, I beg for forgiveness from the nation for failing so dismally to save Venerable Sobitha and I hang down my head in sorrow for shame.
I cannot make myself believe that my best friend (kalyana mithra) in the clergy is no more. I was in bed when the radio announced that Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha had breathed his last in Singapore. For a moment I thought that I must still be asleep and having a nasty dream. Then I recalled a line in my favorite novel The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham: “The dead look so terribly dead when they’re dead”. Yes, this was no mistake. My friend aged only 73 was dead and gone and I at age 82 was still breathing! There is no justice in this world! The average life expectancy at birth in our country is 75 and Ven. Sobitha had not reached even that average.
In a civilized country nobody with the kind of heart trouble that Ven. Sobitha had dies after well-planned elective surgery. Let me come right out and say it upfront: something is rotten with the state of the profession to which I belong, and with Ven. Sobitha’s untimely death, we have hit rock bottom in the delivery of healthcare. As Mark Antony cried in Caesar’s funeral ” O judgment thou art fled to brutish beasts” and medics in our blessed country have lost their reason. The way scientific medicine is practiced by our breathlessly roaming doctors chasing filthy lucre is a travesty of the science and art of medicine. During what proved to be his premature terminal illness Ven. Sobitha was obliged to change the place where he received treatment no less than six times. And finally, he was airlifted to Singapore to die.
Time was when medics in our country who practised their profession unethically were exceptional. In recent years those who practice it ethically have become exceptional. Those with powerful political friends blithely neglect their official duties secure in the knowledge that they will be protected. The powerful politicians don’t really care because when they need medical attention they can fly abroad at state expense accompanied by their favorite doctors. I am afraid that my lament for my venerable friend is degenerating into a lament for my profession.
This is not an obituary or a eulogy. I eulogized my venerable friend in a celebratory essay I wrote for his 70th birthday in 2012. One thing I said there was that nobody spoke our mother-tongue so eloquently, so gracefully and so persuasively as did Ven. Sobitha.
I added that when people misguidedly turn to me for advice on the art of public speaking I simply say to them: study how Ven. Sobitha speaks and make him your model. It was this persuasive power that he brought to bear on the last battle he waged on behalf of our nation. Having convinced himself that the restoration of democracy in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka required nothing less than a change of regime he single-mindedly raised public consciousness until it was peacefully achieved. In the event therefore, he saved democracy for the nation. Sadly our profession could not save him for the nation. I do not weep for Ven. Sobitha who died in the fullness of honours. Instead I weep for myself and the rest of us. On behalf of my profession, I beg for forgiveness from the nation for failing so dismally to save Venerable Sobitha and I hang down my head in sorrow for shame.
– The ISland