Sangakkara’s Ecumenical Farewell at the Oval … in contrast with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Shortcomings

Do take time off to watch and listen to this meaningful moment at the P Sara Stadium or Colombo Oval where Sri Lanka’s first Test Match had been played in the 1980s. It was serendipitous that the other cricket team surrounding Sangakkara’s farewell moment was from India. Sri Lanka had been peopled way back in the first millennium BC (if not earlier) by migrants from the Indian subcontinent. Its foundational culture was of varied Indian origins and its principal religions are rooted in the Indian dispensation …. …. AND …

Sanga farewell AFP Pic from AFP Sanga family Yehali, Kumari, Kumar & Kshema Sangakkara, with the young ones –Pic from AFP

The religion of the majority in Sri Lanka for centuries has been Buddhism, itself introduced to the island by missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Asoka, during the phase when he had turned back away from a conquering warrior to become a civilisational missionary reaching out to others via ideas. It is no accident therefore that in previous essays I have referred to Kumar Sangakkara’ “ecumenical Lankan nationalism” and his Asokan cast – being informed in this metaphorical description by the (a) content of his Cowdrey Lecture in July 2011 and (b) the meaningfulness of the visit paid to St. Patrick’s College Jaffna by both Yehali and Kumar immediately after the 2011 World Cup in Sri Lanka.**

These ecumenical and pluralistic threads feature once again in the content of Kumar’s moving farewell speech on a cricket field, one which embraced his parents and relatives, his friends, his fans, his fellow Sri Lankan cricketers  and, last but not least, the Indian cricketing personnel. Amen.

** It is a pity that similar ecumenical threads did not feature as powerfully within both the ground level and symbolic dimensions of the Rajapaksa administration from 2009 onwards — after they had resisted Western pressures in admirable manner to bring Eelam War to a successful end. Thus one of the President’s victory speeches sustained the Sinhala chauvinistic tendency to equate the Sinhala part with the Sri Lankan whole — as indicated in the manner in which he spoke (unthinkingly?) of the “sinha kodiya” and “jaatika kodiya” as one and the same…. Also see


Roberts, Michael 2009a “Sinhala Mindset,” 9 Dec. 2009,

Roberts, Michael 2010 “Challenges Today: Weevils in the Mind,” 22 May 2010,

Roberts, Michael 2011 “The Vocabulary of ‘nation’ in English in the Early Modern Period,” 10 July 2011,

Roberts, Michael 2011 “Mixed Messages and Bland Oversimplification in President Rajapaksa’s Independence Day Speech,” 11 February 2013,

Roberts, Michael 2012 “Mahinda Rajapaksa: Cakravarti Imagery and Populist Processes,” 28 January 2012

Samarajiva, Indi 2012 “The Flag Debate,”

Wickremasinghe, Nira 2009 “After the War: A New Patriotism n Sri Lanka?” Journal of Asian Studies, 2009, 6: 1045-54.

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One response to “Sangakkara’s Ecumenical Farewell at the Oval … in contrast with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Shortcomings

  1. Pingback: Kumar Sangakkara’s Reconciliatory Outreach across the Ethnic Divide: A Bibliography | Thuppahi's Blog

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