There are many who sincerely enjoy winning the hearts and minds of the people and there are also some who care two hoots for hurting the feelings of the very same people.
Nelson Mandela said "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination".
In this connection, I recall joining a team, in my late teens, promoting teaching of Sinhala language also in Muslim schools.
The prominent members of the team, then, were Ven. Devamottawe Amarawansa Thera, K.M.P. Rajaratne and Alavi Moulana, who was then in his prime youth.
We embarked on an inaugural campaign mission to Negombo, to a Muslim school where only Tamil was taught.
The venue was already prepared by a group in support of our campaign to include Sinhala too.
However, there was also some oppositions to our move.
As we approached the venue, from a distance we noted that there were people with black arm bands and black flags.
As we all entered the school there was a strong agitation to disrupt the meeting. We all reached the stage with great difficulty to face continued hooting.
Young Alavi Moulana was adamant that we should convince the crowd of the benefit by including the teaching of Sinhala too.
Having part of the crowd becoming really unruly, Moulana stretched himself on the stage in the form of a ‘satyagraha’.
As per the list of speakers Ven. Devamottawe Amarawansa Thera was scheduled to speak last, to sum-up things.
However, I added my 'two-cent worth' of advice by convincing the organizers to reverse the order and allow Ven. Thera to make the opening speech.
The amazing speech he made then still rings in my ears. As usual he carried the traditional fan held tight to his chest and he started his speech in his normally respectable manner – there was no pointing of finger or any threatening language.
Believe me, all those who opposed us there, instantly, started removing their black bands one by one and dumping their black flags in the nearest dustbins.
Amazingly the nasty jeers turned into loud cheers!
Moulana stood up and gave the Ven. Thero the respect which he richly deserved.
During his speech the Ven. Thero quoted few important things from the saying of the Prophet of Islam, which, in fact, even some of those protesters did not know, before.
The Ven. Thero was a person warmly welcomed and respected by every community for his exemplary behavior and polished language, he always used. He supported his arguments with absolute truth as per Lord Buddha’s saying; “Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon, and the truth”, therefore he always relied on the truth.
I had an opportunity of having a long chat with Governor Alavi Moulana, when I was in Colombo last and I reminded him of this Negombo incident.
He too recalled all that took place with his vivid memory and had a high word of praise for the Ven. Thera.
Lastly, by reminding Martin Luther King’s brainy quote I wind up the narration of this memorable episode:
King said “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”. May peace and harmony prevail, forever, in our beloved motherland!
– Asian Tribune –