Jagath Sumathipala – An appeal to members of All Ceylon Buddhist Congress ACBC
Posted on January 3rd, 2018

Jagath Sumathipala

Candidate for the Post of President of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC)

Dear Dhamma brothers and sisters

As you are aware, a new Executive Committee for the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) will soon be elected on January 06, 2018 with your vote.  I write to inform you of my well-considered decision to contest for the post of ACBC President. I seek your unqualified support to enable me to serve once again as head of the ACBC for the sustenance and uplift of the Buddha Sasana.  I have made this decision because I believe I will be a great asset to the ACBC in meeting the numerous challenges lying ahead.

I have led the ACBC during difficult times in the past.  I am totally committed to the cause of protection and promotion of Buddhism and fostering the Buddha Sasana. This has always been one of my main objectives in life since childhood.  As a past President of the ACBC, I have demonstrated sincerity and selfless approach, coupled with a proven track record of high achievement and significant universally-recognised contributions to the spread and consolidation of Buddhism. In managing the affairs of the ACBC I have helped in a variety of ways the enhancement of the Buddhist religion and culture, nationally and internationally.

I was privileged to serve as ACBC President for three consecutive terms in the past from (2006 to 2014).  During my tenure, I have delivered exemplary, disciplined and skilful leadership for the ACBC, bringing unprecedented operational stability from its disarrayed past, thus fostering respect, significance and esteemed community perception towards ACBC.  My leadership strategies have successfully and consistently achieved fine balance of economic viability and reputation building of ACBC, which was understandably a challenging and arduous task.  But, most importantly, I have launched and completed numerous initiatives, nationally and internationally, to deliver unparalleled contributions to promote Buddhism and culture through ACBC activities.  Wider Sri Lankan and overseas Buddhist communities, and the ACBC membership have overwhelmingly recognised and endorsed with gratitude my intense personal devotion and the highest priority given to uphold Buddhist values in a society fast changing  with diminishing respect for Sinhala cultural traditions and Buddhist tenets.

Serving the cause of Buddhism and its advancement is an inherent trait in my personal character for I belong to a very strong and conservative Buddhist family.  This disposition was enhanced by the guidance and direction that I have received from my education at Ananda College, the leading Buddhist School in Sri Lanka. Even during school days I developed an enthusiasm to participate in Buddhist social activities. I was actively involved in the school Buddhist Society, which I continued even after leaving school by becoming the President of the Old Anandians’ Buddhist Association.  I am currently the Patron of this Association.

Supported by my established family business background, I have pursued in adulthood my life-long ambition to serve Buddhism.   My association with ACBC commenced when I initially worked alongside my late mother Mrs Milina Sumathipala, who was the ACBC’s First Lady President.  Subsequently, I was elected as ACBC President.  In both these phases, I have made well-regarded and unique contributions to the consolidation of Buddhism of which some milestone achievements/deeds of the highest significance are listed below for purpose of information and reference.

  • I have acted as Chair of ACBC’s Media and Publicity Committee whilst my mother was the President. At that time, ACBC was in a grave financial crisis with highly diminished and negative recognition coming from virtually all sections of the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka.  It needed an immediate and urgent salvaging operation. My entrepreneurial strategies and acumen coupled with foresight, effectively addressed the precarious financial situation the ACBC was in, reversed the decline, and made it into a financially sound institute of high repute.  The public assessment of ACBC was thus elevated to high unprecedented levels, helping sustenance and re-vitalization of Buddhism all over Sri Lanka.  Key underlying evidence of these includes:
  • Revival of Bauddhaloka Sangarawa” (Buddhist Magazine), which has been left neglected for over a decade since its inception by Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera to commemorate the 2500 Buddha Jayanthiya” in 1956”;
  • Organisation of a Devotional Public Walk involving thousands of Buddhists to endorse the society’s need to Build a Religiously-Disciplined (Dharmika) Nation”. Also, this movement acted wisely to rename the Borella roundabout near ACBC to highlight the Sathara Brakma Vivarana; 
  • Production of a badge displaying Buddhist identity for devotees whereby their sense of belonging to the Buddhist faith, spirituality and practice are enhanced and uplifted. With overwhelming support, thousands of these badges have been circulated island-wide promoting public awareness and association with Buddhism;
  • Launching of the Vesak Commemorative programme (Bauddhaloka Vesak) at the ACBC premises for the first time in its history to add significance and mark this sacred Buddhist annual event. Prior to this, ACBC was left in an uncelebrated and trifle state during Vesak, devoid of any marked celebration of the Buddha’s Themagula, with a grim uncared appearance of this highest lay Buddhist office.  Since then, this tradition of lighting has continued and rapidly spread to other regions of Sri Lanka, rejuvenating public interest and enhanced recognition for ACBC’s socio-religious undertakings;
  • Resolving of many legal issues in respect to the rightful ownership of land donated to ACBC by numerous devoted philanthropists, hence freeing ACBC of legal encumbrances and ensuring future financial security (In many of these court cases, our personal funds were used to cover legal expenses, without any expectation of refund or re- imbursement);
  • Launching ACBC sponsorship programme for rebuilding of Tsunami-affected temples. These religious sites in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka were not supported by international charities that were deliberately channelled to rehabilitate lay communities and non-Buddhist places of worship.
  • Since I became the ACBC President after my mother’s term, I continued my implementation programmes and strategies with much vigour and enthusiasm to strengthen ACBC’s status as the highest lay Buddhist Office in the country. I launched initiatives to further improve the disposition, public perception and recognition of ACBC within Sri Lanka and in overseas Buddhist countries.  Unique projects were commenced to rediscover Buddhist archaeological heritage for generating public awareness and national pride.  The key  achievements include:
  • Formulation of a 3-year strategic plan and governance policies for ACBC, allowing transparent and clear operational plan for all ACBC-related activities. Also, a committee was formed to set up action plans to highlight unethical religious conversions and eradicate alleged corruption practices.  A data bank was established to record any incidences of malpractice or injustice caused to the Buddhist community;
  • Launched a Work Plan to rehabilitate regional Buddhist organisations in the country and to strengthen their financial position. These have enhanced participation of rural communities in Buddhist cultural activities i.e. commemorating significant religious events and attendant spiritual development;
  • Launching an unique and ambitious archaeological programme to unearth buried Buddhist heritage. One such example is the excavation of over 2000-Year old Vijayarama Temple Complex in Anuradhapura that provided accommodation for monks to pursue spiritual development.  Similarly, refurbishment was carried out on the 1500-Year old Hennanithenna Temple Complex, thereby adding the name of ACBC to the historical record in Sri Lanka for such a rare deed;
  • Organisation of the Inaugural Buddhist Literature Festival in 2007. Granting Literature Excellence Awards to recognise noted culture-based achievements of Buddhist monks and significant literary works. This Festival has now become a significant annual event of the ACBC. Such an esteemed and learned gathering was not convened in the country before although Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to have had Buddhist scriptures recited and recorded in writing;
  • Re – establishment of the ACBC branch in Jaffna after 30 years to protect and restore Buddhist heritage affected by Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka, and to facilitate the spread of Buddhism among the local Tamil community. This goodwill gesture acts as a bridge of humanity to curb animosities between ethnic groups and nurture racial and religious harmony through Buddhist practices and values;
  • Development of children orphanages and senior citizens’ homes under ACBC management. These schemes care for orphaned children until adulthood whilst providing vocational training, and subsequently sponsoring their marriage, securing steady livelihood for them.  Also, ACBC-funded senior citizen homes offer alternative high-care residence for needy older people in the society, and
  • Establishing new international links and partnerships for ACBC with prominent overseas Buddhist organisations, and restoring the old relationship with the World Fellowship of Buddhists, which had become strained due to the misconduct of the then officials of the ACBC in the late 1990s, thus becoming a voice for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka in these organisations,  and co – operating in  promoting Buddhism as a global religion.

Reflecting on the numerous contributions I have made and services rendered through ACBC, I am  inspired and highly motivated to carry on with these strategies and work plans into the future.  Contesting once again for the post of President provides a great opportunity for me to apply my proven leadership skills and past experience to further develop this prime lay Buddhist Office, to a new higher level of operational effectiveness and stability, and build upon my life-long aspiration and devotion to promote Buddhism.  In managing future challenges and making strategic decisions, I have very carefully assembled an executive team, who are well-disciplined, highly-experienced, exceptionally-dedicated and honest to support me in all areas of ACBC management.  The first and foremost aim of my team is to engage in the protection and development of Sinhala Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka through ACBC efforts, give leadership to the cause of Buddhism to forestall threats from whatever quarter including changes to the Constitution of Sri Lanka i.e. Article 9, which mandates the State to protect and give the foremost place to Buddhism, and foster the Buddha Sasana, and raise the ACBC to a higher level of recognition in the public arena and enhance its influence in the decision making process, locally and internationally.  I will also take steps to ensure that Buddhist opinion on crucial matters of public importance such as proposed reforms of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, Animal Welfare Bill, denigration of Buddhism and the Sangha in the mass media is given a due hearing by the ACBC with a view to addressing the dangers to Buddhism and erosion of Buddhist values in the country.

I am highly confident that under my leadership and the support from this outstanding executive team, ACBC will rise to new heights, fulfil its set of defined objectives in serving the Buddhist populace of Sri Lanka, comprising of both clergy and laity, whilst concomitantly serving the cause of global Buddhism seeking official recognition of Buddhism and freedom of worship and non – discrimination of Buddhists, in countries within and outside Asia.

In concluding, I appeal to you in earnest for your vote for my team and myself in support of our objective to serve the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress for another term of office, with dedication, honesty, diligence, respect and due care.

May all living beings be well and happy

May we be protected with the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem

Yours in the service of the Dhamma

 

Jagath Sumathipala

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