Published on: January 8, 2024

The President presided over the 125th anniversary celebration of the Colombo YMBA

  • Everyone should move forward as one Sri Lankan nation focusing on the future not the present – President.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the need for a program similar to the initiatives undertaken by the late Sir D.B. Jayathilaka, which played a crucial role in establishing a strong foundation in Sri Lanka across social, cultural, religious and educational aspects through citizen participation.

During his address at the 125th-anniversary ceremony of the Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall in Colombo yesterday afternoon (07), the President emphasized the importance of collective progress as one Sri Lankan nation, with a focus on the future rather than the present.

The Colombo YMBA, founded under the chairmanship of Anagarika Dharmapala on January 8, 1898, with Sir D.B. Jayatilaka as its founding chairman, stands as the oldest and largest Buddhist organization in the country, contributing significantly to Sri Lanka’s broader mission. The theme of this year’s anniversary event was ‘Discourse for One Sri Lanka.’

During the commemorative ceremony, the President received the launch of a special issue marking the 125th anniversary, and he awarded scholarships to ten university students. A group photo featuring the President, heads of the association, members of the governing board and members of the working committee was also taken.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, offering additional remarks, acknowledged the historical significance of the Colombo YMBA, stating that it played a pivotal role in shaping the history of Sri Lanka.

President Wickremesinghe further said;

The Colombo Youth Buddhist Association has reached a significant milestone of 125 years since its inception. Undoubtedly, this association holds a pivotal place in Sri Lanka’s history, as it emerged during a period when Christian youth societies were being established in Western countries. In contrast, we, during that time, were actively involved in the Buddhist renaissance. Visionary leaders such as Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera of Hikkaduwa and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott played key roles in spearheading the Buddhist renaissance in our nation. It was against this backdrop that we initiated the world’s first Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA).

The mission of this association diverges from that of Western countries, focusing on advancing the country through Buddhist education. Spearheaded by Sir D. B. Jayathilaka, this association has played a pivotal role in supporting the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya. We recognize the Young Buddhist Association as a significant force in our freedom movement, and in celebration of its 125th anniversary, I intend to extend a gesture. The government-owned land in Colombo Fort is granted to the association for an additional 99 years, with plans to develop it into a tourist area.

The theme for the 125th anniversary, ‘One Sri Lanka Discourse,’ aligns with the country’s current needs. The goal is to address all war-related issues by 2025, providing political solutions for the displaced and missing persons.

Furthermore, there are plans to enhance the religious centre in Nagadeepa and establish a distinctive Hindu temple in Jaffna, emphasizing the importance of collective progress. Engaging with the youth is crucial; their input, plans and ideas are essential for nation-building.
Looking beyond the present, we aim to recreate the kind of arrangement initiated by Sir Jayathilaka. A comprehensive national plan, uniting everyone to move forward collectively, is imperative for the country’s future.

Sri Lanka has a rich history as an agriculture-centric nation. The emphasis now is on ensuring the safe export of our food crops through sustainable agricultural practices, requiring concerted efforts.

Simultaneously, the Anti-Corruption Commission has been established, with a dedicated committee appointed by the Legislative Assembly. Going beyond local financial regulations, we have submitted a comprehensive report on financial control in alignment with the International Monetary Fund agreement. This report encompasses aspects such as tendering processes and expenditure guidelines. A parliamentary commission is anticipated to implement these recommendations, emphasizing the need for diligent work by government financial officers.

Addressing the political landscape, there is a call for regulations governing political parties, with a committee studying global political processes. This plays a crucial role in shaping our political framework.

To engage globally, collaboration with other nations is essential. Free trade agreements, such as the one with Singapore already signed, are crucial. Ongoing negotiations with India and China are underway, and agreements with Thailand are expected to be finalized in April, marking a significant milestone for the country.

Future discussions with Myanmar are scheduled, maintaining diplomatic ties despite challenges. It is crucial to foster relations with Laos and Vietnam, opening our economy to the world, drawing inspiration from their successful examples. Even amid conventional perspectives, the call is for unity to advance with a shared economic program, much like the remarkable economic progress seen in Cambodia over a short period.

The current president of the Colombo YMBA, Mr. Mahendra Jayasekara,

It is with great pride that I stand before you to speak on the momentous occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association. Recognized as the world’s oldest and most significant association, it was founded in 1898 under the leadership of Sir D.B. Jayathilaka, alongside influential figures like C.S. Dissanayake, a young Catholic.

The Colombo YMBA, emerging from the vision of these pioneering individuals, has played a pivotal role in fostering national and religious unity since its inception. Notably, strong national figures like D.S. Senanayake and Sir Ernest Silva were nurtured in the influential environment of the Colombo YMBA. The formation of the National Council in 1919-1920, initiated by the association, further solidified its impact on national politics, involving leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Over the course of 125 years, the Colombo YMBA has been instrumental in shaping national leadership. Our collective purpose remains clear – to build a prosperous nation through the cultivation of national unity and religious harmony. It is imperative that we engage in discussions to rectify past mistakes, fostering a collective effort to move forward. The success of our endeavours to advance the country hinges on our ability to unite people in dialogue, determining the necessary framework for achieving prosperity.

The event was attended by a diverse and distinguished gathering, including the Acting Mahanayake of Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya, President of Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha, Scholar Venerable Karagoda Uyangoda Maitrimurthi Maha Nayaka Thero, and the Chief Prelate of the Atkanda Rajamaha Viharaya, Venerable Anamaduve Sri Dhammadassi Anunayake of the Asgiri Vihara Mahavihara Vamsika Shyamopali Maha Nikaya and other Maha Sangha.

The attendees also comprised leaders from various religious backgrounds, including representatives from Hindu, Catholic, and Islamic faiths. Former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of State Chamara Sampath Dasanayake, Members of Parliament Rajitha Senaratne and Tissa Attanayake, as well as the President of the Governing Board of the Colombo YMBA, Ajitha De Soysa, and Mr. Prasantha Abeykoon, Secretary, were also present. The event was further graced by the participation of foreign ambassadors, academicians, professionals, artists and other distinguished invitees.

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