09/16/2014, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Goodbye to Sarath Fernando, who dedicated his life to the protection of creation in Sri Lanka

Melani Manel Perera
The Catholic intellectual died at the age 71 from cardiac arrest. Engaged since his youth in social and political activism, he also founded a number of movements to defend farmers.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - After a life devoted to improve society and give dignity to all human beings, paying attention to the preservation of the environment and all of creation, Sarath Fernando, an intellectual and activist loved by so many, died from cardiac arrest on 7 September at the age of 71. A Catholic and friend of AsiaNews, he now rests in the cemetery of his native village Ibbagamuwa (Kurunegala).

Since his college years, Fernando distinguished himself for his activism, participating in the student revolt of 1971, when he wanted to establish a more just society. For his troubles, he spent five years in prison, which prevented him from graduating in Civil Engineering.

Released from prison, he decided to devote himself full-time to political activity, which he began by founding the All Lanka Peasants Congress, convinced that peasants were the key to bring real social change in Sri Lanka at that time.

In 1978, he became a researcher at the Social and Economic Development Centre (SEDEC). This was followed by 11 years of work at the Devarasana Developmente Centre.

In the early 1990s, he founded the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONCLAR), where he worked until the end.

Sarath Fernando firmly believed that peasants had to turn to environmentally friendly farming, a practice that allows Mother Nature to regenerate, but also helps humans develop relations of equality with others.

"In Sri Lanka, my greatest desire is to enlighten the plantation population, about a million, that they have their own land to till and [that they can] be dignified citizens in the country," he said in his autobiography, My life story (released in March), one of his last writings.

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