• Committed his life for the welfare of the people – Prime Minister
  • Eradicating poverty was his objective – Opposition Leader
  • Tried to find solutions for the problems in the country – Northern Province Governor

Harnessing the people’s innate power was Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne’s vision, Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana said, delivering the President’s message of condolence.

In a moving tribute, Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana, while presenting the President’s condolence message, affirmed that Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne dedicated his life to uplifting the populace by tapping into their latent potential. President Ranil Wickremesinghe also acknowledged that empowering people was indeed Dr. Ariyaratne’s fervent wish.

The late founder of the Sarvodaya movement, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne was commemorated with state honours at Independence Square on Saturday. At the funeral, the President’s condolence message was formally presented by Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana, Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media.

Dr. Ariyaratne, who passed away last Tuesday, was initially laid in state at the Sarvodaya headquarters in Moratuwa for public homage, followed by a ceremonial procession to Independence Square.

The ceremony began with his body placed on a specially constructed pedestal, followed by eulogies and religious rites, culminating in the cremation.

In his address at the funeral, Minister Dr. Gunawardhana conveyed further sentiments from the President’s message: “Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne and I closely collaborated on numerous social initiatives. He was driven by a vision to harness the inherent energy of the people for societal upliftment, a principle that formed the foundation of the esteemed Sarvodaya organisation. Despite facing numerous challenges, he expanded this organization across the island and significantly contributed to national welfare, earning numerous accolades such as the Peace Prize and the Magsaysay Award for his efforts. I convey my and Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe’s condolences to the children, grandchildren and relatives of Dr. Ariyaratne.”

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, delivering a eulogy, stated, “The passing of Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, whom we hold in high regard, leaves a significant void in the nation. Both domestically and internationally, there is a unified expression of sorrow. Today, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne is bestowed with a state honour due to the exceptional nature of his life.

“Dr. Ariyaratne dedicated his entire life to the welfare of the people. His mission to bring joy to those suffering was truly noble. By visiting various villages, Dr. Ariyaratne led an exemplary programme that will be remembered forever. Today, we honour him as a noble man who imbued ‘shramadana’ with deep meaning and vigour. His generosity has greatly enriched our nation’s human capital, fostering transformative social changes.

“Through his efforts in that programme, Dr. Ariyaratne changed tens of thousands of lives across the country, embodying the human virtues of our society. It was his leadership that granted rights to those previously without rights. The Sarvodaya movement, merging these principles, has provided a vast canopy under which our people may step out of poverty and walk a path of virtue. He led these initiatives nationwide, setting a remarkable example.

“As he departs, I am compelled to acknowledge that the significant social transformation achieved by Sarvodaya was possible through his leadership. This is why the Government has declared today a day of mourning in his honour.

“Dr. Ariyaratne led without the backing of political parties, government departments, or institutions, relying solely on a quiet but powerful form of leadership that greatly benefitted the people. Notably, he faced these immense challenges without any inherited advantages.

“Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne instilled in us the dharma of human virtues, which will continue to guide this movement based on public trust and interest. Thus, Dr. Ariyaratne is celebrated as an exemplary and noble figure among our citizens.

“The movement he began, characterized by exemplary and independent human virtues, has become influential, reaching every village and resonating with every citizen and government institution. As he leaves us, we reflect on the life he has gifted us, an example we will carry forward into the future.

“At this time, the Government is honoured to bestow upon him the highest recognition. Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, we remember your service with pride and wish you eternal peace as a revered son of our nation.”

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa expressed his condolences, noting, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, who initiated a unique social welfare development revolution in the history of social services in this country. He intended to eradicate poverty. He supported the Gam Udawa programme alongside my father. He can be called a son of the people, playing a significant role in advancing the people-centred community participation housing development programme.”

Northern Province Governor P. S. M. Charles remarked, “Dr. Ariyaratne and the Sarvodaya team were pivotal in addressing the country’s challenges, bringing extensive experience and compassion to their work.” 

Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of PAFFREL, in his eulogy, sensitively reflected on Dr. Ariyaratne’s contributions.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, current president of the Sarvodaya organisation, in his vote of thanks, highlighted his father’s tireless commitment over sixty-five years to serving all communities, transcending regional and generational divides, based on the universal values of humanity.

The event was attended by prominent figures including Ven. Waleboda Gunasiri Thera, Anunayaka of the Sri Lanka Rammana Maha Nikaya, religious leaders, the Speaker of Parliament, government officials, and Sarvodaya activists, all united in mourning and celebrating the extraordinary life of Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne.