You are on page 1of 14

28th December, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 24

Home

News

Politics
Focus

Issues

Editorial

Spotlight
Insight

Sports

Business

Review
Arts
Letters

Nutshell

Interviews

Fashion

Archives
SPOTLIGHT
Inside story of Soma Thero's death

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Christmas this year turned gloomy, with roads deserted and festive cheer subdued as the country's
much loved and most controversial Buddhist monk was cremated last Wednesday amidst a rumour mill
working overtime charging foul play.
Instead of the gaiety associated with the season, saffron flags flew, many establishments were closed
both through an outpouring of grief as well as in some instances under compulsion following the
distribution of 'chits' and the entire country seemed sombre and pregnant with sadness as Ven.
Gangodawila Soma Thero, better known as 'Soma Hamuduruwo' was accorded a tearful goodbye by a
nation struck by the shocking loss.
With his sudden demise sprang conspiracy theories, questions about the validity of a ceremony held in
Russia where he received a PhD for a book authored by him and possible medical negligence that led
to his death. As much as his preaching was controversial, so became his death.
While the Buddhist clergy, politicians, scholars, dayakayas and the simple followers of Soma
Hamuduruwo questioned the cause and the possible events that led to his death, documents from the
Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow, U.B. Wijekoon, addressed to the Secretary, Foreign Affairs
Ministry, offer light to diffuse the feelings of tension and uncertainty that plague the minds of the public.
The letter, written by Wijekoon on December 18, has also been copied to the secretaries of the
President, Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs, and Assisting Foreign Affairs and Buddha Sasana ministers.
With speculation rife, cannons were fired first by a section of the Maha Sangha who felt that there were
unidentified elements that sought to silence the voice of the Maha Sangha and wipe out Buddhism from
the island, and in such an anti-Buddhism mission, the first obstacle was said to be the radical priest
who was famous for his people-friendly, practical sermons.



It is in this backdrop that Wijekoon moved to file a report on the priest's Russian visit, a week after his
passing away on foreign soil. What is significant in the document dated December 18 is the detailing of
the circumstances of Soma Thero's death and annexures dated December 6 by a doctor as well as the
President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Russia providing valuable insight not only Soma Thero's death
but his mindset at the time.
The annexures deal with a personal visit paid to Ven. Soma Thero by the doctor and the President,
Buddhist Society well before his death, and which in fact was filed six days before his death thereby
discounting any theory the document was prepared after the Thero's death.
It is also revealed in the report the Thero was hospitalised for nearly seven weeks before the Sri
Lankan embassy was informed of his condition by a caller from Australia.
The Ambassador upon being informed had had regular contact with Soma Thero and the documents
reveal the tenor of their discussions with regard to the Thero's health condition.
It is also revealed in the reports that Soma Thero was not only fully satisfied with the treatment
received but had insisted on continuing with it at the same hospital.
According to his report, Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero had arrived in Russia on October 11, on an
invitation by the International Theological University, St. Petersburg (ITU), which sought to award a
Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Buddhism for his popular book Buddha Stupa.
The Thero's work had been recommended by Dr. Shanthi P. Jayasekera, a Sri Lankan living in St.
Petersburg.
"Before he landed in Moscow, it appears that he has felt a severe chest pain. In spite of this chest pain,
he has decided to take the next plane to St. Petersburg which is over 750 km away from Moscow," the
Ambassador's report said.
It further claims that on arrival at St. Petersburg airport, the reverend monk was received by Dr. Shanthi
Jayasekera and when he complained of his chest pains, the priest has been reportedly taken directly
to a hospital named City Hospital No. 2 where medical treatment was provided.
Wijekoon's report further claims that the priest had been transferred to a sanatorium named Rapina,
where he rested and took physiotherapy exercises before he was to undergo bypass surgery.
However, the Ambassador adds that the embassy was kept in the dark about the monk's visit and it
was only during the last week of November that one Kosala Jayasekera from Australia informed the
Ambassador that the visiting monk was ill, was undergoing treatment and was under the care of Dr.
Shanthi Jayasekera.
When the Ambassador contacted the Thero, he has reportedly given a description of his illness, said he
was much better, undergoing exercises and that he was satisfied with the doctors and others who were
taking care of him.
Accordingly, Ambassador Wijekoon has wished to fly the ailing priest to Moscow after consulting the Sri
Lankan community there. "When I told him of our intention, he completely refused saying that he was
fully satisfied with the treatment he was getting there."
Subsequently, President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Rupasiri Perera visited the priest on November
30 and upon return, reported that the priest was normal and happy to stay in St. Petersburg and that
there was no need to bother bringing him to Moscow. He in fact wrote to Kosala Jayasinghe in Australia
on December 6.
This report was filed by the President of the Moscow Buddhist Society six days prior to Soma Thero's
death.
The Ambassador has also drawn attention to the fact that Ven. Soma Thero has been awarded the
degree at a simple ceremony at the sanatorium itself, an issue that had given rise to much speculation
at the time as the photographed ceremony had only five persons present, furniture in disarray and no
audience.
It now appears from the Ambassador's report the ceremony took place at the sanitorium, which possibly
explains the circumstances of the photo.
The reports filed by the Embassy and doctor was later corroborated by the postmortem done in
Colombo, that the thero had in fact died of a heart attack.
The Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow has further stated that he has been in touch with the priest
almost daily and that he failed to attend the degree awarding ceremony in St. Petersburg upon being
invited by the late priest himself as he (Wijekoon) was scheduled to present credentials in Kazakhstan.
The Ambassador confirms that the priest was not recommended surgery as he was a severe diabetic
patient and that he had suffered a severe heart attack on December 12 and passed away around 8
a.m.
The Sri Lankan mission chief has sent a further clarification regarding an incision that appeared on his
neck area subsequently, attached to the report.
Wijekoon in a fax massage has clarified the position with regard to the cut on the late monk's neck.
"Having inquired further to my e-mail sent today, I wish to inform that the cut appearing in the neck
region of the Thero is the cut made by the pathologist to avoid blue spots appearing on the face due to
congestion venous blood. Through the cut, medical preparations were injected into carotid arteries for
the above mentioned purpose."
However, upon the Ambassador's initiation, Dr. K.A. Karunanayake (embassy panel doctor) along with
Rupasiri Perera had visited the Thero in St. Petersburg on being informed in November to ascertain his
condition and to collect some money to foot the bill of his operation. Members present at a meeting of
the Buddhist Society in Moscow have promptly agreed to contribute nearly US$ 9,000.
Ambassador U.B. Wijekoon has attached two reports by Dr. Karunanayake and Perera filed on
December 6 (six days prior to his demise) to his own report faxed to Colombo, which offers the opinion
that Ven. Thero's was a natural death caused by a severe heart attack.
Supporting the Ambassador's claim that the priest died of natural causes, Dr. Karunanayake in his
report dated December 6 states: "Rev. Soma Thero has been suffering from diabetes mellitus type 2 for
the last 10 years. Before landing here in Moscow, he felt chest pains. With those pains, he managed to
fly further to St. Petersburg spending another three hours and then only an ambulance was called and
he was rushed to the hospital."
More pertinently, the letter written six days before the venerable monk's death ends with Dr.
Karunanayake adding, "According to Soma Thero, he is not sure in this condition whether he can fly or
not because the last time he got the chest pains while in the air. I agree with him on this point, as
diabetic patients may feel chest pains whenever they get into conditions of low oxygen levels."
To foot the bill of the surgery, Rupasiri Perera of the Buddhist Society in Moscow adds that Roubles
167,773 were handed over to Dr. Shanthi Jayasekera in the presence of Soma Thero as there was no
other person to hand over the money to. Pertinently, Perera's letter adds that he managed a little
dhamma discussion with the priest on the morning of December 6 at the hospital, but felt that he had
some worries.
"He does not worry about his health but worries about the attitude of others to his illness. He gets so
many calls from different countries, mainly Sri Lanka and Australia, and 99% of them make him worry
because these people do not know the situation here and they have not got the right information," said
Perera in his letter to Jayasinghe in Australia, obviously communicating Soma Thero's message.
Going by the comments of the Buddhist Society president made on December 6, six days prior to the
Thero's death, it appears, Soma Thero himself was concerned "wrong information" was spread on his
illness by interested parties, which he himself has cautioned against and wanted stopped.
As the President of the Buddhist Society no less wrote on December 6 to Kosala Jayasinghe in
Australia after the meeting with Soma Thero - "ask them to only talk about positive things; ask them to
encourage Thero in this difficult situation. He trusts the doctors and the people around him. He gets
blessings and protection of the triple gem. He is physically and mentally tired of these nonsense calls.
This is my only request to you, please help Ven. Soma Thero."
That request unfortunately was not hee- ded, even after the venerable Thero's death.
Ambassador Wijekoon's report
Rev. Gangodawila Soma Thero had come to Russia on an invitation of the International
Theological University, St. Petersburg (ITU) which has decided to award a Doctor of Philosophy
Degree in Buddhism for a book named Buddha Stupa authored by him on the recommendation of
Dr. Shanti P. Jayasekera, a Sri Lankan living in the city of St. Petersburg.
Rev. Soma Thero seems to have come to Russia alone on October 11 from Sri Lanka. Before he
landed in Moscow it appears that he has felt a severe chest pain. In spite of this chest pain he has
decided to take the next plane to St. Petersburg which is over 750 k.m. away from Moscow. On
arrival at St. Petersburg airport Dr. Shanti Jayasekera has received him there and when he
complained about the chest pain, Dr. Jayasekera has taken the Rev. Thero directly to a hospital
called City Hospital No. 2 in St. Petersburg where he had been medically treated. After a few days
of treatment in the hospital, when he recovered he had been transferred to a sanatorium called
Rapina where he was resting and taking physiotherapy exercises before he was to undergo a
surgery (bypass operation).
The embassy was unaware and nobody cared to inform us all these happenings until the last week
of November when Kosala Jayasinghe from Australia informed me that Rev. Soma Thero was ill
and undergoing treatment and one Dr. Shanti Jayasekera was looking after the priest.
Immediately, I contacted Dr. Jayasekera and inquired about the condition of the Thero. He also
gave the telephone number of the Thero to whom I spoke immediately and inquired about his
health conditions. Thero gave me a description of his illness and told me that he was much better,
undergoing exercises and that he was very satisfied with the doctors and others who were taking
care of him.
Meanwhile I contacted the Sri Lankan community here in Moscow and decided to bring the Thero
to Moscow. When I contacted the Rev. Soma Thero and told him of our intention of bringing him to
Moscow he completely refused saying that he was fully satisfied with the treatment he was getting
there. Then we decided to send President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Rupasiri Perera to visit
and see the priest. He went there on November 30. He came back and reported that the priest
was normal and happy to stay in St. Petersburg and that we need not bother to bring him here to
Moscow.
On December 4 the ITU had awarded the degree to the Venerable Thero with a simple ceremony
at the sanatorium premises itself.
Again on December 3 I convened a meeting of the members of the Buddhist Society and other Sri
Lankans here and decided to send Dr. K.A. Karunanayake (embassy panel doctor) and Rupasiri
Perera to St. Petersburg and find out the health condition of the priest and also decided to collect
some money to pay for the cost of the operation. Members present agreed to contribute nearly
US$ 9,000.
I also kept contact with the priest almost daily. Rev. Soma Thero asked me also to participate in
the degree awarding ceremony. However I could not participate as I had to make preparations to
go to Kazakhstan to present my credentials.
However, the presentation of credentials to Kazakhstan was postponed but I had to go to Moldova
on December 8 to present credentials there.
On December 8 the priest had been admitted to the hospital again for further tests and
examinations before he was to undergo surgery. It seems the doctors have not favoured
immediate surgery as he was a diabetic patient.
On December 12 morning the Thero seems to have had a severe heart attack and passed away at
about 8 a.m. Doctors had taken him to the intensive care unit and done their best to save his life.
December 12 was a public holiday here in Russia. I came back from Moldova only on the night of
December 12. By the time I arrived in Moscow at about 2300 hours, the office staff in spite of it
being a holiday had come to the office and taken all preliminary steps regarding the next
arrangements.
I decided to go to St. Petersburg and attend to the arrangements of sending the remains to Sri
Lanka. Along with me I took Dr. Karunanayake, N. Pemmawadu (interpreter) and Hiran
Karunaratne, a Sri Lankan businessman here who was very useful for the occasion.
Meanwhile I got instructions from Colombo to send the remains without a postmortem and
embalming. It took nearly five hours to convince the authorities to get the body released without a
postmortem and embalming. By the time the body was released to us it was too late in the
evening. Meanwhile we were able to get some Buddhist monks from a temple in St. Petersburg
and attended to religious rites. There were about 20 Sri Lankans to pay respects to the late Thero
gathered at the time. Most of them were students.
The undertakers next informed us that they would be able to send the remains to reach Sri Lanka
only on Friday, December 19. We were facing a real problem as the body was not embalmed. I
contacted the Rev. Thrikunamalaya Ananda Thero of Sri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya,
Maharagama and appraised him of the situation. Subsequently, we got some instructions about
the preservation of body and accordingly it was done. On the following day we got further
instructions and that time the remains had left the funeral parlour. Our next serious problem was
getting a flight to Sri Lanka to send the remains.
Fortunately a charter flight was available to go to Colombo from Moscow on December 17. We
contacted the parties concerned and were able to find accommodation on that charter flight
leaving Moscow at 1820 hours on December 17 and reaching Katunayake Airport at 09:20 on
December 18.
The remains were dispatched from Moscow on the evening of December 17 at 1820 hours by
SU531, a charter flight. I also sent J. Walpita, the husband of my secretary/stenographer - a
committee member of the Buddhist Society in Moscow - taking the personal belongings of the late
Thero.
I also would like to bring the following factors too for further information. The weather here is very
unfavourable. There is heavy snowing and the temperature is minus Celsius. This death took
place in St. Petersburg over 750 k.m. away from Moscow where the weather conditions were
much worse.
We really condole over the untimely demise of a great Buddha Putra who fearlessly preached
dhamma of the Lord Buddha. However, we feel happy that we were able to carry out our
responsibilities in spite of many difficulties and obstacles. Finally I am told that various unfounded
stories are going round the country over this death. It is my humble opinion that this was a natural
death caused because of a severe heart attack.
U.B. Wijekoon,
Ambassador
Footnote:
Having inquired further to my e-mail sent today I wish to confirm that the cut appearing in the
neck region of the Thero is the cut made by the pathologist to avoid blue spots appearing on
the face due to congestion venous blood. Through the cut medical preparations were injected
into carotid arteries for the above-mentioned purpose.
* * *
Dr. Karunanayake's report December 6, 2003
Rev. Soma Thero has been suffering from diabetes mellitus type 2 for the last 10 years. When he
came here about two months ago, before landing in Moscow he felt chest pains.
With those pains he managed to fly further to St. Petersburg spending another three hours and
then only the ambulance was called and he was rushed to the hospital. In the cardiology clinic in
St. Petersburg doctors could place a stentor in one of the coronary arteries and to recover blood
flow where it was totally absent.
Then his diabetic therapy was converted into insulin. Now the glucose levels are fluctuating
between 3.9-6.0 m.mole/1 litre. After treating him in the hospital for rehabilitation therapy Thero
was sent to a sanatorium where pineso therapy moler observation of a cardiologist and other
specialists was done.
For this period Soma Thero has improved a lot. He can walk a distance of about 500 meters
without feeling any pains in the chest. Today he looks very cheerful.
But as any diabetic patient he has got diabetic angiopathy. One of the coronary arteries has
stenosis with three atheroseborotic plaques in its lumen, according to the angiographic data. So
the doctors have a dilemma whether to place three stentors in those three foci or to perform a
bypass surgery. A consillium is planned on December 8 (Monday ) to make the right decision.
According to Soma Thero he is not sure in this condition whether he can fly or not because the last
time he got chest pains in the air. I agree with him on this point as diabetic patients may feel chest
pains whenever they get into conditions with low oxygen levels. As he is in the hands of well
qualified cardio surgeons now, there is no point to be worried about.
Dr. K.A. Karunanayake
* * *
Rupasiri Perera's letter
Dear Kosala,
On behalf of our Buddhist Society in front of Ven. Soma Thero I handed over Roubles 167,773 to
Dr. Shanthi Jayasekera. There was no other way to pay this money. This is one of the main parts
of our society's contribution. We arrived at 9:20 in the morning on December 6 and we managed
to be at the hospital at 10:40. I saw Ven. Soma Thero for the second time and after handing over
money we even had a little dhamma discussion.
When Shanthi Jayasekera left with his Russian colleagues I asked Thero about his inner feelings
because I had felt some worries. He does not worry about his own health but he worries about the
attitude of people to his illness. He gets so many telephone calls from different countries, mainly
from Sri Lanka and Australia. Of this, 99% of the calls make him worry because these people do
not know the situation here and they have not got the right information.
Do you remember that on behalf of all Buddhists in the world you asked us to help and take care
of Ven. Soma Thero? Now on behalf of all the Buddhists of four directions I ask you to help Ven.
Soma Thero informing others not to worry Thero with unnecessary telephone calls.
Ask them to only talk about positive things; ask them to encourage Thero in this difficult situation.
He trusts the doctors and the people around him. He gets blessings and protection of Triple Gem.
He is physically and mentally tired of these nonsense calls. This is my only request to you, please
help Ven. Soma Thero.
On December 8 (Monday) the doctors will decide on the operation.
With loving kindness,
Rupasiri
More Stories

News Politics Issues Editorial Spotlight Sports Bussines Letters Review Arts Interviews Nutshell

Leader Publication (Pvt) Ltd.
1st Floor, Colombo Commercial Building., 121, Sir James Peiris Mawatha., Colombo 2
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email : editor@thesundayleader.lk


28th December, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 24
Home

News

Politics
Focus

Issues

Editorial

Spotlight
Insight

Sports

Business

Review
Arts
Letters

Nutshell

Interviews

Fashion

Archives
SPOTLIGHT
Inside story of Soma Thero's death


By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Christmas this year turned gloomy, with roads deserted and festive cheer subdued as the country's
much loved and most controversial Buddhist monk was cremated last Wednesday amidst a rumour mill
working overtime charging foul play.
Instead of the gaiety associated with the season, saffron flags flew, many establishments were closed
both through an outpouring of grief as well as in some instances under compulsion following the
distribution of 'chits' and the entire country seemed sombre and pregnant with sadness as Ven.
Gangodawila Soma Thero, better known as 'Soma Hamuduruwo' was accorded a tearful goodbye by a
nation struck by the shocking loss.
With his sudden demise sprang conspiracy theories, questions about the validity of a ceremony held in
Russia where he received a PhD for a book authored by him and possible medical negligence that led
to his death. As much as his preaching was controversial, so became his death.
While the Buddhist clergy, politicians, scholars, dayakayas and the simple followers of Soma
Hamuduruwo questioned the cause and the possible events that led to his death, documents from the
Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow, U.B. Wijekoon, addressed to the Secretary, Foreign Affairs
Ministry, offer light to diffuse the feelings of tension and uncertainty that plague the minds of the public.
The letter, written by Wijekoon on December 18, has also been copied to the secretaries of the
President, Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs, and Assisting Foreign Affairs and Buddha Sasana ministers.
With speculation rife, cannons were fired first by a section of the Maha Sangha who felt that there were
unidentified elements that sought to silence the voice of the Maha Sangha and wipe out Buddhism from
the island, and in such an anti-Buddhism mission, the first obstacle was said to be the radical priest
who was famous for his people-friendly, practical sermons.
It is in this backdrop that Wijekoon moved to file a report on the priest's Russian visit, a week after his
passing away on foreign soil. What is significant in the document dated December 18 is the detailing of
the circumstances of Soma Thero's death and annexures dated December 6 by a doctor as well as the
President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Russia providing valuable insight not only Soma Thero's death
but his mindset at the time.
The annexures deal with a personal visit paid to Ven. Soma Thero by the doctor and the President,
Buddhist Society well before his death, and which in fact was filed six days before his death thereby



discounting any theory the document was prepared after the Thero's death.
It is also revealed in the report the Thero was hospitalised for nearly seven weeks before the Sri
Lankan embassy was informed of his condition by a caller from Australia.
The Ambassador upon being informed had had regular contact with Soma Thero and the documents
reveal the tenor of their discussions with regard to the Thero's health condition.
It is also revealed in the reports that Soma Thero was not only fully satisfied with the treatment
received but had insisted on continuing with it at the same hospital.
According to his report, Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero had arrived in Russia on October 11, on an
invitation by the International Theological University, St. Petersburg (ITU), which sought to award a
Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Buddhism for his popular book Buddha Stupa.
The Thero's work had been recommended by Dr. Shanthi P. Jayasekera, a Sri Lankan living in St.
Petersburg.
"Before he landed in Moscow, it appears that he has felt a severe chest pain. In spite of this chest pain,
he has decided to take the next plane to St. Petersburg which is over 750 km away from Moscow," the
Ambassador's report said.
It further claims that on arrival at St. Petersburg airport, the reverend monk was received by Dr. Shanthi
Jayasekera and when he complained of his chest pains, the priest has been reportedly taken directly
to a hospital named City Hospital No. 2 where medical treatment was provided.
Wijekoon's report further claims that the priest had been transferred to a sanatorium named Rapina,
where he rested and took physiotherapy exercises before he was to undergo bypass surgery.
However, the Ambassador adds that the embassy was kept in the dark about the monk's visit and it
was only during the last week of November that one Kosala Jayasekera from Australia informed the
Ambassador that the visiting monk was ill, was undergoing treatment and was under the care of Dr.
Shanthi Jayasekera.
When the Ambassador contacted the Thero, he has reportedly given a description of his illness, said he
was much better, undergoing exercises and that he was satisfied with the doctors and others who were
taking care of him.
Accordingly, Ambassador Wijekoon has wished to fly the ailing priest to Moscow after consulting the Sri
Lankan community there. "When I told him of our intention, he completely refused saying that he was
fully satisfied with the treatment he was getting there."
Subsequently, President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Rupasiri Perera visited the priest on November
30 and upon return, reported that the priest was normal and happy to stay in St. Petersburg and that
there was no need to bother bringing him to Moscow. He in fact wrote to Kosala Jayasinghe in Australia
on December 6.
This report was filed by the President of the Moscow Buddhist Society six days prior to Soma Thero's
death.
The Ambassador has also drawn attention to the fact that Ven. Soma Thero has been awarded the
degree at a simple ceremony at the sanatorium itself, an issue that had given rise to much speculation
at the time as the photographed ceremony had only five persons present, furniture in disarray and no
audience.
It now appears from the Ambassador's report the ceremony took place at the sanitorium, which possibly
explains the circumstances of the photo.
The reports filed by the Embassy and doctor was later corroborated by the postmortem done in
Colombo, that the thero had in fact died of a heart attack.
The Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow has further stated that he has been in touch with the priest
almost daily and that he failed to attend the degree awarding ceremony in St. Petersburg upon being
invited by the late priest himself as he (Wijekoon) was scheduled to present credentials in Kazakhstan.
The Ambassador confirms that the priest was not recommended surgery as he was a severe diabetic
patient and that he had suffered a severe heart attack on December 12 and passed away around 8
a.m.
The Sri Lankan mission chief has sent a further clarification regarding an incision that appeared on his
neck area subsequently, attached to the report.
Wijekoon in a fax massage has clarified the position with regard to the cut on the late monk's neck.
"Having inquired further to my e-mail sent today, I wish to inform that the cut appearing in the neck
region of the Thero is the cut made by the pathologist to avoid blue spots appearing on the face due to
congestion venous blood. Through the cut, medical preparations were injected into carotid arteries for
the above mentioned purpose."
However, upon the Ambassador's initiation, Dr. K.A. Karunanayake (embassy panel doctor) along with
Rupasiri Perera had visited the Thero in St. Petersburg on being informed in November to ascertain his
condition and to collect some money to foot the bill of his operation. Members present at a meeting of
the Buddhist Society in Moscow have promptly agreed to contribute nearly US$ 9,000.
Ambassador U.B. Wijekoon has attached two reports by Dr. Karunanayake and Perera filed on
December 6 (six days prior to his demise) to his own report faxed to Colombo, which offers the opinion
that Ven. Thero's was a natural death caused by a severe heart attack.
Supporting the Ambassador's claim that the priest died of natural causes, Dr. Karunanayake in his
report dated December 6 states: "Rev. Soma Thero has been suffering from diabetes mellitus type 2 for
the last 10 years. Before landing here in Moscow, he felt chest pains. With those pains, he managed to
fly further to St. Petersburg spending another three hours and then only an ambulance was called and
he was rushed to the hospital."
More pertinently, the letter written six days before the venerable monk's death ends with Dr.
Karunanayake adding, "According to Soma Thero, he is not sure in this condition whether he can fly or
not because the last time he got the chest pains while in the air. I agree with him on this point, as
diabetic patients may feel chest pains whenever they get into conditions of low oxygen levels."
To foot the bill of the surgery, Rupasiri Perera of the Buddhist Society in Moscow adds that Roubles
167,773 were handed over to Dr. Shanthi Jayasekera in the presence of Soma Thero as there was no
other person to hand over the money to. Pertinently, Perera's letter adds that he managed a little
dhamma discussion with the priest on the morning of December 6 at the hospital, but felt that he had
some worries.
"He does not worry about his health but worries about the attitude of others to his illness. He gets so
many calls from different countries, mainly Sri Lanka and Australia, and 99% of them make him worry
because these people do not know the situation here and they have not got the right information," said
Perera in his letter to Jayasinghe in Australia, obviously communicating Soma Thero's message.
Going by the comments of the Buddhist Society president made on December 6, six days prior to the
Thero's death, it appears, Soma Thero himself was concerned "wrong information" was spread on his
illness by interested parties, which he himself has cautioned against and wanted stopped.
As the President of the Buddhist Society no less wrote on December 6 to Kosala Jayasinghe in
Australia after the meeting with Soma Thero - "ask them to only talk about positive things; ask them to
encourage Thero in this difficult situation. He trusts the doctors and the people around him. He gets
blessings and protection of the triple gem. He is physically and mentally tired of these nonsense calls.
This is my only request to you, please help Ven. Soma Thero."
That request unfortunately was not hee- ded, even after the venerable Thero's death.
Ambassador Wijekoon's report
Rev. Gangodawila Soma Thero had come to Russia on an invitation of the International
Theological University, St. Petersburg (ITU) which has decided to award a Doctor of Philosophy
Degree in Buddhism for a book named Buddha Stupa authored by him on the recommendation of
Dr. Shanti P. Jayasekera, a Sri Lankan living in the city of St. Petersburg.
Rev. Soma Thero seems to have come to Russia alone on October 11 from Sri Lanka. Before he
landed in Moscow it appears that he has felt a severe chest pain. In spite of this chest pain he has
decided to take the next plane to St. Petersburg which is over 750 k.m. away from Moscow. On
arrival at St. Petersburg airport Dr. Shanti Jayasekera has received him there and when he
complained about the chest pain, Dr. Jayasekera has taken the Rev. Thero directly to a hospital
called City Hospital No. 2 in St. Petersburg where he had been medically treated. After a few days
of treatment in the hospital, when he recovered he had been transferred to a sanatorium called
Rapina where he was resting and taking physiotherapy exercises before he was to undergo a
surgery (bypass operation).
The embassy was unaware and nobody cared to inform us all these happenings until the last week
of November when Kosala Jayasinghe from Australia informed me that Rev. Soma Thero was ill
and undergoing treatment and one Dr. Shanti Jayasekera was looking after the priest.
Immediately, I contacted Dr. Jayasekera and inquired about the condition of the Thero. He also
gave the telephone number of the Thero to whom I spoke immediately and inquired about his
health conditions. Thero gave me a description of his illness and told me that he was much better,
undergoing exercises and that he was very satisfied with the doctors and others who were taking
care of him.
Meanwhile I contacted the Sri Lankan community here in Moscow and decided to bring the Thero
to Moscow. When I contacted the Rev. Soma Thero and told him of our intention of bringing him to
Moscow he completely refused saying that he was fully satisfied with the treatment he was getting
there. Then we decided to send President, Buddhist Society in Moscow, Rupasiri Perera to visit
and see the priest. He went there on November 30. He came back and reported that the priest
was normal and happy to stay in St. Petersburg and that we need not bother to bring him here to
Moscow.
On December 4 the ITU had awarded the degree to the Venerable Thero with a simple ceremony
at the sanatorium premises itself.
Again on December 3 I convened a meeting of the members of the Buddhist Society and other Sri
Lankans here and decided to send Dr. K.A. Karunanayake (embassy panel doctor) and Rupasiri
Perera to St. Petersburg and find out the health condition of the priest and also decided to collect
some money to pay for the cost of the operation. Members present agreed to contribute nearly
US$ 9,000.
I also kept contact with the priest almost daily. Rev. Soma Thero asked me also to participate in
the degree awarding ceremony. However I could not participate as I had to make preparations to
go to Kazakhstan to present my credentials.
However, the presentation of credentials to Kazakhstan was postponed but I had to go to Moldova
on December 8 to present credentials there.
On December 8 the priest had been admitted to the hospital again for further tests and
examinations before he was to undergo surgery. It seems the doctors have not favoured
immediate surgery as he was a diabetic patient.
On December 12 morning the Thero seems to have had a severe heart attack and passed away at
about 8 a.m. Doctors had taken him to the intensive care unit and done their best to save his life.
December 12 was a public holiday here in Russia. I came back from Moldova only on the night of
December 12. By the time I arrived in Moscow at about 2300 hours, the office staff in spite of it
being a holiday had come to the office and taken all preliminary steps regarding the next
arrangements.
I decided to go to St. Petersburg and attend to the arrangements of sending the remains to Sri
Lanka. Along with me I took Dr. Karunanayake, N. Pemmawadu (interpreter) and Hiran
Karunaratne, a Sri Lankan businessman here who was very useful for the occasion.
Meanwhile I got instructions from Colombo to send the remains without a postmortem and
embalming. It took nearly five hours to convince the authorities to get the body released without a
postmortem and embalming. By the time the body was released to us it was too late in the
evening. Meanwhile we were able to get some Buddhist monks from a temple in St. Petersburg
and attended to religious rites. There were about 20 Sri Lankans to pay respects to the late Thero
gathered at the time. Most of them were students.
The undertakers next informed us that they would be able to send the remains to reach Sri Lanka
only on Friday, December 19. We were facing a real problem as the body was not embalmed. I
contacted the Rev. Thrikunamalaya Ananda Thero of Sri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya,
Maharagama and appraised him of the situation. Subsequently, we got some instructions about
the preservation of body and accordingly it was done. On the following day we got further
instructions and that time the remains had left the funeral parlour. Our next serious problem was
getting a flight to Sri Lanka to send the remains.
Fortunately a charter flight was available to go to Colombo from Moscow on December 17. We
contacted the parties concerned and were able to find accommodation on that charter flight
leaving Moscow at 1820 hours on December 17 and reaching Katunayake Airport at 09:20 on
December 18.
The remains were dispatched from Moscow on the evening of December 17 at 1820 hours by
SU531, a charter flight. I also sent J. Walpita, the husband of my secretary/stenographer - a
committee member of the Buddhist Society in Moscow - taking the personal belongings of the late
Thero.
I also would like to bring the following factors too for further information. The weather here is very
unfavourable. There is heavy snowing and the temperature is minus Celsius. This death took
place in St. Petersburg over 750 k.m. away from Moscow where the weather conditions were
much worse.
We really condole over the untimely demise of a great Buddha Putra who fearlessly preached
dhamma of the Lord Buddha. However, we feel happy that we were able to carry out our
responsibilities in spite of many difficulties and obstacles. Finally I am told that various unfounded
stories are going round the country over this death. It is my humble opinion that this was a natural
death caused because of a severe heart attack.
U.B. Wijekoon,
Ambassador
Footnote:
Having inquired further to my e-mail sent today I wish to confirm that the cut appearing in the
neck region of the Thero is the cut made by the pathologist to avoid blue spots appearing on
the face due to congestion venous blood. Through the cut medical preparations were injected
into carotid arteries for the above-mentioned purpose.
* * *
Dr. Karunanayake's report December 6, 2003
Rev. Soma Thero has been suffering from diabetes mellitus type 2 for the last 10 years. When he
came here about two months ago, before landing in Moscow he felt chest pains.
With those pains he managed to fly further to St. Petersburg spending another three hours and
then only the ambulance was called and he was rushed to the hospital. In the cardiology clinic in
St. Petersburg doctors could place a stentor in one of the coronary arteries and to recover blood
flow where it was totally absent.
Then his diabetic therapy was converted into insulin. Now the glucose levels are fluctuating
between 3.9-6.0 m.mole/1 litre. After treating him in the hospital for rehabilitation therapy Thero
was sent to a sanatorium where pineso therapy moler observation of a cardiologist and other
specialists was done.
For this period Soma Thero has improved a lot. He can walk a distance of about 500 meters
without feeling any pains in the chest. Today he looks very cheerful.
But as any diabetic patient he has got diabetic angiopathy. One of the coronary arteries has
stenosis with three atheroseborotic plaques in its lumen, according to the angiographic data. So
the doctors have a dilemma whether to place three stentors in those three foci or to perform a
bypass surgery. A consillium is planned on December 8 (Monday ) to make the right decision.
According to Soma Thero he is not sure in this condition whether he can fly or not because the last
time he got chest pains in the air. I agree with him on this point as diabetic patients may feel chest
pains whenever they get into conditions with low oxygen levels. As he is in the hands of well
qualified cardio surgeons now, there is no point to be worried about.
Dr. K.A. Karunanayake
* * *
Rupasiri Perera's letter
Dear Kosala,
On behalf of our Buddhist Society in front of Ven. Soma Thero I handed over Roubles 167,773 to
Dr. Shanthi Jayasekera. There was no other way to pay this money. This is one of the main parts
of our society's contribution. We arrived at 9:20 in the morning on December 6 and we managed
to be at the hospital at 10:40. I saw Ven. Soma Thero for the second time and after handing over
money we even had a little dhamma discussion.
When Shanthi Jayasekera left with his Russian colleagues I asked Thero about his inner feelings
because I had felt some worries. He does not worry about his own health but he worries about the
attitude of people to his illness. He gets so many telephone calls from different countries, mainly
from Sri Lanka and Australia. Of this, 99% of the calls make him worry because these people do
not know the situation here and they have not got the right information.
Do you remember that on behalf of all Buddhists in the world you asked us to help and take care
of Ven. Soma Thero? Now on behalf of all the Buddhists of four directions I ask you to help Ven.
Soma Thero informing others not to worry Thero with unnecessary telephone calls.
Ask them to only talk about positive things; ask them to encourage Thero in this difficult situation.
He trusts the doctors and the people around him. He gets blessings and protection of Triple Gem.
He is physically and mentally tired of these nonsense calls. This is my only request to you, please
help Ven. Soma Thero.
On December 8 (Monday) the doctors will decide on the operation.
With loving kindness,
Rupasiri
More Stories

News Politics Issues Editorial Spotlight Sports Bussines Letters Review Arts Interviews Nutshell

Leader Publication (Pvt) Ltd.
1st Floor, Colombo Commercial Building., 121, Sir James Peiris Mawatha., Colombo 2
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email : editor@thesundayleader.lk