An Open Letter To Lakshman Kadirgamar
5 March 2002
I trust you are keeping well. I also hope that the security provided for you by the Ranil Wickremasinghe government is to your satisfaction. During your days of glory as Foreign Minister, it was said that you were “living in a fortress, not attending the ministry at all, getting down people to your house guarded by 125 soldiers, unable to move around the city without 12 cars”. Who said that? I did not say this, I swear. These are the words of that man who is now sitting in your chair - Tyronne Fernando. (Sunday Leader, Jan.20, 2002). Today, some jealous people are grouching that even though you do not hold any office that is visible to the naked eye, you are still reportedly enjoying all the perks of high office that you were used to. Fools! Do they realise, office or no office, how much the country needs you at this desperate hour, and how much your precious life is worth to the people of this country, particularly to the Tamil people?
But of course you do hold some kind of office we are told – adviser to Madame President! Maybe Jayawardene forgot to have it included in the Constitution, who cares? So you are still the same busybody that you were, except that your habit of gallivanting round the globe is restricted. Still, there is India next door. I wonder what you whispered in the ears of Madame Jayalalitha about the Tigers and the Norwegians the other day? You get on famously with Madames everywhere, don’t you? You naughty boy.
Now that I have got the preliminary courtesies off my chest, may I come to the little matter that I want to talk about – that 11-page letter that the president sent to her co-habiting Prime Minister on March 1. Of course, you know and I know and the Norwegians know, and all know, that while the letter had Madame President’s signature, the language, the tone, the diction, the legal phraseology, were all yours. You know that Biblical phrase, (as a good Christian, you might have read the Bible sometime) – “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau”. Precisely. The voice is Madame President’s voice, but the handiwork is undoubtedly Kadigama’s. As for that Esau, you might not know much about him. He was the guy, again in the words of the Bible, who “selleth his birthright for a mess of potage”. How interesting, even in this year of the Lord, 2002, there are Esaus prowling about in Colombo!
Now, the President’s letter opens thus: “I refer to our meeting in the evening of February 21 in the presence of Mr.Kadirgamar (the reference I believe is to you) when you gave me a copy of the final version of the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, which, neither Mr.Kadirgamar nor I had seen up to then”. The name “Kadirgamar” figures twice in that one sentence. The question is, why was it necessary that Kadirgamar should have seen the ceasefire agreement? Who is this Kadirgamar? What is he? Is he a party to the agreement? Does he hold any office that postulates that he be shown the agreement? Your being “adviser” is a matter between you and the President who pays your miserable wage. It does not mean that you have any status in the whole business. Being “ex-Foreign Minister” is surely not a recognised office either? In that case, ex-President Wijetunga should also be shown the agreement? (Even ex-husbands should be permitted to enjoy conjugal rights if you ask me).
There is also this patronising line later on, in that letter: “Whenever you requested advice and assistance, I and Mr.Kadirgamar gave it to you generously…”. It is of course a constitutional privilege for the President to tender advice to her Prime Minister. Who do you think you are, to tender advice to a functioning Prime Minister? The point I am trying to make is that under the guise of being a scriptwriter to the President, you are stealthily promoting your own image? Are you with me Mr.Kadigama?
When in December last year the people transferred parliamentary power to the UNP, your days as a non-elected Foreign Minister were numbered. The Tamils to a man, except possibly for some hooles, sorry fools, would have sighed with relief at your imminent departure from the political scene. But alas, like a jack-in-the-box you have now metamorphosed in a new malevolent role – that of political adviser to Madame President. Obviously in her present predicament, Madame President is unable to do, not only without the JVP that killed her husband, but also without you who brought shame to your Tamil name and ethnic origin.
Now look, you have reached an age when it is good to pause awhile, catch your breath, ruminate over your immediate past and echo the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns who said in his Scots dialect:
wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
Do you have any idea sweetheart (Sweetheart is a term of endearment according to the dictionary) how others see you? I bet you don’t. Let me review your past for you. Under the guise of attacking the Tamil Tigers, do you know that you had been really sanctioning the murders of your fellow Sri Lankans? (forgetting for a moment that they were Tamils). Let us go back to the year 1995. On July 9, 1995, a low-flying Air Force Puccara plane dropped six bombs on the premises of the Navaly church in Jaffna. Sixty-five of the innocent civilians who had sought refuge in the church compound were killed on the spot and another 55 succumbed to injuries later, making the death toll 125. A further 218 were wounded, including women and children. The church compound was a heap of human flesh and the air was filled with the wailings of the dying and the injured. When following an on-the-spot inspection the ICRC issued a Press statement on the civilian casualties, what was your reaction? What disturbed you was not the cowardly action of the Air Force, not as a Christian the deliberate bombing of civilian refugees in a church compound, but the fact that the ICRC had revealed the truth to the world! “Kadirgamar slams ICRC over death toll in Jaffna” said the Daily News headline of July 15. Had you lost your moral compass so badly that you could not distinguish between humanitarian concerns and fighting a war?
Do you also remember how you took on the UN Secretary General of that time, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, when he called for aid on a significant scale to help 400,000 Tamil refugees? You told the Secretary General that he did not know the facts, that there were only 100,000 refugees! - as if 100,000 refugees did not deserve help. The next international relief organisation to come under your fire was the Paris-based Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF) which had been rendering yeoman service to the sick and needy under war conditions since 1987. When the MSF reportedly placed advertisements in international newspapers appealing for funds in the face of a major humanitarian crisis, saying that 500,000 civilian Tamils had been made refugees, they were accused of “capitalising on the Jaffna situation to raise funds abroad” (The Island, Nov.5, ‘95).
The MSF, the ICRC, the UN Secretary General were not the only victims of your inflated egotism. You did not spare even the UNESCO Director General Federico Mayor who issued a statement at his Paris headquarters in the first week of October ‘95, condemning the bombing of the Nagerkoil school on 22 September when 25 school children were among 40 civilians killed. Twelve of the children were six and seven year olds. 150 school children in white uniforms were reported by the MSF as among those injured and brought for treatment. The UNESCO head said in his statement: “I condemn in the strongest terms this attack on a school where innocent children were killed. Whatever the internal political situation in a country, nothing justifies attacks on educational establishments which are one of the most important resources of a nation”. You talk of child soldiers Mr.Kadigama, but what was your response to the killing of school children? The Daily News of October 12, 1995 carried a report by Thalif Deen at the United Nations under the bold, big headline – SRI LANKA RAPS PARIS BASED UNESCO HEAD. The report said: “New York, (Wednesday) – Sri Lanka has castigated the head of the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his ill-advised and hasty comments on the alleged destruction of a school in Jaffna. The Foreign Ministry has – through the Sri Lankan embassy in Paris – protested a statement by UNESCO Director General Federico Mayor who rushed into judgement in “condemning the bombing of a school in Sri Lanka”.
We do not mind the fact that as Foreign Minister you were in the past running round the world at the taxpayers’ expense asking this government and that government to ban the Tigers; nor the fact that today you seem to be surreptitiously engaging in undermining the peace process on behalf of your employer. Don’t you see even the governments that banned the Tigers are today blessing the peace agreement between the Tigers and the Ranil Wickremasinghe government? Don’t you see the irony in that? What is really detestable about you is your supreme unconcern for the lives of ordinary Tamils and the lives of Tamil children and your persistent attempts to cover up the sufferings of people who like you carry Tamil names.
I hope Mr.Kadigama that at least when the time comes to meet your Maker, you will make peace with Him. But there is no doubt that there will be a special place reserved for you in that part of the next world where the Tamils believe you are going.
Yours in this world,
U.N. chief blasted for Sri Lankan refugee aid comment
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- The government of Sri Lanka criticized the United Nations on Monday after the U.N.’s top official expressed “deep concern” for tens of thousands of ethnic Tamils on the run or crammed into refugee camps to escape fighting between government troops and rebels from the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)...
“Humanitarian assistance on a significant scale will be essential to minimize suffering,” U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said. But a Sri Lankan official said the U.N. leader did not have all the facts and that refugees would be able to return home soon. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar also said direct aid from international relief agencies would no longer be permitted. Assistance for refugees would have to be coordinated through the government and distributed through the International Committee of the Red Cross, Kadirgamar said... [CNN: World News: November 6, 1995]