Minister Kadirgamar,

I do not know if you are at all aware of the extent to which you are despised by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and around the world.

But I presume you believe that the current role you are playing in the national conflict is a worthy one and you perhaps believe you are poised on the right side of history, defending something honourable and noble. At least, I hope this is how you see it, because otherwise it would imply you are merely trying to extract some other personal benefit by identifying with the Sri Lankan state at this critical time.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and suppose that you are acting out of what you, at least, see to be moral integrity. The way in which you talk to foreign media certainly conveys that sense.

I think I can guess where your moral outlook springs from. Your thought process is not too difficult to decipher because its roots can be traced not to the evolution of Tamil national consciousness in the North East but to the curve of Sinhala political consciousness. You are largely a Tamil head superimposed on the end of that curve.

That is why you can be heard on the BBC World Service speaking with such conviction about the inconceivability of ‘dividing the country’, or the unthinkability of 'compromising the unitary state'.

But let us look more closely at that conviction. Have you ever asked yourself why the unitary state is non-negotiable? I ask this in all sincerity because I have not, in all my mind searching, been able to discover a single morally compelling reason.

This is why I am convinced it is nothing more than rhetoric disguised as a moral conviction. If I am wrong about this, please articulate to the ignorant among us the high moral imperative underlying the need to preserve the unitary state. If you are convinced there is a moral basis to your standpoint on the ethnic question, please elaborate. I imagine you might supply something like: ‘The LTTE is pursuing its political ambitions through violence and that is unacceptable in a democracy.’ But if that is your answer you need to think it through a bit better. In the ‘democracy’ you refer to, there has never existed the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination; therefore the existing system of ‘democracy’ excludes what should be a fundamental national right; therefore the resort to violence by the LTTE is not taking place in the absence of one, and for the purpose of establishing one.

I have tried hard to understand, Mr. Kadirgamar, how you view the situation because, to be honest, you are a total enigma to me. I honestly cannot fathom what is spurring you to partake in this monstrosity where there is no moral content whatever in your attachment to the unitary state or your opposition to a separate sovereign Tamil state.

On the other hand, there is a tremendous moral content in the argument that the Tamil nation on this island - a dignified and self-respecting nation, which does not need anybody’s verdict on whether it is a ‘real’ nation - should be able to chose its own political future . Mr. Kadirgamar, the principle of self-determination is a universally recognized civilised principle which has a profound moral basis. So your empty conviction that "We will never allow Sri Lanka to be divided" is crass to the point of being sickening.

Can it be that you have not studied the history of the island enough to know that the LTTE is not the original aggressor but the historical reaction to oppression by the state? The fact that many of the LTTE’s activities are not palatable to us should not divert us from the fact that there is a profound historical process unfolding: the Sri Lankan state having tried every means available so far to crush the Tamils will for independence, is merely involved in the latest stage in this historical task.

Earlier, when the will for independence was expressed by Tamils electorally (1977) it was denounced and rejected outright by the Sinhala establishment. So, without a hope in hell of Tamils achieving their national will by election, militant groups predictably sprang up. The LTTE is only the latest expression of this will. If anything, their actions are an indictment against the increasingly hostile measures taken by successive Sri Lankan governments to prevent the increasing commitment to independence (which, is after all, a perfectly democratic aspiration).

One thing I want to add. There is one attribute which makes your current stance, Mr. Kadirgamar, even less forgivable than that of your parliamentary colleagues in the EPDP, PLOTE, TULF. They, at least, pay lip service for the right to be liberated. They at least perceive something of the historical injustice for the once separate Tamil nation being ‘forced’ to assimilate into and merge with the Sinhala nation (although these parties believe, one might say naively, that a Sinhala-dominated government will one day ‘grant’ liberation out of sheer benevolence).

You Mr. Kadirgamar, on the other hand, have not made any such recognition of the democratic legitimacy of the LTTE’s demands. Does this mean that you are of the opinion that, if the LTTE did not exist, any sort of ‘federal’ solution would have a chance in hell of being carried through by the Sinhala majority? If so, you have too weak a grasp of history to occupy such high office. It is only the existence of the LTTE that has pressurised Sinhala politicians to even attempt to go this far (if you accept that there is a sincere will to pass the proposals through, which is doubtful). Indeed, if your strategy was successful and the LTTE was wiped out, that would be one final gravestone of the Tamil nation because it would leave them with no negotiating power at all while pitched against the full weight of the Buddhist clergy and chauvinists. The LTTE is the only guarantee against this; surely you realise this being an educated man.

I cannot deny the fact that you are a clever politician, with a great ability to persuade the international community to support the government’s war against the Tamils. But cleverness in itself is no virtue. The important matter is what your cleverness is being used for: to cover up to the world the horrendous plight of the N-E Tamils for whom you seem to have no compassion? To justify to the world the most callous military strategy yet used against the Tamils of the Northeast? To reduce a nation of people to complete destitution? To have not a handful but tens of thousands of children languishing in sub-human conditions while you ‘shuttle’ around to the major capitals trying to secure even more money to continue the war? That, Mr. Kadirgamar, is now etched into your historical portrait, and it will establish your place unequivocally in the annals of Tamil history as a merciless collaborator against these people. This is your image among the great mass of Tamils, and this is why their blood can be felt boiling with every word they hear you utter. If this, Sir, is your cleverness, I wonder what human value an Oxbridge education is. It may produce great debaters, but at the same time men of such low morality and crassness.

Believe me, I have tried hard to imagine what keeps you going. I have wondered, when you wake up in the morning, what moral convictions drive you to start the day? I wonder because every day when I awake, my first thoughts are for the children right now huddled in the jungles with the sound of bombs and sirens frightening them to death and making them panic out of their wits, fearing that they or someone next to them will be the next ‘Tiger’ to show up in the Defence Ministry’s statistics. Children will find it difficult to interpret how the Sinhalese can do this to them. And when they grow up (the ones lucky enough to grow up, that is) they will learn of this great debater, Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was being showered with praise by his Sinhala colleagues at the marvelous role he played in showing the world the ‘truth’ about Sri Lanka. The Sinhala chauvinists truly could not believe their luck.

Then my thoughts move to those segregated for the purpose of ‘security checks’ in Jaffna, those inevitably tortured or killed if there is the slightest suspicion, under the strict military rule. And then I remember you Mr. Kadirgamar, as you stop the Tamil nation ever being free.

Then during my day the haunting question keeps coming up in my mind: does Mr. Kadirgamar really believe he is doing right? Or does he not care whether what he is doing is right?

An finally, at the end of my day when I fall down to sleep, I often have the same recurring dream. It is of a young Tamil girl opening a history book written in Tamil, some twenty year from now. It is called "The Birth of Tamil Eelam" and in it there is a whole chapter devoted to you, Mr. Kadirgamar. It reads: " The role of Minister Kadirgamar (1994-7)".

I wonder what your reaction will be to this letter? Will you turn the page and pass a comment to your family about some hysterical fellow attacking you in the paper? Will you reach for your cup of tea and begin another day in your high-profile, rewarding job? Well, please remember those children in the jungles, Mr. Kadirgamar. Because they will remember you.

S.W. Rajah